When it comes to safety in a supermarket setting — particularly when considering the fresh perimeter — you might first think about the inherent risks of equipment, machinery and utensils.

Supermarket employees, after all, are working with and around hot ovens, boiling fryers and sharp knives.

But perhaps the most overlooked safety concerns are the ones that we might stop thinking about after our toddler years — slips, trips and falls.

According to Boston-based Liberty Mutual’s 2017 Workplace Safety Index, slips, trips and falls make up more than 30% of the total injury burden and have direct costs of more than $18.4 billion. Also, more than 65% of those injuries are same-level walking surface injuries — in other words, workers aren’t falling from heights, they’re simply falling down.

In fact, same-level falls currently rank as the second-highest cost of disabling injuries in the U.S., accounting for 16% of the total national injury burden.

“By drawing attention to the magnitude of this major public health concern, the findings will help companies in their ongoing efforts to protect workers and the public from falls,” says Wayne Maynard, technical director, Liberty Mutual Risk Control Services. “Protecting these groups provides a host of benefits for employers, from keeping skilled employees on the job, to protecting tight margins from the costs associated with workers compensation and general liability claims.”

Three keys to look for

The most obvious hazards should be looked at first.

  • Slippery surfaces: While consumers might like their supermarket floor to be a glassy, shiny surface, that’s typically an unsafe option. Options to combat this include coatings and etchings, which can add a grip to the surface while maintaining much of the shine. For example, the Poly-Crete SLB resurfacing system from Dur-A-Flex — headquartered in East Hartford, Connecticut — is a two-part urethane technology that offers a non-slip surface and resists abrasion from chemical spills and harsh cleaners as well as high traffic.
  • Uneven surfaces: This one just takes a little attention to detail and hustle to maintain. Misplaced boxes or pallets, cables that have wiggled their way into view, or floor mats with ornery corners can pose a threat to employees and shoppers alike. Assign a manager or other employee to make routine inspections, and have all employees keep an eye out when taking care of other duties.
  • Poor lighting: While Supermarket Perimeter has gone in-depth about the importance of lighting in perimeter departments, it goes without saying that poor visibility can drastically increase the chance for a tripping. Make sure your walkways are bright enough, even when the main focus might be on your colorful produce or meat.

Spills lead to bills

Spills are inevitable in a supermarket setting. A shopper is going to knock over a glass jar of vinegar. An employee might spill a bucket of water while cleaning or drop a container of salad dressing while hustling to refill the salad bar.

Daymark Safety Systems — based in Bowling Green, Ohio — offers what it says is an efficient way to deal with common spills. Its Safety Applied absorbent spill pads have 8.5 times the absorbency of other leading brands, according to the company.

While the pads are good for general front-of-house and back-of-house situations, they’re designed in order to handle the more unpleasant situations. In case of bodily fluid spill, the pads allow the user to more quickly and completely contain the spill in order to prevent the spread of airborne diseases. Also, their yellow color provides an immediate visual indicator of the affected area.

Do your research

Your store should have incident reports, and if not, it’s imperative to begin tracking them. Organize the data in a spreadsheet or checklist to find out important recurring themes.

  • Where do slips occur?
  • When to they occur?
  • Do certain jobs have a higher occurrence of slips?
  • Are shopper incidents more likely related to slipper surfaces or obstructions?

This information will better prepare your employees to keep the store safe.

Regular routines

Routine maintenance is a staple for high-functioning retailers, and it’s an important tool in keeping employees and shoppers safe.

It’s a good idea to have one employee per shift regularly inspect shelves and displays for broken or spilled merchandise that could make its way onto the floor and create a slipping hazard if left unattended.

Federated Insurance, a Winnipeg, Canada-based firm that specializes in insuring supermarkets and other retailers, suggests scheduling any floor cleaning after hours, if possible. It says that while clean floors are an important part of grocery store success, a freshly mopped floor is highly dangerous for shoppers, even with a wet floor sign in plain view.

Also, stairways should be checked regularly to ensure that walking surfaces and handrails are in good condition and slip-resistant.

Take it outside

While most of your attention to keep shoppers and employees safe is rightly affixed to the interior of the store — especially the perimeter — you can’t ignore the rest of your property.

The parking lot can be a minefield of potholes, uneven surfaces, cracks and other debris. Any possible tripping hazards should be clearly marked until they are fixed.