Slips, Trips and Falls in the Workplace

When on site, health and safety should be prioritised over the work. Injuries and accidents can have serious consequences for employers, employees and even the general public. As well as the direct effects of injury, legal consequences and delays to work can cost employers time and money, so having a good safety record can improve your employability as well as reducing personal risk.

What are the risks of trip hazards?

Trips, slips and falls are the most common cause of injury in the workplace, accounting for around 40% of injuries (according to the UK’s Health and Safety Executive).

Depending on the area and the distance fallen, injuries can range from lacerations due to sharp ground surfaces (like gravel), broken bones due to impact or even more serious penetrating injuries if you fall onto a tool or other dangerous objects. Trip hazards are dangerous not only to you, but to other people working on site, as well as anyone walking nearby.

How an employer can minimise trip hazards

Even if an employer doesn’t spend much of their time personally on site, there are still a number of measures which they can use in order to minimize the risk of tripping and falling incidents. The primary method that an employer can implement is a risk assessment.

This document is basically a tool which helps you to recognise potential hazards, note them down and decide on measures to minimise or nullify that risk. An example would be recognising that in wet conditions, rainwater can be tracked into a building, resulting in a slippery surface which could be hazardous.

Various measures could be employed to prevent this, including putting down doormats or using a non-slip surface on the floor of temporary site structures. When writing a risk assessment, it’s important that an employer ask their staff to contribute: staff are on site more often than their employer, and as such may notice hazards which escape their employer’s attention. Update your risk assessment regularly; it’s rare for a workplace’s hazards to remain consistent.

How an employee can minimise trip hazards

Most of the practical methods for minimising trip hazards come down to the staff on site. Identifying hazards is much easier for employees, as they are more familiar with their work environment. Hazards to look out for include pooled water, building materials left stacked in commonly used pathways, trailing wires, loose carpet and potholes.

It’s important that everyone on site wear appropriate footwear, with their laces tied correctly and not trailing. Trouser legs must not be too long, else they may trail and could cause falls.

Ensure that floors are cleaned regularly (and are signposted as wet after cleaning), and that all spillages are marked and cleaned as soon as possible. Entrance matting can help to prevent rainwater from pooling and high-grip matting can be employed to make indoor and outdoor surfaces grip boots more effectively.

Laws related to trips, slips and falls

In the United Kingdom, a wide range of legislations are in place to protect employees when it comes to workplace health and safety. The Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 requires that employers employ all reasonably practicable measures to ensure the health and safety of their staff and anyone else affected by their work.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 both mandate similar measures, including suitable flooring in the workplace, compulsory risk assessments and ensuring that floors are free from obstruction.

It’s also important to keep in mind that whilst it’s usually the employer who takes the legal brunt when these regulations are breached, staff should also make sure that these standards are being met.

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