Slips, Trips and Falls – The Lowdown
Slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of injuries in the workplace here in the UK with falls from height being the most common cause of fatalities. This is despite the stringent legislation we enjoy on Britain which has led to a marked improvement in safety in the workplace in Britain which has steadily improved the statistics for injuries in recent years. Britain is one of the safest places to work on the planet, but there is no room for complacency and still room for improvement. While there is a general obligation to perform risk assessments under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 specifically stipulated the requirement to keep floors and walkways free from slip, trip and fall hazards. When it comes to the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR2005), duty holders are required to prevent death or injury caused by a fall from height.
TRIPS – these are usually caused by uneven floor surfaces or obstacles in walkways. The risk from trips can be reduced by:
- Locating walkways correctly and keeping them clear of obstructions such as trailing cables, hoses, etc. Cables should be covered with armoured cable covers and where hoses are required they should be brightly coloured to improve visibility.
- Ensuring enough refuse and storage facilities.
- Keeping interior and exterior walkways well-lit and well maintained.
- Highlighting edges and changes of level, including steps, kerbs, floor level changes, joins and uneven surfaces. Uneven floor surfaces should be repaired immediately.
SLIPS – these are usually a result of floor contamination (rain, water, oil, dust) from spills and leaks, cleaning (routine or non-routine), flooring inadequacy or inadequate footwear. Seasonal changes (such as icy walkways) also have an impact. The risk from slips can be reduced by:
- Training staff in clean up procedures with cleaning usually done during quiet times when people are not around. While the floor is wet, warning signs should be in place and spills should be cleaned up immediately.
- Implementing seasonal gritting in icy conditions during the winter and adding entrance matting to absorb rainwater.
- Providing anti-slip surfaces in relevant industries (catering kitchens, etc.) and the requirement to wear slip resistant footwear. Drip trays and lids should be available for containers that hold liquids.
FALLS – Slips and trips are usually on one level but falls from height usually involve a fall from one level to another – this could be a fall from any distance liable to cause personal injury. Falls from height often involve ladders, mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPs), scaffolding or falls from mezzanine levels, through roofs or other fragile surfaces. Injuries are often caused by tools, products and other items falling from height. To reduce the risk of falls from height:
- Work at height should be planned and organised by a competent person. The risks should be assessed and, where work at height cannot be avoided, the appropriate work equipment should be used, inspected and maintained.
- Workers should not be allowed to work on fragile surfaces. When working on a flat roof, demarcation barriers should be used and a sturdy rooftop walkway system considered if necessary.
- Perimeter railings should be provided for mezzanine floors with handrails on staircases.
- Stock with the potential to topple or fall should be secured and shelving/racking should be secure and sound.