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10 tips for avoiding slips, trips and falls in the workplace
Protect employees and others safety as well as ensuring legal compliance with our guide to the common causes of slips, trips and falls and preventing them.
Slips, trips and falls result in more than 10,000 major injuries in the workplace each year, with 90% of these being fractures. This form of accident is the biggest cause of major workplace injury and is responsible for 37% of all workplace injuries reported.
For employers and landlords, work-related accidents can mean a significant reduction in productivity. In 2019 4.7 million working days were lost due to workplace injuries, costing the UK economy £5.2 billion.
Yet, the cost of slips, trips and falls to businesses could be greater for organisations that don't actively control risks of slips, trips and falls by employees and others like visitors. Employers who haven't fulfilled their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSW Act) could face hefty penalties. Failure to maintain the workplace "in a condition that is safe and without risks to health" could result in unlimited fines and compensation claims. This is in addition to reputational damage, lowered employee morale and motivation.
The positive news is that prevention is possible via risk assessments and routine training in the identification and control of the causes of slip, trip and fall accident injuries. Employees should undertake slips, trips and falls safety awareness training courses, such as our ISOH approved online course, to help prevent accidents in the workplace.
What is a slip?
A slip occurs when there is too little friction or traction between your feet and the walking surface, causing you to lose your balance.
Common causes of slips include:
- Contamination and obstacles
- People and their behaviour
- Cleaning routines
What is a trip?
A trip is when your foot or lower leg hits an object and your upper body continues moving, throwing you off balance.
Common causes of trips include:
- Uneven flooring and terrain such as worn entrance carpets, sloping pavements, bumps or dips.
- Cables or wires trailing across the floor.
- Poorly maintained steps or flooring tiles.
What is a fall?
A fall occurs when you are too off-centre to balance and parts of your body other than your feet make contact with the floor.
Common causes of a fall include:
- Poor protected or defined edges to walkways
- Slips and trips leading to a fall.
- Lack of signposting or safety railing near sudden drops.
- Poorly maintained ladders or stairs.
As an employer or landlord, taking a proactive approach to health and safety and undertaking slips, trips and falls risk assessments will help maintain a hazard-free environment for your employees. Below are ten steps you can take right now.
How to avoid slips, trips and falls in the workplace
1. Keep walking surfaces clean and dry
Ensuring floors and walkways are clean and dry is one of the easiest ways to reduce the risk of stumbles and falls. Regular sweeping and mopping of the floor avoids the build-up of dry contaminants such as leaves or dust, which can cause slippages.
Keeping floors free from wet contamination is vital. Consider installing absorbent mats and umbrella stands in the workplace entrances to help prevent employees and visitors from trailing water or mud in from outside.
For outside walkways, ensure the ground is well maintained, without any cracks or areas for water to pool and that there is sufficient drainage. Ensure surfaces are treated for ice and snow in cold weather and that fallen leaves are removed.
2. Keep walkways free from obstructions
Obstructions such as personal belongings, crates, boxes or rubbish on the floor provide a perfect opportunity for employees and visitors to trip. Install lockers or a cloakroom area for employees to put their personal belongings such as bags, coats and shopping, so they are stored out of the way.
Ensure deliveries are put away immediately rather than left in shared areas and encourage safe work practices such as tucking in chairs and closing storage drawers.
3. Maintain office flooring
Whether carpet, tiles or laminate, poorly maintained flooring can pose a significant uneven surface hazard. Fix carpet securely to avoid sliding and check for air bubbles or rucked up corners which could cause an employee or visitor to lose their footing. Tiles should be completely secure, properly grouted and any missing pieces replaced immediately. Maintain other types of flooring, such as laminate and ensure it is level without any buckling. Signpost transitions from one flooring type or level to another to avoid trips.
4. Keep power cables tidy
Many workplaces and temporary maintenance or construction activities rely on stationary electrical devices such as desk phones, computers, routers and printers, lighting, power tools and cleaning equipment – all of which have cables, such as for networking or power. If these cables trail across the floor, they could pose a trip hazard, so keep wires routed away from walkways and managed away from places where workers and others may come in contact with them.
A common reason for stretching cables across the floor is to reach a power supply, often coupled with extension leads. Ensure your workspace has adequate electrical sockets for the number of employees and install these power points in easily accessible areas, such as next to workstations or through desk level trunking or overhead. You could also run cables to permanent devices behind walls or under flooring. Invest in a cable management system as a cost-effective way to reduce or eliminate trailing cables.
5. Install and maintain adequate lighting
Poorly lit workspaces, especially in outside walkways, stairways and corridors, are a common contributor to trips, so check that walkways are illuminated sufficiently. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) specifies that lighting should be suitable for both the environment and task. It also highlights that stroboscopic effects or flickers should not be present and that adjacent areas should have similar lighting levels to avoid extreme contrast while moving from one area to another.
Make sure that you use similar bulbs throughout the workspace and consider adding spotlights to enclosed areas such as basements. HSE recommends a minimum illuminance of 100 lux for offices and 200 lux for industries requiring the perception of fine detail, such as factories assembling electronic components.
More light may be required at floor level so that employees and visitors are able to move around safely. A lighting survey is a good idea to ensure that all the requirements are covered and at different times of day. Don’t forget that emergency lighting needs to be provide and maintained.
6. Practice good housekeeping
Having a comprehensive housekeeping strategy in place stops hazards from arising in the first instance. This should include planning ahead, having a cleaning schedule, and implementing practices such as mopping up spills immediately and storing items safely. Regular workplace inspections are an essential control measure to ensure housekeeping is being maintained.
7. Provide slips, trips and falls safety training
Raising awareness of potential slip hazards allows everyone to share the responsibility for keeping themselves and each other safe. A slips, trips and falls awareness course such as our IOSH Approved course will help managers and employees identify hazards and take the appropriate action in line with the HSE See it, Sort it campaign.
For example, if an employee notices a slippery floor hazard that they could easily clear up themselves, provide the means for them to do so. It's worth highlighting the importance of reporting hazards so they can be dealt with quickly.
8. Enforce appropriate workplace footwear
Unsuitable footwear is a direct cause of slips, trips and falls, so it is vital that employees wear the correct footwear for their environment and that the employer assesses and ensures that right footwear is specified.
The most appropriate footwear depends on the task. Some outdoor roles may require work boots with thick soles and deep treads, while indoor roles may require a lighter step, so plimsolls with smoother soles may be a requirement.
9. Trip-proof your stairways
Stairs are a common area for workplace falls. Ensure each step is well maintained, of uniform height and without chips or damage.
Firmly fix carpet or coverings on the stairs and highlight the top and bottom steps with reflective paint or tape where appropriate.
Installing handrails at the correct height will also reduce the risk and consequences from trips and falls by providing the opportunity to improve stability while using the stairs or to use to grab if a slip or trip occurs.
Calling employees' attention to potential hazards can help avoid accidents. Having signs to announce a change of flooring or ramps ahead increases attentiveness. Ensure wet floors signs are used during floor cleaning so employees and visitors can avoid a potential slip.