Over a third of all major injuries reported each year are caused as a result of a slip or trip (the single most common cause of injuries at work). These cost UK employers over £300 million a year in lost production, compensation claims and other costs. Slips and trips are the most common cause of non-fatal major injuries in both manufacturing and service industries and account for over half of all reported injuries to members of the public.
Actions brought as a result of an injury can be extremely damaging to business, especially where the public are involved. Insurance covers only a small proportion of the costs. Anyone at work, but particularly employers, can help reduce slip and trip hazards through good health and safety arrangements. Effective solutions are often simple, cheap and lead to other benefits.
What the law says
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) requires employers to ensure the health and safety of all employees and anyone who may be affected by their work. This includes taking steps to control slip and trip risks.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 build on HSWA and include duties on employers to assess risks (including slip and trip risks) and where necessary take action to enforce health and safety measures.
How do fall accidents happen?
Statistics show that 60% of falls are a result of slips and trips, while the remaining 40% are falls from a height. Both slips and trips result from some a kind of unintended or unexpected change in the contact between the feet and the ground or walking surface. Quality of walking surfaces is therefore critical for preventing fall accidents.
Slips happen where there is too little friction or traction between the footwear and the walking surface, or between the floor covering and the floor surface. Common causes of slips are:
- dropped litter
- slippery surfaces
- accidental spills
- areas regularly exposed to water, moisture and other liquids
- moisture tracked into the building
- loose, unanchored rugs or mats
Trips happen when your foot collides (strikes or hits) an object causing you to lose the balance and, eventually fall. Common causes of tripping are:
- trailing cables
- rucked carpeting, rugs or mats
- uneven walking surfaces
- low-level obstructions placed in areas of circulation
Changing or modifying walking surfaces is the next level of preventing slip and trips. Recoating or replacing floors, installing mats, painting warning signs and demarkating restricted or dangerous areas can further improve safety and reduce the risk of accidents. In addition, resilient, non-slippery flooring reduces foot fatigue and contributes to slip prevention measures.
In workplaces where floors may be oily or wet or where workers spend considerable time outdoors, prevention of fall accidents should also focus on selecting proper footwear. Since there is no footwear with anti-slip properties for every condition, consultation with manufacturers is highly recommended.
Properly fitting footwear increases comfort and prevents fatigue which in turn improves safety for the employee.
What can employees do to improve safety?
It is important to remember that safety is everybody’s business. While it is employers' responsibility to provide a safe work environment for all employees, employees can contribute to a safer working environment and improve their own safety.
You can reduce the risk of slipping by:
- Obeying warning signs and indicators
- Taking your time and paying attention to where you are going
- Adjusting your pace according to the walking surface and the tasks you are doing
- Walking with the feet pointed slightly outward
- Making wide turns at corners
You can reduce the risk of tripping by:
- Unplugging tools and appliances after use and neatly securing the cable
- Always using installed light sources that provide sufficient light for your tasks
- Using a flashlight if you enter a dark room where there is no light source provided
- Ensuring that things you are carrying or pushing do not prevent you from seeing any obstructions, spills, etc.