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Knowledge Base » Health and Safety » Preventing slips, trips and falls at work

Preventing slips, trips and falls at work

Tripping at work is one of the most likely ways you’ll pick up an injury. In fact, 29% of workplace accidents in the UK in 2018–19 were a slip, trip, or fall, making it the most common way to get injured at work.

Slips and trips at work might seem minor, but there can be big injuries that come from a simple accident. Injuries from a slip, trip, or fall can range from a minor ankle sprain all the way to brain injuries and death.

There are lots of things that can cause you to trip or fall over when you’re at work. When you consider the boxes and wires that can end up on the floor, is it any wonder you’re likely to trip up? In reality, yes – trip hazards should be controlled so you have less chance of injury.

Knowing that slip, trip, and fall hazards carry very big risk, we’re going to help you to:

  • Understand the regulations surrounding slips, trips, and falls at work.
  • See what the hazards of slips, trips, and falls are, with government statistics.
  • Be aware of the common slip, trip, and fall hazards you need to know about.
  • Learn how to mitigate the slip, trip, and fall hazards you identify.

Arming you with everything you need to ensure your workplace doesn’t become a health and safety statistic.

Joiner tripping over loose flooring, who could seriously injure himself

Slips, trips, and falls regulations

With slips, trips, and falls being such a common occurrence, it’s no surprise that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have guidelines and regulations surrounding them. As a business owner or manager of a business, you need to be aware of the rules and ensure they’re followed.

Let’s take a brief look at the rules you need to be aware of in your workplace. For a more detailed guide to each of these, you can read our full guide to the legislation on slips, trips, and falls.

Health and Safety at Work Act (1974)

Under this broad piece of legislation, it lays out that all employers have a duty to provide a healthy and safe work environment for employees and customers. This means that the workplace must be safe, clear of hazards, have adequate storage, and correct entries and exits, among other responsibilities.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999)

Another broad set of legal regulations, these rules give you more actions that need to be taken regarding preventing tripping at work or other accidents.

There are lots of points that relate to slips, trips, and falls, with the main ones being:

  • Risk assessments must be carried out, with particular attention to the risks of slips, trips, or falls for pregnant women as well as young people since they may lack experience.
  • Preventing and mitigating hazards along with having a person responsible for health and safety, as well as all employees being trained about slip, trip, and fall hazards.
  • Having arrangements and procedures in place, plus information available to try and stop workers from slipping, falling, or tripping at work, including information for short-term staff.

These points are covered in much more detail in the article that we noted a little earlier, too.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (1992)

Regulation 12 of these rules are the most relevant to slips, trips, and falls – although it doesn’t cover construction sites. The condition of floors and traffic routes and how they need to be managed and maintained are covered in detail.

In a nutshell, the floors in your workplace need to be even, without holes, not likely to cause anyone to slip or fall over, and be well maintained. You also need to clear up any spills efficiently and make sure any slippery surfaces are marked.

Work at Height Regulations (2005)

The definition of working at height is covered in these regulations, which is any height that someone could fall and be injured from. In these regulations, you’ll find information about planning when people are working from height, as well as training people who do the work.

Also within these regulations, it is stated that working from height should be avoided if at all possible, and that adequate signs and warnings are put in place where it’s needed.

Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992)

Personal protective equipment (PPE) in terms of falls and slips generally relates to footwear.

The regulations state that any PPE that you provide as an employer must be:

  • Adequate for the risks identified in a risk assessment.
  • Compatible with other PPE provided.
  • Well maintained and cleaned.

Plus, training on how to use PPE should also be provided.

Worker who is working at height using PPE to prevent him slipping

Statistics on slips, trips, and falls

Tripping at work, or taking a slip or a fall, is pretty common in the UK. We’ve already noted that 29% of all workplace injuries in 2018–19 were a slip, trip or fall. Let’s delve a little deeper into some facts and figures about slips, trips, and falls so you can understand the risks involved.

  • Falls from height made up 8% of all workplace injuries in 2018–19
  • Workplace injuries cost the economy £5.2 billion in the same reporting year.
  • Costs to employers directly are around £512 million per year.
  • The cost to the health service each year for treating injuries from slips, trips, and falls is £133 million.
  • In 2019–20, 29 people died at work due to a fall from height, the most common in-work death.
  • Over the same period, two people died from a slip, trip, or fall on the same level at work.
  • In healthcare, more than 2,000 injuries that last three days or more are reported each year.

Whilst these numbers may seem rather scary, it’s useful to note that the numbers of workplace injuries and deaths at work have been falling steadily over time. You, as an employer, can play an integral role in that marked improvement by assessing and reducing risks at every turn.

What are the common slip hazards?

It’s probably not too hard to remember when you last slipped, or nearly slipped. It can happen to the best of us and, as we’ve seen in the statistics about trip and slip hazards, is reasonably common.

When making a risk assessment of your workplace, you’ll first need to identify slip hazards before finding a way to prevent them, which we’ll cover in a moment.

Here’s a list of some common slip hazards:

  • Contaminated floors, such as water or other spilt liquids.
  • Loose or damaged floor coverings or tiles.
  • Different floor coverings with different amounts of grip.
  • Steeply inclined floors.
  • Employees not having appropriate footwear.
  • Poorly lit areas.

However, you will need to look at your workplace specifically since there may be other specific hazards that need to be noted and assessed.

Workplace who have put wet floor sign outside the building to prevent workers from slipping and injuring themselves

How to prevent slip hazards

There are a variety of ways you can prevent slip hazards. Depending on your work environment, you may not be able to remove the risk entirely but you can help prevent injuries occurring because of it.

For example, in the dishwashing area of a kitchen, the floor will very likely get wet, but having sloped floors towards the drain and ensuring the people working in the area have safe footwear can drastically reduce the chances of an accident.

Other ways to reduce, and hopefully prevent, slips include:

  • Cleaning up water and other spilt liquids immediately, including using correct signage.
  • General good housekeeping, i.e. not leaving mopped floors wet or chemicals being left to treat an area without signage.
  • Ensuring liquids are stored safely and leaks are fixed to prevent spills in the first place.
  • Check flooring regularly so you know it’s fit for purpose and in good repair.
  • Measure the angles of any ramps or inclines and ensure they’re safe for the workplace.
  • Provide the correct shoes for the job where necessary.
  • Have all areas well-lit and regularly check lightbulbs and strips are working.

What are the common trip hazards?

Tripping at work means when you fall forward because of something your feet have caught on – as opposed to a slip where you’d fall backwards. Modern workplaces have potential for lots of different trip hazards.

Again, don’t take this list as exhaustive. Your workplace is unique and you should carry out your own risk assessment. You can use this list as a guide rather than a definitive checklist:

  • Ill-fitting flooring.
  • Loose wires and cabling.
  • Footings of machinery, desks, display units, etc.
  • Boxes of supplies left on the ground.
  • Uneven flooring.
  • Bad lighting.

How to prevent trip hazards

Similar to slip hazards, it will depend on your work environment as to how exactly you can prevent or reduce the chances of a trip. Remember that you can ask your employees for their input in preventing trips – they may have a great idea for better stock storage, for example.

Here are some of the preventative measures you need to consider when making sure your workplace is healthy and safe:

  • Make sure all flooring is fitted properly and not loose, e.g. secure rugs and carpets to the floor underneath.
  • Have all wires and cabling neatly tidied away around desks, servers, and machinery, and for moving equipment like vacuums, ensure “Cleaning in Progress” signs are out and the closest plug socket is used.
  • Check the office, shop, or factory design so that desk feet or machinery arms, for example, aren’t protruding into walkways.
  • Have all deliveries of stock put away as soon as it arrives and ensure there is sufficient storage space for everything in the workplace.
  • Assess steps, stairs, and outdoor ground levels, install ramps rather than have small steps where necessary.
  • Provide good lighting, including highlighting the edges of steps or uneven surfaces.

Be sure to make your changes to prevent tripping at work specific to your workplace.

Worker putting away boxes in the workplace to prevent people tripping over them

What are the common fall hazards?

Falls can be a little different to slips and trips in that they generally require there to be some height involved. These hazards are much less likely to happen to a customer or visitor to your workplace, although it is possible.

Everyone who is expected to work at height should have adequate training for their role. Instances that would constitute a fall hazard include:

  • Cellars or trap doors.
  • Ladders.
  • Scaffolding.
  • Roofs.
  • Elevated working platforms such as cherry-pickers.
  • Building sites.
  • Weak or old flooring off ground level.
  • Machinery.

How to prevent fall hazards

Falling from height is the main cause of workplace fatalities in the UK. It’s of utmost importance that you work to prevent falls in your working environment. Be sure that you make regular risk assessments, particularly when you’re in a dynamic environment such as a construction site.

A key element in preventing falls at work is to have the correct training for anyone working at height. After that, you can:

  • Assess if there are ways to prevent working at height, using machines in a warehouse setting for example.
  • Install guardrails at exit points in buildings.
  • Use ladders correctly.
  • Use an alternative route when flooring is unstable, e.g. worn out floorboards in an old house.

Summary

Slips, trips, and falls are the most common way for your or your team to get injured at work. Falling from height is also, sadly, the most likely way that someone will die at your workplace.

Knowing this, of course, you want to do everything you can to recognise hazards for slips, trips, and falls, and work to prevent them. As well as being the right thing to do, it’s also a legal responsibility that you need to provide a healthy and safe workplace.

The laws and regulations around slipping and tripping at work, or taking a fall, are there to make sure you do everything you can to keep your workers safe. Be sure to carry out regular risk assessments.

We’ve outlined some of the most common hazards you will find in your workplace in terms of slips, trips, and falls. Take these as a starting point as you work your way through your factory, shop, or office, and think of the best and safest way to prevent accidents in the long term when you find issues.

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About the author

Joanne Rushton

Joanne Rushton

Joanne began her career in customer services in a UK bank before moving to South East Asia to discover the world. After time in Malaysia and Australia, she settled in Hanoi, Vietnam to become an English teacher. She's now a full-time writer covering, travel, education, and technology.



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