Objectives: Falls are a leading cause of injury at work, and slipping is the predominant cause of falling. Prior research has suggested a modest correlation between objective measures (such as coefficient of friction, COF) and subjective measures of slipperiness (such as worker perceptions) in the workplace. However, the degree of association between subjective measures and the actual risk of slipping at the workplace is unknown. This study examined the association between perception of slipperiness and the risk of slipping.
Methods: 475 workers from 36 limited-service restaurants participated in a 12-week prospective cohort study. At baseline, demographic information was collected, participants rated floor slipperiness in eight areas of the restaurant, and work environment factors, such as COF, were measured. Restaurant-level and area-level mean perceptions of slipperiness were calculated. Participants then reported their slip experience at work on a weekly basis for the next 12 weeks. The associations between perception of slipperiness and the rate of slipping were assessed.
Results: Adjusting for age, gender, body mass index, education, primary language, mean COF, use of slip-resistant shoes, and restaurant chain, each 1-point increase in mean restaurant-level perception of slipperiness (4-point scale) was associated with a 2.71 times increase in the rate of slipping (95% CI 1.25 to 5.87). Results were similar for area-level perception within the restaurant (rate ratios (RR) 2.92, 95% CI 2.41 to 3.54).
Conclusions: Perceptions of slipperiness and the subsequent rate of slipping were strongly associated. These findings suggest that safety professionals, risk managers and employers could use aggregated worker perceptions of slipperiness to identify slipping hazards and, potentially, to assess intervention effectiveness.