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Slips, Trips and Falls - Health And Safety Risks and How to Prevent Them


A man slipping and falling down the stairs

Thousands of injuries occur every year as a result of slips, trips and falls. Musculoskeletal injuries, cuts, bruises, dislocation and fractures are common injuries because of slips, trips and falls making them a serious health and safety risk. A proper health and safety program must be put in place to minimise the risk of these occurring.

Of all the health and safety dangers which are present in a place of work, trip and slip hazards are often the most preventable in terms of immediately rectifying or, more appropriately, not creating them in the first place. Whilst a lot of other dangers in a workplace would require a major re-design of a process or a costly and time consuming substitution of one hazardous substance for a safer alternative, slip and trip hazards are often a simple case of good housekeeping by not leaving things lying around or ensuring that surfaces are dry.

Although they are amongst the most preventable of accidents, slips, trips and falls are also some of the most common, and are the cause of many lost days as employees who are injured at work have to stay at home or recuperate in hospital. As far as companies are concerned, as well as the inconvenience and lost production caused by having people away from the workplace, they may also be hit with compensation claims. This can be a heavy price to pay, literally, for failing to perform simple tasks such as keeping a walkway unobstructed or ensuring a floor was dry for example.

The consequences on a person's health as a result of slipping, tripping or falling can range from nothing but minor embarrassment to broken bones or even death if the person was to hit their head on the floor or an object on the way down. Whilst anyone can suffer a serious injury from falling, there are groups who will be more at risk including the elderly who are more likely to break or fracture a bone, and pregnant women.

How do Slips Occur?

Slips occur when a person's feet lose traction with the surface of the ground. Some common causes of slips are:

  • inappropriate floor surface - for example shiny, smooth tiles in a wet area
  • slippery floor surfaces - for example icy, oily, dusty or wet
  • poor housekeeping - for example not cleaning spills up immediately
  • inappropriate drainage - waste and liquid leaking from machinery onto the floors
  • inappropriate footwear worn by the individual
  • steep gradients, particularly when combined with one or more of the other causes listed above

How do Trips Occur?

Trips happen when a worker unexpectedly catches their foot on a raised surface or object. Some common causes of trips are:

  • poor housekeeping - for example objects left in pathways or corridors, working areas that are cluttered
  • poorly maintained floor - for example cracked tiles or concrete, lifted or frayed carpets
  • low, non-visible objects - for example boxes, electrical cords, stock, packing material, pallets
  • an obstructed view while carrying objects
  • changes in floor levels or uneven surfaces
  • poor lighting
  • storage areas that are insufficient and inadequate
  • walkways and passages used as storage

How do Falls Occur?

Falls may occur from a trip or slip, but they can also occur from low heights, into a hole, body of water or ditch. Common causes of falls are:

  • poor work practices - accessing high storage areas with chairs or ladders, carrying objects while climbing down ladders, loading and unloading vehicles in an unsafe manner
  • an obstructed view while carrying objects
  • mezzanine storage areas and loading docks with no fall protection
  • changes in floor levels or uneven surfaces
  • stairwells that are maintained poorly and are not properly lit
  • poor access to storage racking

What can an employer do to prevent slips, trips and falls?

An employer can protect the health and safety of their workers from slips, trips and falls with the following examples:

  • cleaning all spills immediately
  • marking spills and wet areas
  • sweeping or mopping debris away from floors
  • keep walkways free from clutter at all times and remove obstacles
  • securing down rugs, mats and carpets
  • ensuring filing cabinets and drawers are always closed
  • covering and securing cables that go across walkways
  • ensure walkways and working areas are well lit
  • provide staff with appropriate footwear
  • treat flooring to increase slip resistance such as putting down non-slip rubber matting
  • provide adequate storage at the workplace
  • provide mechanical aids or trolleys to move objects over long distances

What can employees do to prevent slips, trips and falls?

  • pay attention to where you are going, and take your time
  • adjust the pace of your stride that is suitable for the surface that you are walking on and the task you are performing
  • wear appropriate footwear
  • make wide turns at corners
  • report potential hazards to your employer do that they can deal with them

Selected Courses

Please see below for a selection of health and safety courses and qualifications which you may be interested in:

NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety is the flagship NEBOSH qualification, and is the first UK vocational qualification to be developed specifically for health and safety professionals.

The NEBOSH National Diploma provides the core health and safety knowledge (transferable across industry, commerce and the public sector) which, combined with understanding and appropriate application, underpins the competent performance of an occupational health and safety practitioner.

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NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH General Certificate is one of the most popular and widely-held health and safety qualifications in the UK. It is intended to be taken by managers, supervisors and any other employees who require an understanding of general health and safety issues.

The NEBOSH General Certificate covers the main legal requirements for health and safety in the UK, along with the identification and control of workplace hazards, and the practical application of this knowledge. The general content of the NEBOSH General Certificate syllabus means it is suitable and relevant for those working in virtually any industry, and is often used as a solid foundation for those going on to further study and specialising in a particular area such as construction site health and safety or fire safety.

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IOSH Managing Safely Course

The IOSH Managing Safely course is designed for managers and supervisors of organisations in virtually all industry sectors, in order to give them all they need to know to effectively manage health and safety in the workplace.

Recently updated, the new high impact programme covers key health and safety issues, and includes references to international case studies.

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CITB Site Management SMSTS Course

The Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS) is one of the most popular health and safety training courses, and is intended for construction site managers, project managers and senior supervisors, as well as proprietors of smaller companies.

Client-based personnel would also benefit from attending the SMSTS course.

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