Slips, Trips and Falls
“Slips, trips and falls are the largest cause of accidents in all sectors ... the main causes of accidents that result in more than 3 days absence from work.” according to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.
In Ireland, hundreds of people are hurt in slips, trips and falls each year.
- Slips, trips and falls account for 17% of all notified 4+day injuries
- 21% of injured people were unable to work for over a month
- “Nearly 50% of all claims made against retailers are slips, trips and falls cases” (Retail Ireland, February 2013)
- They were the major cause (44%) of workplace accidents reviewed by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (2009)
- 22% of workplaces surveyed by HSA Inspectors had not carried out a slip, trip and fall risk assessment
Under section 19 of the 2005 Act, employers are required to carry out risk assessments and to record these in the Safety Statement.
Perception of Slips, Trips and Falls
People may inherently consider slips, trips and falls to be funny - so long as it is clear that no-one is hurt. This inherent perception could be a serious issue in getting people to take slips, trips and falls seriously. It may be necessary to remind people of the potential gravity of workplace slips, trips and falls.
|The Napo animated video "No laughing matter" (44 seconds) shows the inherent comedy of a trip - up to the point that someone is injured|
|The Napo animated video "Reality TV" (34 seconds) shows a common TV format with slips, trips and falls because they are funny - so long as no-one is hurt|
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Causes of Slips, Trips and Falls
Slips may be more significant than trips and falls. While this may point towards prioritising slip risks, it is very important to also deal with trip risks, fall risks, missteps and lost footing or balance as they also cause hundreds of injuries.
The causes of slips, trips and falls may include, but are not limited to ..
- In relation to stairs and steps, both ascending and descending can be hazardous. Descending stairs may be more likely to cause accidents and these accidents may result in more serious injuries. As well as stairs and steps, ramps and kerbs must be considered
- Vehicles could include vans, bikes, trucks, trailers. Vehicles operating in sectors other than the transport sector are very significant. Exiting vehicles can be particularly problematic
- In floor cleaning, females may be particularly vulnerable
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Section 8 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 requires employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the design, provision and maintenance of a safe workplace with safe access. Duties in respect of hazard identification, risk assessment and safety statements are set out in sections 18, 19 and 20.
In a New Scientist article, half of workers believed it’s company’s responsibility (not theirs) to prevent slips and trips. It's important to make employees aware of their responsibility to take reasonable care of them self and others, co-operate with the employer and report dangers under Section 13 of the 2005 Act.
Section 12 requires employers to assess the competence of a contractor
Section 21 requires employers who share a place of work to co-operate in complying with and implementing health and safety provisions and to coordinate their preventive activities and keep each other and their respective employees, and safety representatives (if any), informed about the risks, including the exchange of safety statements or relevant extracts of them relating to hazards and risks to employees.
Section 16 requires designers, manufacturers, importers or suppliers of articles used at work to provide or arrange for adequate information (and any revised information) to ensure safe use. They must also ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the article
- is designed and constructed so that it can be used safely and without risk
- complies with relevant legislation, and
- is properly tested and examined
Section 17 places a duty on those who design buildings or structures to ensure that they are safe and without risk to health
The Safety, Health and Welfare (General Application) Regulations require that floors of rooms shall not have dangerous bumps, holes or slopes and that they be fixed, stable and not slippery.
These Regulations state an employer shall ensure personal protective equipment (PPE) is provided where risks cannot be avoided or sufficiently limited by other means. The regulations require that the employer providing PPE should ensure it's properly maintained and replaced as necessary. PPE should be provided free-of-charge to the employee.
Regulation 160 says safety signs can only be used where hazards cannot be avoided or adequately reduced by other means.
The "Risk Assessments not carried out" chart shows the percentage of selected sectors surveyed from 2010 to 2012, with a sample size over 100, where Inspectors answered "No" to the question "Have risk assessments been carried out for slip, trip and fall risks?"
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Sector Specific Advice
For some sectors, information is available on
Following risk assessment, appropriate safeguards should be put in place. Sector-specific guidance is available for
Half of the slips, trips and falls involving spills occurred when cleaning spills. In one third of the floor cleaning accidents, a sign was in place.
Retail Ireland advise “it would appear that claims resulting from slips, trips and falls have risen” and “nearly 50% of all claims made against retailers are slips, trips and falls cases” (February 2013)
In addition to the advice and guidance in Get a grip (4 pages), safeguards for the retail sector include
- Particular care may be required around self-service drinks areas. Monitor self-service drinks areas on a frequent, regular, planned basis
- Walk-in chiller and freezer floors can be particularly hazardous if wet. In May 2013, Asda were fined in relation to an accident where an employee slipped on an ice-covered floor in a storage freezer. Ensure you have conducted a risk assessment
- Where necessary, monitor for spills on a frequent, regular, planned basis. Record-keeping can help ensure monitoring takes place
- Consider using contoured/moulded pallets for liquid container storage and display - to reduce the risk of containers being knocked over
- Consider the use of floor mats near fragile liquid containers. This may also help reduce losses through breakages
- Do not put containers of liquid too close to the front of shelves or hanging over the front edge where they are more likely to get knocked over
- Small fruit/vegetable items, some with a high liquid content e.g. grapes, tomatoes, may be a high slip risk if they fall onto the floor. Provide floor mats or display items pre-packed to reduce risk
- Use only the minimum amount of water in flower display buckets and use floor mats if required
- Store containers, particularly of liquid, with the opening on top - unless specifically designed to be stored with the opening on the side or bottom. This will help prevent spills in the event in the event of a defect or damage
- Dispose of packing material and other wrappings carefully. Do not leave them lying around the floor
- Inserts in papers and magazines may be slippery. Monitor and remove them promptly if they fall onto the floor
- Retailers who sell safety footwear and/ or flooring must consider the safety information/literature provided
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|This BeSmart video is a 5 minute, 26 second presentation with some top tips on slips, trips and falls for smaller businesses|
The Safequarry YouTube channel provides simple videos on slips, trips and falls, described as "ideal for use in toolbox talks, an induction process or as part of a safety training or awareness event". There is no spoken element to these videos that convey the message without narration.
|Video showing animated unsafe practice in dismounting a truck and real-life video of the correct way to remove a trip hazard. (1 minute, 9 seconds)|
|Video with an animated slip on material on a gantry, then real-life footage of simple housekeeping to remove the problem. (1 minute, 5 seconds)|
|Housekeeping in workshops|
|Animated video with an accident in an untidy workshop and real-life video of clearing the floor. (1 minute, 37 seconds)|
|An animated accident caused by muddy boots and real life video of a simple method of removing excess mud. (46 seconds)|
|Paths and trip hazards|
|An animated accident after staff fail to report a pothole and real life video fixing a defective path. (1 minute, 7 seconds)|
|Video of an animated fall in a pothole and real life video filling a pothole. (46 seconds)|
|Snow or icy conditions|
|An animated slip on ice followed by gritting of the icy area. (49 seconds)|
|Video of an animated slip on an oil spill with real life video removing an oil spill. (1 minute, 1 second)|
|An animated video with two falls on stairs followed by real life video of safe carrying of a load on stairs. (39 seconds)|
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For Further Information
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