Don’t fall short on slips, trips, and falls – the biggest contributor to non-fatal accidents. Slips, trips, and falls in the workplace are by far the most common kind of workplace accident, and regardless of your business or operational sector, slip, trip, and fall hazards are present in every workplace.
Typically, a slip, trip, or fall contributes to around 40% of all reported major injuries to employees in the workplace and is also the most reported injury to members of the public.
Employers are required by law to take all reasonable steps to protect their employees. However, statistics clearly show that not all employers take adequate precautions concerning workplace slip, trip, and fall prevention.
In this guide, we’ll look at what they are, what the law covers, and how to manage them in any workplace.
What types of injuries are caused by slips and trips at work?
While the vast majority of slips, trips, and falls will most likely result in minor injuries—bruising, cuts, lacerations, and other impact-type injuries—the potential for more serious outcomes does still exist (falls near open staircases, near solid protruding objects). It would obviously be unwise to overlook the potential risk to your business from slips, trips, and falls.
It can often help in terms of designing and implementing control measures to prevent this type of injury from being very clear about the distinction between slips, trips, and falls (they are often ‘grouped’ together as one ubiquitous hazard), but they do have unique characteristics that should be considered.
What’s the difference between a slip, trip, and fall?
To slide unintentionally for a short distance by losing balance, footing, or sliding, usually resulting in either the regaining of balance or a fall. In general, a slip at work is caused by something reducing the friction of a surface, such as a liquid, grease, or a low-friction material such as plastic, cloth, or a mat on the floor.
To make a false or unintended step or stumble over an obstacle by unintentionally making contact with that obstacle with part of the anatomy, usually resulting in the regaining of balance or a fall. A trip is often caused during motion (e.g., walking or running) when the foot is suddenly stopped from moving, but the body continues in its motion. The foot is then not in the correct place to support the moving body, and the person is again unstable, often resulting in a trip and fall accident at work.
A fall is an event whereby an individual comes to rest on the ground or another lower level with or without loss of consciousness. A fall is often the result of losing balance as a result of a slip or trip, but it can also be the result of falling into a pit or hole in the floor because of inadequate protection around a hole in the floor opened during maintenance, causing a fall accident at work.
What UK law covers slips, trips, and falls?
Slips and trips are covered by three main pieces of health and safety legislation:
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974:
This law requires employers to ensure the health and safety of all employees and anyone affected by their work, so far as is reasonably practicable, including taking steps to control slip and trip risks. In addition, employees have a duty to take care of their health and safety and that of others and must use any safety equipment provided.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999:
This law requires employers to assess risks (including slip and trip risks) and, where necessary, take actions to address them. A slips and trips risk assessment must be undertaken to identify locations or areas where slip, trip, and fall hazards are likely to occur. Consideration must be given to issues that may increase the likelihood of an incident occurring or the seriousness of any injury, for example, where a slip or trip hazard exists on or near stairs.
The Workplace (Health, Safety, and Welfare) Regulations 1992:
This law requires floors to be suitable, in good condition, and free from obstructions. All people should be able to move around safely at all times.
How can slip, trip, & fall accidents be prevented?
Workplace control measures:
Documented procedures: Employers should consider establishing procedures for controlling the risks arising from housekeeping activities, including maintaining work areas in a safe condition, minimising waste, and making arrangements to contain and avoid spillages.
See it or sort it: All persons on site must engage in a ‘see it or sort it’ attitude to maintain good housekeeping practices and promote effective cleaning regimes.
Additional procedures could be created to control the risks arising from cleaning activities, including mitigating spillages, using appropriate cleaning equipment, and restricting access to prevent people from walking through areas during cleaning or when floors are still wet.
How to reduce slips, trips, and falls in the workplace
To mitigate the risks of slips, trips, and falls in the workplace effectively, consider the following measures:
- Ensure Clear Traffic Routes: In all workplaces, there must be sufficient traffic routes of sufficient width and headroom to allow people and vehicles to circulate safely and with ease. Floors and traffic routes must be kept free of obstructions that may present a hazard or impede access. Protrusions into walkways must be removed, re-sited, protected by barriers or covers, or made more visible (including warning signage).
- Maintain Safe Flooring: Floors and traffic routes must be sound and robust enough for the loads placed on them and the traffic expected to use them. In regular use, surfaces must not become uneven or slippery and must be kept free of obstructions and from any article or substance that could cause a person to slip, trip, or fall.
- Manage Cables Properly: Good cable management practices must always be maintained. Trailing cables from work equipment, including fixed and portable equipment, must not be allowed to become trip hazards.
- Provide Adequate Staircase Safety: The open sides of staircases must be protected with an upper rail and a lower rail. A handrail must be provided on at least one side of every staircase and both sides if there is a particular risk identified by the site risk assessment.
- Maintain Lighting Systems: Lighting systems must be correctly maintained and not create hazardous shadows. Lighting must be sufficient to enable people to work and move about safely. Changes in level must be well-lit and easy to recognise. Slopes, steps, and abrupt changes must be minimised from one flooring material to another.
- Document Procedures for External Risks: There must be documented procedures for controlling the risks arising from the external working environment, including paths, steps, and fire escapes that could cause slips, e.g., through a buildup of leaves, wet grass, moss, mud, etc.
- Manage Snow and Ice Risks: Arrangements must be made to minimise risks from snow and ice, including gritting, snow clearing, and the closure of some routes, particularly external stairs, under certain conditions.
- Enhance Visibility on Footpaths: Changes in level on footpaths must be clearly visible. Step nosings must not be difficult to see, rounded, damaged, or slippery.
Regular inspections and adaptation:
Documented procedures and record keeping: Employers should consider documented procedures for undertaking workplace inspections and recording or remediating any deficiencies that are found.
Informal inspections can be made to ensure that the work areas are tidy and free from hazards.
Formal inspections of the area should be carried out at a defined frequency (determined by the site risk assessment), looking for slip, trip, and fall hazards and evaluating existing control measures.
Planned changes: Any significant changes in workplace use (including something as simple as rearranging the layout) must be appropriately planned. This ensures that the use change does not introduce new hazards or negatively impact existing control measures.
Expert Advice for Slips, Trips, and Falls with Avensure
Workplace slips, trips, and falls prevention are your legal obligation as an employer. This extends to both workers and anyone who may be affected by your business practices. Taking a proactive approach to preventing slips, trips, and falls is crucial to avoid injuries, absences, and costly compensation claims.
Failing to meet your slip, trip, and fall prevention responsibilities could result in injury claims, tribunal hearings, and unlimited compensation fines. Don’t gamble with your business – rely on Avensure Health and Safety’s expert guidance for handling work-related accidents, including slips, trips, and falls. To learn more, visit Avensure Contact!