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Slips, trips and falls


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Legal duties

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 imposes a duty on all employers to take steps to ensure the health and safety of their employees and third parties (such as customers or workmen). This duty includes taking steps to control risks to such persons from slips, trips and falls. Employees are also under a duty to behave in a responsible manner to ensure their own safety and that of others around them.  Additionally, they must make use of any safety equipment provided by their employer. 

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 impose the specific requirement that floors must be suitable and in good condition. They must also be free from obstructions and people must be able to move around safely. 

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 impose a duty on employers to carry out risk assessments, including those relating to hazards involving slips, trips and falls. Once these have been highlighted, employers must put into place measures to prevent the risk of accidents arising from slips, trips and falls.

Risk assessment

The HSE recommends five steps in risk assessment of slips, trips and falls: 

  1. Look for slip and trip hazards (e.g. uneven floors, trailing cables, slippery surfaces – when wet or otherwise).
  2. Identify who may be harmed and how (pay particular attention to older or disabled people).
  3. Consider the risks and whether current safety measures adequately deal with these.
  4. Record findings (if five or more employees).
  5. Review the risk assessment regularly (particularly where there has been an accident involving a slip, trip or fall or where there have been significant changes in the workplace). 

The HSE has issued specific mapping tools to assist managers and safety representatives to prevent accidents involving slips, trips and falls. These can be found on the HSE website, together with other useful information (see Sources of further information).

Good system

 The HSE has highlighted the following as the requirements of a good system to prevent slips, trips and falls. 

Planning 

An employer should identify key areas of risk and work with employees to identify areas on the site giving rise to risk of slips, trips or falls. Employers should also take care when selecting floor coverings and equipment to prevent or reduce slip and trip hazards. This can be done by choosing anti-slip flooring and fitting splash guards. The HSE has a ‘Flooring Selection Tool’ to help employers identify the most appropriate
flooring for their needs based on industry and contamination risk (see Sources of further information).

Training  

Staff should be trained in how to avoid accidents involving slips, trips and falls, including cleaning up spillages and not placing trip hazards in the workplace. Staff should also be trained on how to use safety signage to warn of slippery floors etc. and to wear suitable footwear. 

Organisation  

Work activities should be organised in a way that minimises the risks of slips, trips and falls, and specific staff members should be given responsibility for ensuring that the workplace is kept safe. This can be done by ensuring the workplace is always well-lit, free from obstructions and tripping hazards (e.g. trailing cables) and that all spillages are cleared up quickly to prevent slipping. 

Control  

Records should be kept to ensure good cleaning and maintenance operations are being used. Checks should be carried out regularly to ensure safe working practices are being used. 

Monitor and review  

Employers should regularly review accident records and identify any areas where current safety arrangements are deficient. Steps should be taken to remedy any deficiencies highlighted. Employees should be encouraged to report any safety issues.

Common causes of accidents

The HSE has identified the main factors that it considers contribute to slips, trips and falls: 

  • Flooring. Wet floors pose a well-known slipping hazard and ill-fitted or damaged floor coverings can lead to tripping. Floors should be regularly inspected and damaged flooring repaired. Spillages should be wiped up as soon as possible and safety signage used to warn of the hazards of wet floors. Where appropriate, slip resistant floor covering should be used.
  • Contamination. Contamination from oil, grease or even rainwater can make floors very slippery and it is therefore important that floors are cleaned thoroughly and rainwater is mopped up as soon as possible and safety signage used. Matting can be used at entrances during periods of inclement weather.
  • Obstacles. Simple measures such as keeping areas clear of obstructions and work areas tidy can reduce the number of accidents.
  • Cleaning. All workplaces will need to undergo cleaning but this can create slip and trip hazards, so cleaning is best done when the least number of people will be exposed to the risks of slipping or tripping (e.g. after the premises in question close to the public). When this is not possible, access to wet areas should be stopped and cleaning carried out in sections, using signs and/or cones. It is important to note that these will warn of a hazard, but will not prevent people from entering the area. Appropriate amounts of cleaning products should be used to remove grease and oil from floors.
  • Human factors. Instilling a positive attitude in staff, and training them to deal with any hazards as soon as they arise, will have a positive effect on workplace safety.
  • Environment. Environmental factors such as lighting, weather and condensation can have an impact on the risk of people suffering a slip, trip or fall. For example, excessive glare from sunlight on a shiny floor may prevent people from seeing a tripping hazard, or badly lit stairs will present a hazard. This can be reduced by using high visibility non-slip step edges. Slips in icy weather conditions can be reduced by gritting the main pedestrian routes, diverting pedestrians from icy/hazardous walkways or using an insulating material on key areas of risk overnight.    
  • Footwear. The HSE recognises that footwear can play an important part in preventing slips, trips and falls, while unsuitable footwear may contribute to an accident. Employers can reduce risks by providing non-slip footwear for staff or by implementing a footwear policy requiring employees to wear flat shoes that have a grip. This will not, of course, reduce the risk of slips or trips by customers or other third parties, and additional steps may still be required. By undertaking a risk assessment and implementing good systems, the majority of accidents involving slips, trips and falls can be avoided.
Changes to reporting requirements

On 1 October 2013, the HSE formally changed the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 1995 to simplify and clarify the mandatory reporting of workplace injuries for businesses. 

The changes affect all employers, including those who are self-employed. The main changes are in the following areas:

  • The classification of ‘major injuries’ to workers replaces a shorter list of ‘specified injuries’.
  • The existing schedule detailing 47 types of industrial disease has been replaced with eight categories of reportable work-related illnesses.
  • Fewer types of ‘dangerous occurrence’ require reporting.

There are no significant changes to the reporting requirements for:

  • Fatal accidents.
  • Accidents to non-workers (members of the public).
  • Accidents resulting in a worker being unable to perform their normal range of duties for more than seven days.

There are also no changes to how an incident is reported and the criteria that determine whether an incident should be investigated. New web-based information and guidance can be found on the HSE website (see Sources of further information).

Key points

  • Slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of injuries at work.
  • 95% of major slips result in broken bones.
  • The HSE estimates that over 50% of all trip accidents are caused by bad housekeeping.
  • More than 10,900 workers suffered major injury as a result of a slip, trip or fall at work in 2012/13.
  • Slips, trips and falls were the cause of more than half of all major injuries and almost a third of over seven day injuries to employees (56% and 31%) in 2012/13, making up 37% of all reported injuries to employees.
  • It is estimated that two million working days were lost due to slips and trips in 2012/13.

Legislation

  • Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
  • Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.
  • Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) (as amended).
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Sources of further information

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Hilary Ross
Hilary Ross More information