Slips, trips and falls

Preventing slips and trips

Slips and trips are one of the largest causes of injury in service industry. And injuries are not restricted to workers - members of the public also suffer the effects of inadequate controls on slip and trip risks.

Managing the risks of slips and trips should be a key role for managers and it is important that safety reps ensure that systems are in place and being followed to prevent these injuries wherever possible.

Causes of slip/trip accidents

The causes of such accidents are usually very simple to control, but it their very simplicity which means that all too often they are overlooked:

  • Spills of liquids, or powders, particularly onto steps, stairs and tiled or other flooring that becomes slippery;
  • Inappropriate floor surfaces that are, or become, slippery, perhaps when wet with rain water etc.
  • Trailing cables;
  • Items left in walkways, such as bags and parcels
  • Steps and slopes that are not easily visible, due perhaps to poor lighting levels or a lack of colour differentiation;
  • Mats, rugs or carpeting that is loose, curled up or torn;
  • Ice and snow or even the effects of rain on unsuitable external surfaces;
  • Simply not being able to see where you are going if, for example, carrying large loads;
  • Cleaning and maintenance at inappropriate times.

Near-miss reporting

Another issue is that you will often find that many people have 'nearly' slipped or tripped through the same cause, many times before the accident occurs that causes significant injury.

But because no-one registers the potential disaster waiting to happen, no-one thinks to report the incident as a 'near-miss' occurrence.

Safety reps could discuss near-miss reporting systems with managers and also ask members, during quarterly inspections whether they have had any such near-miss incidents.

Managing the risks

Slip and trip risks should be addressed as part of the general risk assessment required by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.

It is important that the assessment not only identifies physical risk factors, such as slippery floor surfaces and trailing cables, but addresses the procedural aspects of the issue: how do members of staff clear up or dry spillages? How will installations of equipment be managed to prevent cables trailing over walkways?

How will maintenance staff, especially contractors be managed to avoid them creating risks by, for example, leaving materials lying about or by using their own cables which then create a tripping hazard?

Who is responsible for clearing ice, snow or fallen leaves from external areas?

Further advice is available through the HSE's website.

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