Australian workers rate among the best dressed in the world with safety clothing and ancillary items, but, when it comes to striding out, they have a habit of falling over.

The General Mat Company reports more than 7,000 injuries each year in New South Wales alone result from falls on the same level. According to figures from WorkCover Authority of NSW, this incidence of three injuries per 1,000 workers per year costs the State $86m.

According to The General Mat, it is obvious employers spend fortune protecting their workers from their feet up but apparently some ignore safety measures on the floor beneath them, the lack of which causes the fall.

Many workers are skating on thin ice. In New South Wales alone, with the WorkCover Authority of New South Wales increasing fines for unsafe floors by as much as five times what they were previously, some employers have great reason to take a hard look at the floor provided for their employees.

WorkCover’s handbook, Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls-guidance note (November 1998) contains numerous suggestions to combat the problem.

In some ways, from the ground up, employees in Australia’s workforce are kitted out to the highest possible standard in the world. But it is the floor beneath all this attire which has raised serious doubts about the safety of the workplaces. WorkCover Authority reports more than 2,900 people died at work last year, and about 650,000 were injured. This is despite Workcover spending 15 years trying to educate employers about the need to make workplace safety a major priority.

The injury and faulty rate has reached record proportions, with slips and falls accounting for way to high a percentage of this. The New South Wales Workers Compensation Statistical Bulletin, 1996/97, the survey for New South Wales, proves slips, trips and falls have risen exponentially.

The figures attributed to one mechanism of injury, falls on the same level, show 7,051 disability cases at an average work-time loss of 11.95 weeks per person. This cost WorkCover New South Wales nearly $86m in payouts, more than 16 per cent of all workplace injuries, hence major concerns over a budget blow out.

Considering these are merely the figures for one state of Australia (NSW), one can only imagine the enormity of the injury factor on a national basis attributed to slips, trips and falls.

Floors may always be in view, but as they are constantly under the feet one tends to overlook them and the importance of ensuring they are covered with material to embody safe practice. Even merely standing on a floor without adequate cover has been responsible for too many personal strain injuries, which ended up as costly compensation claims.