Your guide to slip, trip and fall injuries at work
Slips, trips and falls at work are the most common cause of injury at work in the UK.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports that slips, trips and falls are responsible for around 40% of workplace injuries – and that figure excludes falls from height.
Employers are required by law to take all reasonable precautions to protect their employees. This has been the case since the Health and Safety at Work Act – which we at Thompsons Solicitors helped develop – was passed in 1974.
However, it is clear from the statistics that not all employers are doing enough to prevent slips, trips and falls.
In the 2020/21 reporting period alone, it is estimated that over 175,000 workers were injured from slips, trips and falls. The number injured is shocking – especially considering that those figures are from the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, when many workers were furloughed or working from home.
In this guide we’ll review the most common causes of slips, trips and falls in the workplace, the injuries that slips and trips can cause, and what employers should be doing to prevent them.
What are the most common causes of slips, trips and falls in the workplace?
The most common causes of slips, trips and falls at work are:
- Spillages of liquids, oils and other slippery substances
- Unsafe practices when cleaning floors
- Unsuitable, uneven or damaged flooring
- Improper footwear
- Trip hazards, such as loose wires or boxes left in walkways
- Adverse weather conditions, such as rain, snow or ice.
What types of injuries are caused by slips and trips?
Slips, trips and falls can cause a wide range of injuries, including:
- Bruising and soreness
- Cuts and lacerations
- Damage to tendons and ligaments – most commonly sprains of the wrist or ankle
- Broken bones
- Back injuries, including slipped discs
- Head injuries, including concussion.
The most common types of slip and fall injury are musculoskeletal injuries, often caused by the impact of landing on the floor. These can range in severity, from bruising and soreness to broken bones and spinal injuries.
How can employers prevent slip and fall injuries at work?
There are three main pieces of legislation which outline the responsibilities of employers to prevent slip, trip and fall injuries:
#1: The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
Under this legislation, employers have a responsibility to ensure their workers’ safety as far as is reasonably practicable. This includes taking all reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of slips and trips in the workplace.
#2: The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
Under these regulations, employers have a duty to assess risks in the workplace and to remove those risks or to reduce them to the lowest level reasonably practicable.
#3: The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
These regulations stipulate that floors in the workplace must be suitable, in good condition and free from obstructions.
Here are some actions that employers can take to help meet their legal obligations for preventing slips, trips and falls:
1. Perform risk assessments
Employers should perform risk assessments to identify potential slip and trip hazards in the workplace. Risk assessments should be carried out and reviewed on a regular basis.
2. Avoid hazardous substances
Employers should avoid, or at least minimise the use of, substances which could cause slip hazards, such as oils and liquids. Where the use of such substances cannot be avoided, employers should implement robust safety procedures.
3. Ensure cleaning is performed safely
Robust health and safety procedures should be implemented for all cleaning activities. For example, wet floor signs should always be used when floors are being cleaned, and the area should be blocked off if possible.
4. Provide suitable footwear
If employees are required to walk on wet or slippery surfaces, appropriate safety footwear should be provided by the employer as part of PPE (personal protective equipment).
5. Ensure flooring is safe
The flooring material must be suitable for a workplace. It should not be slippery, even when freshly cleaned or polished. The floor must also be well maintained – broken tiles or loose carpet are trip hazards.
6. Clear the work environment of hazards
Ensure walkways are kept clear from obstructions and trip hazards, such as boxes, equipment or wires.
7. Prepare for adverse weather
Implement safety procedures for adverse weather conditions, such as gritting entrances in cold weather to prevent slips and falls on ice at work.