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External areas

Outside areas – paths, car parks, steps etc.– pose risks for workers and others. The best outside areas are well designed and well maintained.

Assess the risk

Identify the outside areas used by staff or visitors at your workplace. Workplaces often forget to consider their grounds and external areas in workplace surveys. Common hazards for slips and trips in outside are:

  • paths – uneven paving, changes in level, or affected by wet leaves, moss, sand or gravel
  • steps – inconsistent sizes, uneven, lack of handrails
  • ramps – too steep, slippery, lack of handrails
  • tree roots and vegetation – that disrupt walkways and/or vision
  • small holes or potholes
  • surfaces that become slippery when wet – e.g. pebbles, tiles, some painted timbers, drain covers
  • irregular surfaces – such as bushy/rocky areas, stone paths
  • lawns and  grasses – especially when wet or concealing uneven ground
  • curbs, gutters, around drains or grate covers
  • car park areas
  • exposed watering systems or hoses.

Irregular ground surfaces cause the most problems, with just small changes in height causing a trip hazard. Outside areas used or accessed in the darkness are high risk.

Decide on control measures

The best workplaces have well designed pathways and easy access to all work areas. Ensure the outside areas are suitable for all users, and this includes:

  • paths, steps and ramps suited to the tasks and users
  • shelters or covered access where required
  • surfaces providing a consistent, even pathway
  • handrails are installed at steps or ramps
  • suitable drainage is provided
  • appropriate lighting is installed
  • changes in curb or walkway elevation are highlighted (e.g. with yellow paint).
  • watering systems are located away from pathways.

Outside areas also require systems for repair and maintenance, with paths and walking surfaces being most important. This may include:

  • patching or filling cracks in walkways greater than 1cm wide
  • patching, filling, or repaving outdoor areas that have deep grooves, cracks, or holes
  • removing debris from walking surfaces
  • keeping paths free from moss and other vegetation
  • drainage to eliminate pooled water and muddy areas.