Slips, Trips & Falls; Accidents in the workplace
What does the law say?
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act) requires employers to ensure the health and safety of all employees and anyone who may be affected by their work, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Employees also have a duty not to put themselves or others in danger, and must use any safety equipment provided. Under current legislation employees also have a duty to ensure management are aware of any personal conditions which may increase their risks of slips, trips and falls.
Consequences for the individual include:
- Reduced quality of life
- Worry and stress
- Time off work/financial impact
Consequences for the employer can include:
- Insured costs (injury, ill health, damage)
- Operational cost
- Production delays
- Overtime working
- Temporary labour and training
- Investigation time
- Damage to reputation and image
Slips, trips and falls can have a significant impact on a business, each year they have resulted in a combined estimated number of 1.5 million working days lost.
(Based on a three year-pooled average 2011/12 to 2013/14)
So what can you do?
Undertake a step by step (forgive the pun) Risk Assessment
Step 1 – Look for slip and trip hazards around the workplace such as uneven floors, trailing cables and areas that are sometimes slippery due to spillages. Ensure that this includes outdoor areas.
Step 2 – Determine 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 employees and people with disabilities may be at particular risk.
Step 3 – Consider the risks! Are the precautions already taken adequate enough 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
How do falls happen?
Statistics show that the majority (66%) of falls happen on the same level resulting from slips and trips. They are one of the most common entries in the Accident Book and in some cases reportable under RIDDOR.
Slips happen where there is too little friction or traction between the footwear and the walking, surfaces that are a likely cause of slips include:
- Wet or oily surfaces
- Occasional spills
- Weather hazards
- Loose, unanchored rugs or mats
- Flooring or other walking surfaces that do not have same degree of traction in all areas
Trips happen when your foot collides (strikes, hits) an object causing you to lose balance and, eventually fall. Likely causes of tripping include:
- Obstructed view
- Poor lighting
- Clutter in your way
- Wrinkled carpeting
- Uncovered cables
- Bottom drawers not being closed
- Uneven (steps, thresholds) walking surfaces
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So what can be done to help prevent slips and trips?
Both slips and trips result from some a kind of unintended or unexpected change in the contact between the feet and the ground or walking surface. This shows that good housekeeping, quality of walking surfaces (flooring), selection of proper footwear, and appropriate pace of walking are critical for preventing fall accidents.
Good housekeeping is the first and the most important (fundamental) stage of preventing falls due to slips and trips, it includes:
- Cleaning all spills immediately
- Marking spills and wet areas
- Mopping or sweeping debris from floors
- Removing obstacles from walkways and always keeping them free of clutter
- Securing (tacking, taping, etc.) mats, rugs and carpets that do not lay flat
- Always closing file cabinet or storage drawers
- Covering cables that cross walkways
- Keeping working areas and walkways well lit
- Replacing used light bulbs and faulty switches
Without good housekeeping practices, any other preventive measures such as installation of sophisticated flooring, suitable footwear or training on techniques of walking and safe falling will never be fully effective.
Other areas to be considered
Layout of the work area plant, exit, entrance, stairs etc. Obstructions and any objects lying around can easily go unnoticed and cause a trip. Try to keep work areas tidy and if obstructions cannot be removed, warn people using signs or barriers.