Over a third of all major injuries reported each year are caused as a result of a slip
or trip (the single most common cause of injuries at work). These cost
employers over £512 million a year in lost production and other costs. Slips and
trips also account for over half of all reported injuries to members of the public.
Recognising the importance of slips and trips, the Health and Safety Executive and
local authorities have included this topic in their programmes of work designed to
achieve national targets set to improve health and safety performance. These
targets were published by the Government and the Health and Safety Commission
in the Revitalising Health and Safety strategy statement of June 2000.
Legal actions brought as a result of an injury can be extremely damaging to
business, especially where the public are involved. Insurance covers only a small
proportion of the costs.
Anyone at work, but particularly employers, can help to reduce slip and trip
hazards through good health and safety arrangements.
Effective solutions are often simple, cheap and lead to other benefits.
Managing health and safetyA good management system will help you to identify problem areas, decide what
to do, act on decisions made and check that the steps taken have been effective.
A good system should involve:
Planning Identify key areas of risk and set goals for improvement. Employers can
work with employees to identify areas on site that they think are a slipping and
tripping risk (remember that there will be about 40 cases of a slip or stumble,
resulting in no or minor injury for every major injury accident). Careful selection of
materials, equipment and work practices can prevent or contain slip and trip
hazards from liquids, fine powders and objects. For example fit splash guards and
anti-slip floorings in areas that can’t be kept dry and use cordless tools to avoid
trailing cables across working areas. This all helps to remove or minimise risks.
Organisation Workers need to be involved and committed to reducing risks. Give
people (eg supervisors) responsibilities to ensure that areas of the workplace are
kept safe, eg getting spillages and objects cleaned up quickly, keeping access
routes clear and ensuring lighting is maintained. Keep a record of who is
responsible for which arrangements; take special care to include cleaning and
other contractors. Make these details clear to everyone.
Control Check to ensure that working practices and processes are being carried
out properly, eg smooth floors are not left wet, housekeeping is good, and any
leaks from equipment and roof lights are repaired quickly. Keep a record of
cleaning and maintenance work etc and encourage good health and safety.
Monitor and review Monitor accident investigation and inspection reports. Try to
identify any deficiencies in your management arrangements. Do they show any
improvement? Talk to any safety representatives about slip and trip risks – they can
be a great help when identifying and solving problems. Employees should also be
encouraged to be involved in reviewing existing control measures. They are often
better placed to assess the effectiveness of the measures implemented to reduce
the risks of slipping and tripping.
Examine slip and trip risks
All employers have to assess the risks to employees and others who may be
affected by their work, eg visitors and members of the public. This helps to find out
what needs to be done to control the risk. It is also needed to satisfy the law.
HSE recommend a five-step approach to risk assessment, and slip and trip risks
should be among the risks examined.
Step 1 Look for slip and trip hazards around the workplace, such as uneven
floors, trailing cables, areas that are sometimes slippery due to spillages. Include
Step 2 Decide who might be harmed and how. Who comes into the workplace?
Are they at risk? Do you have any control over them? Remember that older people
and people with disabilities may be at particular risk.
Step 3 Consider the risks. Are the precautions already taken adequate to deal
with the risks?
Step 4 Record your findings if you have five or more employees.
Step 5 Regularly review the assessment. If any significant changes take place,
make sure existing precautions and management arrangements are still adequate
to deal with the risks.
What the law saysThe Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) requires employers to
ensure the health and safety of all employees and anyone who may be affected by
their work. This includes taking steps to control slip and trip risks.
Employees must not endanger themselves or others and must use any safety
Manufacturers and suppliers have a duty to ensure that their products are safe.
They must also provide adequate information about appropriate use.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 build on
HSWA and include duties on employers to assess risks (including slip and trip
risks) and where necessary take action to safeguard health and safety.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require floors to
be suitable, in good condition and free from obstructions. People must be able to
move around safely.
Good working practiceGet conditions right from the start - this will make dealing with slip and trip risks
easier. Choose only suitable floor surfaces and particularly avoid very smooth floors
in areas that will become wet/contaminated (such as kitchens and entrance halls).
Ensure lighting levels are sufficient, properly plan pedestrian and traffic routes and
Cleaning and maintenanceTrain workers in the correct use of any safety and cleaning equipment provided.
Cleaning methods and equipment must be suitable for the type of surface being
treated. You may need to get advice from the manufacturer or supplier. Take care
not to create additional slip or trip hazards while cleaning and maintenance work is
Carry out all necessary maintenance work promptly (you may need to get outside
help or guidance). Include inspection, testing, adjustment and cleaning at suitable
intervals. Keep records so that the system can be checked.
Lighting should enable people to see obstructions, potentially slippery areas etc,
so they can work safely. Replace, repair or clean lights before levels become too
low for safe work.
Floors need to be checked for loose finishes, holes and cracks, worn rugs and
mats etc. Take care in the choice of floor if it is likely to become wet or dusty due
to work processes. Seek specialist advice when choosing a floor for difficult
Obstructions and objects left lying around can easily go unnoticed and cause a
trip. Try to keep work areas tidy and if obstructions can’t be removed, warn people
using signs or barriers. Cardboard should not be used to absorb spillages as this
itself presents a tripping hazard.
Footwear can play an important part in preventing slips and trips. This is especially
important where floors can’t be kept dry. Your footwear supplier should be able to
advise on shoes/boots with slip-resistant soles. Employers need to provide
footwear, if it is necessary to protect the workers’ safety.