Preventing Slips Trips and Falls

While some accidents occur through unforeseeable circumstances, the vast majority do not and can be entirely prevented without very much effort at all.

Given the potential for these avoidable accidents to fundamentally destroy people’s lives it is important that we all take responsibility and try to maintain a safe environment for ourselves and also for others.

Below are some tips on how to prevent slips, trips and falls.

Slips

Slips can be caused by a wide variety of factors and there are a number of ways in which to reduce the likelihood of this particularly common type of accident:

  • Ensure that flooring is suitable for the activities that it will support and is kept clean and adequately maintained. Non-slip coatings can be applied to certain types of flooring. Damaged flooring containing holes or uneven areas may also present a trip hazard.
  • Stairs should be non-slip with square edging and a handrail. The steps making up the staircase should have the same proportions from top to bottom.
  • Contaminants should be removed as soon as they are encountered whether they be rainwater, dust, grit or greasy substances. Some contaminants will be more difficult to remove properly – oils and greases for example will require specialised solvents to remove them fully. Failing to do this could lead to a surface becoming absolutely treacherous if the area becomes wet at a later point. Most slip accidents involve contaminants of some form.
  • Fit suitable matting to entrances and exits to allow rainwater to be drained from footwear and to prevent it spreading into the building. External canopies over entrances may drastically reduce the amount of water entering the building.
  • Use adequate signage to let people know that there is a slip hazard, such as when floored have been mopped or cleaned.
  • Wear suitable footwear that minimises the slip risk.
  • Ensure adequate lighting in all areas. Poor lighting may cause a slip hazard to remain unseen and overzealous lighting may have the same effect.
  • Ensure that areas are adequately heated – in cold weather some areas may become icy or attract condensation.
  • Avoid rushing around or carrying loads that you cannot see past as you will not be able to see the hazards in front of you.
  • Ensure that waste is dealt with immediately. Loose cardboard or paper or packaging materials on a smooth floor can be deadly.
  • Adopt a ‘See it, Sort it’ approach to risks. Don’t leave it to someone else.

Trips

Around half of all trip accidents are caused by poor housekeeping and laziness. To often it’s easier just to dump something in an empty area than it is to put it where it should be and where is doesn’t present a hazard. Trip hazards are almost always preventable and also have implications for fire safety:

  • Ensure that flooring is kept clean and adequately maintained. Damaged flooring containing holes or uneven areas will present a trip hazard.
  • Ensure that cables are routed properly and not in such a way that they trail across areas that people will walk through.
  • Keep all walkways and corridors clear of obstacles. If you see something that is in the way and may present a trip hazard then move it to somewhere more suitable.
  • Ensure that waste is dealt with immediately. Loose cardboard or paper or packaging materials on a smooth floor can be deadly. Reinforced banding used around boxes should be cut and disposed of straight away – there have been many cases of people being tripped by these and badly injured in the process.
  • Ensure that stairs are adequately maintained and that they have squared edging that provides a straight uniform edge and that the steps themselves are of consistent proportions.
  • Draw attention to any unexpected variations in flooring with high-visibility materials and also signage if appropriate.
  • Don’t leave objects propped up precariously that may fall and prevent a trip hazard. Common examples of this are brushes and mops left stood up against doorframes – they only have to slip or fall and suddenly there’s a trip hazard right outside a closed door – something that people would be unlikely to spot before it’s too late.
  • Try to create a culture of ‘See it, sort it’ in your workplace where everyone has the same attitude and you are all looking out for one-another as well as keeping your environment clean. Don’t leave it to someone else to sort out a hazard.

Falls

The majority of fall accidents are caused by people failing to recognise risk and to use safe and appropriate equipment.

Ladders:

With almost a third of more serious fall accidents involving ladders as a common factor it seems appropriate to place a reasonable amount of emphasis on these as a starting point in preventing fall accidents:

  • Ladders are often seen as the quickest way to accomplish tasks above a certain height even though they could be conducted more safely from scaffolding, an access platform, a fork-lift cage or cherry-picker or similar. Use what you need to use to be safe rather than convenient. Ladders should only be used for tasks which will not take long to complete and ideally should not be used unsupervised. Where possible the person supervising may be able to aid the stability of the ladder for you.
  • Always ensure that the ladder is secure before climbing it. Once the footing of the ladder is secure and cannot move or slip, where possible secure the ladder by tying it at the top too. Ensure that the ladder is vertical with the rungs horizontal. Have an assistant steady the ladder for you but be aware that they may be unable to prevent a tall ladder with a person on top of it from slipping should it do so.
  • Never over-reach on a ladder – if you have to lean out to one side to reach something then descend the ladder, move it and climb it again. It’ll will only take a minute or so and could well save your life. Most accidents involving falls from over 2 metres are serious and in many cases fatal.
  • Ensure that the ladder is at the correct angle. This should be around 75 degrees which equates to around a quarter as much out as it is up. Where accessories are available to improve the stability of the ladder – use them.
  • Don’t use a ladder that is too short and if you need to climb from the top of the ladder to another level ensure that it protrudes above the level by at least one metre or a minimum of 3 rungs.
  • Inspect the ladder for faults and ensure that it has the correct type approval and is suitable for your weight. Faulty or damaged ladders can collapse without warning. The HSE
  • Ensure that you have the correct training and/or supervision for the situation.

Fork-lift Trucks and other machinery:

  • Never work from bare forks or pallets or other accessories not designed as work platforms.
  • Only use platforms that are designed specifically for the truck that you are using and ensure that it is properly attached and secured as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure that edge-protection systems are in place and properly used – these should not open outwards so that they cannot be opened by leaning against them.
  • Ensure that the truck and all accessories are maintained and inspected regularly by someone who is capable of doing so competently.
  • The fork-lift truck itself should never be unmanned when the work platform is raised – the operator must remain in control of it.

Edges, Fragile Roofs and Roof Lights

    Edges

  • Assess the job. If there are other, safer ways of using other equipment to avoid working on open edges or ladders then do so. If it’s unavoidable and cannot be undertaken using an elevated platform, scaffold or special long-handled tools then use any and all safety measures available including safety harnesses if appropriate.
  • Fragile Roofs

  • If you are unsure as to whether a roof is fragile or not then always assume that it is. Even if it appears to be solid it may have deteriorated in ways that cannot easily be seen and may give way at any time. Avoid working on roofs altogether if there is another way of approaching the issue, such as from the underside, below the roof.
  • Never step onto a fragile roof without using a suitable platform to support your weight, and always ensure that the area around you is suitably protected in case you lose your balance and fall through an adjacent section. The platform that you are working on should have edge-protection and toe-boards in place.
  • If a roof is fragile, fit suitable warning signs at access points to make others aware of the danger.
  • Roof Lights

  • You should always check for roof-lights carefully – they can sometimes be painted over or become obscured and hard to spot in certain lighting conditions and even in a non-fragile rood they present a serious and common hazard.
  • Wherever a task involves passing or working next to roof lights they should be either securely covered, guarded with rails and toe boards, or safety netting fitted beneath to prevent a fall.

These are by no means exhaustive and are simply some points to consider. You should always ensure that you are adequately trained, competent and have assessed the task and environment from a safety perspective first.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 were introduced with the aim of greatly reducing the incidence of falls and subsequent injuries and fatalities. They outline the responsibilities of employers, self-employed persons and employees in relation to working at any height where a fall could result in injury.

The overriding principle of the legislation is this: you must do all that is reasonably practicable to prevent anyone falling.