Slips and trips remain the most common cause of injury in the workplace. According to the Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) most recent Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) survey, 33% of all employee non-fatal injuries reported by employers in 2020/21, we caused by slips, trips and falls on the same level ¹.
It’s not just employees you’ve got to think about
Research carried out by the HSE found that slips and trips also account for 50% of all reported injuries to members of the public in workplaces where there is public access – e.g. shops, restaurants and railway stations². To put that into perspective, Network Rail paid out almost £1 million in compensation for slips, trips and falls at its stations across the UK in just five years³!
Common causes and solutions
There are a number of factors that can cause slips and trips in the workplace – here are just a few examples and some easy solutions to help prevent them from happening:
- Cleaning – it’s important to attend to any spillages right away and use the appropriate materials (eg. spill kits) when clearing up. If possible, cleaning should be done out-of-hours when footfall is heavily reduced and floor cones/signs should be used. Ensure the floor is completely dry before removing cones/signs and do be sure to remove these, as the signs themselves can be a trip hazard themselves if the floor is no longer wet.
- People – be aware of human behaviour. People are often tempted to walk through a coned-off area to avoid taking the long way around, especially if it doesn’t appear to be monitored. Staff should also take their time and not rush, especially if they are carrying large objects that are restricting their view.
- Flooring and floor contamination - people rarely slip on a clean, dry floor but the surface should be suitable for the nature of the environment and in line with British Standards. In some workplaces – e.g. car showrooms – a shiny tiled floor can look fantastic but could become very slippery, especially if wet. Should a floor become contaminated, identify the source (rainwater, leaks, etc.) and a solution (drips trays, non-slip mats, changes to working practices, etc.). If contamination is inevitable review the flooring type, cleaning processes and footwear worn.
- Environment - a dark area may make slippery areas difficult to spot, whereas too much light could cause glare on a shiny floor. External areas could become icy in winter and infrequently used ‘back-of-house’ areas may be untidy, increasing the chance of trips. Distractions from things like loud noise can also increase the risk of accidents, as can a poorly designed workshop with insufficient working space between machinery. It’s therefore important to ensure all areas are kept tidy, well-lit and appropriate training is given to staff working around loud machinery.
- Footwear - the need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be determined by your risk assessment, so ensure that staff are equipped with the most appropriate footwear – heavy-duty boots, non-slip soles, etc. If this is deemed necessary, make sure it’s worn consistently. Don’t forget to also consider office staff (wearing ordinary shoes) who may wander into operational areas.
What have we learnt?
Merely erecting a sign is unlikely to be deemed enough. Early identification and action is vital, so regular workplace monitoring plays a key part in reducing the frequency of slips and trips within the workplace, as does dealing with the root cause of the problem.
It’s important to make sure that the full range of potential slip and trip hazards are identified in your workplace risk assessment and that your controls are adequate. For further information or assistance get in touch with us at email@example.com.
¹HSE RIDDOR, 2020/21 | Non-fatal injuries at work in Great Britain - https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causinj/index.htm
²HSE, 2022 | Slips and trips - https://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/slips.htm
³Safety Aide, 2019 | Counting the costs of Slips, Trips and Falls - https://www.safetyaide.com/2019/10/22/counting-the-costs-of-slips-trips-and-falls/
I am a Director of Sutton Winson Consultancy Services Ltd, which delivers a range of risk management solutions. I joined Sutton Winson in January 2000 and have derived a great deal of satisfaction from helping our clients achieve significantly preferable insurance terms, and other financial benefits, by embracing proactive risk management.
I am a Chartered Member of the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (CMIOSH), a member of the Business Continuity Institute (BCI), a Chartered Insurance Risk Manager and hold the FCII (Fellowship of the Chartered Insurance Institute).