Over 10,000 employees suffer from a major injury caused by a trip or slip in the workplace every year. Whilst slips, trips and falls may seem like very minor occurrences that ought to be easily avoided, they are actually one of the biggest health and safety hazards out there.
What makes the above statistic more serious is that many slips, trips and falls at work are caused by an easily avoidable hazard. From wet floors to untidy workspaces and general distraction, avoiding accidents in the workplace is often an incredibly simple process.
The best way to remove slip and trip hazards before they have caused any damage is by carrying out a comprehensive risk assessment that allows you to put preventative measures in place before a hazard has the chance to become properly dangerous. Here’s our guide to completing a slips, trips and falls risk assessment.
A risk assessment is perhaps the most important part of preventing risk and dealing with hazards in the workplace. It involves identifying all the potential hazards within an agreed-upon area, identifying who is at risk from these hazards, and then deciding how best to reduce the risk of any accidents results from the identified hazards.
The level of detail required in a risk assessment is relative to the risks that are present and the type of activity that is going to be carried out. Therefore, if your workplace has many slip, trip and fall hazards then a thorough risk assessment is needed to make it safe for purpose, whilst spaces with minimal risk will not require such a detailed record.
To ensure that you have prevented every possible slip, trip and fall that could occur in the workplace, you will need to carry out both a general risk assessment and a special working at heights risk assessment as well. This will cover all possible eventualities and ensure that you are complying with all relevant health and safety legislation.
Using the below guidance, your risk assessment should make a note of every potential hazard within the workplace and identify who might be at risk from this hazard. You should then detail the steps that are going to be taken to remove or reduce these risks, and ensure that all necessary measures are taken once the risk assessment has been circulated around all members of staff.
When understanding potential slip hazards and the best ways to remove or reduce these, you can use HSE’s Slip Prevention Model. This considers six different factors which usually cause people to slip over in the workplace.
One of the easiest ways that slip hazards can be reduced and removed from the workplace is with thorough cleaning procedures that remove any hazardous substances from surfaces that people could slip over on. These procedures also need to factor in the risk that a freshly cleaned floor poses, which is usually dealt with by using ‘Wet Floor’ signs or only cleaning a workspace when other employees are not around.
The material of a floor itself can be a slip hazard if it is particularly smooth or doesn’t have appropriate draining systems if outdoors. If a floor frequently gets wet or contaminated then an employer should consider installing non-slip covering to reduce the hazard as much as possible.
This factor of slip prevention is a requirement of section 12 of The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations which states that all floors must be suitable for the work taking place on them.
A floor surface that has been contaminated poses the biggest slip risk, and so the possibility of spillage in the workplace needs to be considered in your slip risk assessment. After identifying where potential contamination could come from, steps should then be taken to either stop it reaching the floor or reduce the slip risk through measures like cleaning or changing the flooring type.
One of the best ways to stop employees slipping over is by providing them with special ‘non-slip’ footwear. There is plenty of guidance available online for the best quality shoes to reduce the risk of slipping and in some workplaces, certain kinds of shoes (such as high heels) will be prohibited.
Environmental issues can be a major factor in identifying potential slip hazards, but changes in the environment can also be a brilliant way of preventing them. Things such as lighting, loud noises and changes in the weather can all make a workplace environment more hazardous, and all of these should be considered in your risk assessment along with steps to prevent them.
The way that people react and behave can have a big effect on how likely they are to slip over at work, and therefore your risk assessment needs to look at how risky behaviour can be minimised. This could involve making sure your staff are always wearing appropriate footwear, telling them to report or clean up spillages immediately, reducing the need to rush around a workplace and ensuring nobody is walking around whilst distracted or obstructed by something they are carrying.
There is also a model in place to help identify the three main areas that tend to pose a tripping hazard, known as the Trip Potential Triangle. A trip hazard may be the obstruction of the path through a space or it could be a surface that is uneven or disrupted by trailing cables or wires.
When identifying potential trip hazards, start with the walkways around a workplace and check that they are all kept clear for use at all times. If designated walkways have been marked out within a large space, ensure that these are in the most convenient place.
Next, gather information about any workplace tasks that involve the walkways and make sure that the space is not affecting the health and safety of any employees undertaking the task.
In this model, housekeeping applies to the general upkeep of the workplace and how it is kept clean and tidy by everyone who uses it. The biggest tripping hazards that fall under housekeeping are things like trailing wires, bags and equipment that are not kept out from underfoot, and spillages that are not immediately cleaned up.
It is the responsibilities of both the employees and workplace cleaners to reduce housekeeping trip hazards through tidy workspace guidance and appropriate cleaning schedules.
This factor refers to the physical properties of the workplace and things such as the floors and corridors have any design flaws that make them unsafe. Make sure that you have walked around every part of the workplace and checked for trip hazards such as uneven floors, narrow staircases, corridors with obstructions, missing handrails and dim lighting.
As well as putting risk control measures in place to make the workplace environment as safe as possible, you should also include a section in your risk assessment that outlines how the space is going to be maintained so that any potential trip hazards are quickly fixed and removed.
Whilst slips and trips are common causes of accidents across the workplace, falls tend to only occur in industries where working from heights is commonplace. However, incidents such as climbing a ladder or using a stool to reach a high shelf can be the causes of falls, and so every risk assessment should take this hazard into account.
If working at heights is a key part of your employee’s job then you are bound by The Work at Height Regulations (2005) to assess the risk of any task that may pose a risk to health and safety. These regulations use a hierarchy of control to outline how hazards should be managed:
As well as identifying and preventing risk, an important part of risk control measures is ensuring that all employees have received appropriate health and safety training for working at heights before they begin any hazardous tasks. This is an essential step, as it won’t matter what safety measures you have implemented if your employees are not aware of and using them.
In the majority of cases, a fall risk assessment will just apply to the occasional use of stepladders and ladders by employees. Appropriate measures to control the risk of this activity include providing safe ladders in the workplace and making sure all employees are trained to use ladders safely, with an awareness of the possible risks.
According to official statistics, 37% of all reported workplace accidents were caused by a slip, trip or fall. On top of that, slips, trips and falls are responsible for 28% of fatal accidents at work, many of which could have been prevented if the correct safety measures were put in place. (Source)
There is no official length of time that has to pass before a risk assessment needs to be reviewed and/or updated. Instead, a risk assessment should be reviewed every time an accident occurs or if there is a change to the equipment, substances and processes used in the workplace that could present a new risk that may not have been previously factored in.
You do not need to re-do an entire slip, trips and falls risk assessment in this case, you are only required to assess the new potential hazard and record any new safety measures that are put in place.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999) state that it is the legal responsibility of an employer to make sure that a risk assessment is carried out in a workplace before any work begins that could be hazardous. An employer does not necessarily need to be the person who carries out the risk assessment, but they should take charge of finding a competent person to complete it and ensure that all appropriate measures are in place before allowing employees into work.
Slips, trips and falls at work contribute to a large proportion of workplace injuries every year, and it is the employer’s responsibility to make sure that the risk of these accidents is removed or reduced. Completing a risk assessment is the first step in ensuring a safe working environment, followed by making all employees aware of the workplace health and safety measures that have been put in place, and keeping the risk assessment updated any time something changes at work or an accident takes place.
At Virtual College, we offer a range of different slips, trips and falls online training courses to help keep your workplace safe, all of which can be found on our Slips and Trips Training page.