Ensuring the health and safety of employees, and others, is not only moral and makes good business sense, it is also the law. Slips, trips and falls are a safety risk and can cause serious injury and even death. Health and safety laws are there to protect workers, and others, and to give them an opportunity to seek restitutions if a company fails in its duties.
According to Croner-i each year UK workers suffer about 11,000 major injuries caused by slips and trips.
Even though there is no specific legislation on slips, trips and falls, there are general laws that cover these risks. These are:
- The Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act (1974).
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999).
- The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (1992).
- The Work at Height Regulations (2005)
- The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992)
The Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act (1974)
The Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act (1974) is a very large piece of legislation so you won’t cover it all in this unit, but you will be introduced to the general duties and how they relate to slips, trips and falls.
Under the HSWA, duties are placed on certain groups. The main sections of the Act that will relate to slips, trips and falls are:
- Employer duties to their employees (section 2 of the Act).
- Employers and Self-Employed duties to others (non-employees) (section 3 of the Act).
- Persons concerned premises (section 4 of the Act).
- Employee duties (section 7 of the Act).
- Employees should not be charged for anything provided for health and safety (section 9 of the Act).
Employers have an overall general duty to look after their employees’ health, safety and welfare whilst they are at work, so far as is reasonably practicable. Employers also have a duty to ensure the following:
- The provision of safe plant.
- The provision of safe systems of work.
- The safe use, handling, storage and transport of substances and equipment.
- A safe place of work, which includes safe access and egress.
- A safe working environment.
- Adequate welfare facilities.
- Information, instruction, training and supervision.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999)
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999) are also a large piece of legislation and most of the regulation will apply to slips, trips and falls. The regulations require the following (remember, this is general legislation and does not specifically detail slips, trips and falls)
- Risk assessment – An employer has a duty to make suitable and sufficient risk assessments of the risks to employees and others, e.g. risk assessments will be required for slip, trip and fall hazards. The self-employed also have this duty.
- Principles of prevention – These principles are used to implement control measures. They are similar to a hierarchy where the aim is to firstly avoid the risks of slips, trips and falls. There are nine principles in total and although an employer should always aim for the first principle, all principles can be used in conjunction with one another. The last principle is giving appropriate instruction (about slips, trips and falls) to employees.
- Health and safety arrangements – The arrangements should cover planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review. An employer should have adequate arrangements to manage health and safety. These arrangements should include managing slips, trips and falls risks.
- Health and safety assistance – There should be a competent person to advise and assist with health and safety arrangements, e.g. reducing the risks from slips, trips and falls. This person can be from within the organisation or an external consultant.
- Procedures for serious and imminent danger and for danger areas – Procedures are required for emergencies, such as fire. If slips, trips and falls could be a risk during evacuation, this would need to be considered. Procedures are also required for any danger areas.
- Information for employees – Employees should be provided with information on slips, trips and falls; particularly on slip, trip and fall risk assessments and the precautions required to control the risks. Any information provided should be able to be understood by everyone, e.g. migrant workers.
- Cooperation and coordination – Where workplaces are shared, employers should cooperate and coordinate. For example, if there is a risk of slips, trips and falls in a common area that could affect another employer, they must be notified of the risk and precautions should be put in place.
- Capabilities and training – Employees must be provided with adequate training relevant to slip, trip and fall risks. Training should be refreshed regularly.
- Temporary workers – Temporary workers, such as those on a fixed-term contract or agency staff, are exposed to the same slip, trip and fall risks as permanent employees. They must be given adequate information on the risks. They should also have the necessary skills to do the job safely.
- Risk assessment in respect of new or expectant mothers – If new or expectant mothers are particularly at risk of slips, trips and falls, this must be included in the risk assessment and they must be protected from the risks.
- Protection of young persons – Young persons are those who are under 18. If young persons are at a particular risk of slips, trips and falls, then this must be included in the risk assessment. Young persons must be protected, as their lack of experience can put them at risk.
Employees have a duty to use equipment, and safety devices, in accordance with the training and instructions they receive. They should report any serious and imminent dangers to their employer, e.g. large spillage or trip hazard. They should also notify their employer of any shortcomings in their health and safety arrangements, e.g. poor management of slip, trip and fall risks.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (1992)
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (1992) are applicable to most workplaces, but do not cover construction sites. These regulations cover the basic requirements for health, safety and welfare at work.
Slips and trips are covered under regulation 12, condition of floors and traffic routes. Falls are covered under regulation 13, but most of this section has been revoked and can now be found in the Work at Height Regulations (2005).
Employers, and also those in control of workplace premises, have duties under these regulations. Where there are shared areas in a building, e.g. lobbies/stairways, the building owner will be responsible for preventing slips, trips and falls.
Condition of floors and traffic routes
As far as slips, trips and falls are concerned, this section of the regulations requires the following to be considered:
- Floor surfaces and traffic routes should not have holes, uneven ground, slopes or be slippery if it is likely a person would slip, trip or fall.
- Any surfaces that are damaged should be repaired. If they cannot be repaired immediately, the damaged surfaces should be marked (e.g. by a sign) or protected (e.g. barriers).
- Slopes should not be unnecessarily steep. Where slopes are steeper, a handrail should be provided.
- If surfaces are likely to get wet, they should be of a type that reduces the risks of slipping. If there are other hazards nearby, floor surfaces should be non-slip and should be kept clear of obstructions.
- If the floor becomes contaminated (e.g. leak and spillages), it should be marked, fenced off and cleaned up as soon as possible.
- There should be slightly sloped flooring towards drainage systems if work activities make the floor wet. The drains and flooring should not increase the risk of slip and trip hazards, e.g. drains protruding from the floor surface.
- Processes and plant should not create slip hazards. Any discharges and leaks should be contained within the process/plant, e.g. bunds.
- Arrangements should be put in place for when it snows and when there are icy conditions, e.g. gritting or route closures.
- There should not be any obstructions on floors and traffic routes that cause a hazard or impede access. This is particularly important on staircases and emergency exit routes.
- Open staircases must have appropriate rails in place to prevent falls from height.
Falls are also covered under these regulations, but only where workers can fall into tanks and pits containing dangerous substances. These tanks and pits must be covered and must be fenced, so as to prevent falls.
The regulations also require suitable and sufficient lighting, outdoor workstations to be free of slip and trip hazards and for floors to be painted with a non-slip floor paint if they are likely to absorb contaminants.
Work on construction sites is covered under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (2015). Slip, trip and fall risks in construction will be covered under these regulations. You will not look at these regulations in this course.
The Work at Height Regulations (2005)
Work at height used to be considered any height over 2 metres; now it is any distance above ground level where a person could fall and be injured. This also includes falling from ground level. Work at height does not include slips, trips and falls on the same level or falls from stairs in a building. However, someone can slip and trip at height and fall a distance that could cause serious injury or worse.
The Work at Height Regulations (2005) is the legislation surrounding working at height and its aim is to prevent death and injuries from falls. The regulations put duties on employers and those who control working at height activities. You will briefly look at the requirements of these regulations on the following slide.
The regulations require that:
- Working at height is properly planned, organised and supervised.
- People are competent to work at height and have received appropriate training.
- Working at height is avoided where possible. There is also a requirement for a risk assessment to be completed.
- The right equipment is used for working at height.
- Work on, or near to, fragile surfaces (higher risk of someone falling through) is avoided and if it can’t be avoided, further precautions are required.
- People are kept away from areas where falling objects can be a risk, by barriers and signage. Objects should be protected from falling in the first instance. Objects should not be thrown from heights.
- Any equipment used for working at height and places of working at height should be inspected.
Employees, and others working at height, have a duty, under the regulations, to report any dangerous situations with working at height and equipment used. Working at height equipment must be used as per any training and instructions given.
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992)
The Personal Protective Equipment that will be relevant to slips, trips and falls is footwear. This will come under the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992).
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992) were created as a result of a directive from the European Union. The regulations cover all PPE apart from hearing protection and RPE. The main requirements of the regulations are:
- PPE provided must be:
– Risk assessed, e.g. it needs to be adequate for the risks a worker is exposed to and it should fit properly.
– Of a correct standard, e.g. the type should conform to relevant British, European and International standards.
– Compatible with other types of PPE.
– Maintained, e.g. cleaned, disinfected, repaired and inspected.
- Suitable places/equipment should be provided for a worker to store their PPE. This protects it from damage and contamination.
- Employees should be given information, instruction and training on its use.
- Employees must use PPE correctly and report defects when they occur.
It is important to note that employers cannot charge employees for PPE. PPE does not include work uniforms or ordinary working clothes.