In 2015/16, 19% of an estimated 621,000 non-fatal injury at work were caused by slipping and tripping.
It’s clear that slipping and tripping is still a common cause of major injuries in UK workplaces and often the cause of other accidents attributed to other causes, e.g. some machinery accidents, scalding and falls from height leading to injuries – and even death.
Some Slipping and Tripping H&SE Cases
16 year old employee flash fries arm in 360°F oil following slip
A 16 year old girl was employed at a fast food outlet to cook fries at a frying range. She slipped on water leaking from an ice-making machine and instinctively put out her hand to break her fall. Unfortunately her hand went into the deep fat fryer containing oil at a temperature of 360°F and she sustained severe burns to her left hand and forearm. The local authority prosecuted the company and on successful conviction the magistrates imposed a total fine of £15000.
Poor housekeeping causes trip accident
A convenience store was prosecuted in January 2002 following a tripping accident to a customer in September 2000. The customer tripped over newspaper plastic binding (used to hold the newspapers together), causing an injury to her hip. She was unable to work for 5 months. The management of the store had previously been warned about housekeeping issues and were in fact served an Improvement Notice. The company were fined over £45,000 in the Magistrates Court.
Serious burn injuries lead to serious fine for fast food restaurant!
The cook was walking back to the kitchen from the pot wash area over a floor that had just been wet mopped by another employee. As he walked past the deep fat fryer, the cook suddenly slipped on the still damp floor. He instinctively reached out to try and break his fall, pulling over the electric deep fat fryer in his panic. The fryer toppled over, spilling its entire contents, 35 litres of boiling hot oil, onto the cook and the floor. Eventually the trainee assistant manager succeeded in sliding him out of the spilt oil, burning his own hands in the process. The cook suffered extensive burns to his ankles, legs, buttocks and chest and needed skin grafts. Another employee in the vicinity of the spilt oil also received severe burns to her right leg and ankle, again needed skin grafts. The company were prosecuted by Manchester City Council and fined £60,000 after pleading guilty to two health and safety offences and ordered to pay costs of £16,000.
Slipping and Tripping Causes
Slipping and tripping are most likely to take place due to a lack of proper housekeeping in a workplace.
The most common causes of slips are due to spills that are left unattended, leaking equipment, loose carpets and floor mats etc.
Trips take place when there is an object underfoot which is uneven or when loose or trailing cables or floor mats or carpets catch feet causing you to lose balance.
In the majority of cases simple house keeping can highlight and resolve problems that are likely to cause slips and trip.
Ensuring the effective management of spills and having clean up policies in place i.e. good housekeeping:
- Clean up spills as quickly as possible and don’t leave them unattended.
- If a spill can’t be cleaned up right away make sure other workers know there is a safety hazard by placing a “wet floor” warning sign at the sp.
Make sure appropriate flooring is used in all areas:
- This is especially true for areas that need to be regularly cleaned or are likely to get wet or suffer from food and other spillages.
- It’s worth consider installing abrasive floor mats for areas that are likely to get wet.
- Replace worn flooring as soon as comes to your attention.
- Encourage workers to wear comfortable, suitable shoes appropriate to the area they work in.
Reduce trips hazards:
- Keep walkways free of clutter and other obstacles.
- Ensure filing cabinets and desk drawers are shut when not in use.
- Cover cables or tidy them away so that they do not present a trip hazard.
Assessing the Risks
As with all risks the H&SE recommend carrying out a slipping and tripping risk assessment which includes:
- Identifying the hazards/risks in your workplace. Look at how people could be harmed. Look for slip and trip hazards including wet floors, worn or damaged floor coverings, uneven floors, trailing cables or any other clutter which may cause an obstruction.
- Identify who may be harmed and how. Think about your workstaff and who is “at risk”. Consider new staff who may need training, staff who have been with the company some time and who may need “refresher training”; cleaners, visitors, contractors, maintenance workers etc, who may only work part-time and any members of the public who may visit your premises.
- Evaluate the hazards/risks and how to deal with them. The law requires you to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect your staff from harm. Try to reduce the risk of exposure to the hazard wherever possible. Check that are all of your processes/work jobs are absolutely necessary and if required review if there is a better/safer way to do them. Ensure the right training is given and that all staff have the appropriate protect equipment for the job.
- Write down what you find in terms of risks and record how to deal with them. You need to be able to show that:
- You carried out a proper check.
- You involved your staff or their representatives in the process.
- You have reduced risks wherever possible.
- You have precautions in place for risks that couldn’t be reduced and that the remaining risk is low.
- Regularly review your risk assessment and update as required. If any significant changes take place, make sure that precautions are still in place to deal with the risks.
You can use the HSE Risk Assessment and Policy template to get started.
IOSH Working Safely training provides an introduction to working safely and shows how to define and assess slipping and tripping risks:
- Introducing working safely – It’s not unusual for delegates coming on an introductory course to think that accidents only happen to “other people”. This module stresses the realities of the human suffering behind the statistics and emphasises the importance of personal responsibility.
- Defining hazard and risk – This module puts “hazard” and “risk” into everyday language, and uses familiar examples to show what can happen. Importantly, it makes it clear that even something very simple or repeated over and over again can go wrong, with serious consequences. Focusing on the six broad hazard groups, delegates are asked to think about the hazards and risks they come across in their own work. “Risk Assessment” is demystified – delegates learn that we all carry out informal assessments day in, day out.
- Identifying common hazards – All the main issues are covered in this module – entrances and exits, work traffic, fire, chemicals, electricity, physical and verbal abuse, bullying, stress, noise and the working environment, slips, trips and falls and manual handling. Each area is backed by crystal clear examples and recognisable scenarios, useful summaries reinforce the key learning points.
New Broom training provide Health and Safety training and consultancy. Contact us on 01795 500816 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.