According to the Health and Safety Executive, the most common cause of injury at work is slips, trips, and falls. On average, they account for 40% of all workplace reported major injuries, and they can also lead to other accidents such as falls from height. In addition, slips and trips are the most common causes of injuries to members of the public.
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act) requires employers to ensure the health and safety of all employees and anyone who may be affected by their work, so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes taking steps to control slip and trip accidents.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 go further and require employers to assess risks (including slip and trip risks) and, where necessary, take action to deal with them. Another Act is The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 which requires floors to be suitable, in good condition, and free from obstructions. In addition, employees have a duty not to put themselves or anyone else at risk and they must use any safety equipment that the employer provides.
Every employer must undertake a risk assessment of the workplace and the HSE says that this is about taking sensible precautions such as adding doormats to prevent rainwater being tramped in and making the floor slippery. Employers need to consider the risks and then put into place suitable control measures to deal with them. The HSE has a hazard spotting checklist which is available at http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ck4.pdf. It also has a slips and trips mapping tool available at www.hse.gov.uk/slips/mappingtool.pdf which shows how to identify hotspots for slips and trips in the workplace and the measures that can be used to control them.
Of course, floor surfaces can vary enormously, and some may be regarded as relatively safe, while others may be simply dangerous. Many employers may not pay attention to the actual type of flooring in their workplace, often because they rent the building and are having to use what is there, and the thought that the floor surface may be dangerous simply doesn't occur to them.
Employers should also ask their employees what they think the hazards might be, because they may notice things which are not obvious to the employer, and may also have some good ideas as regards control measures. Employers must also write down their findings on a risk assessment and note what measures they have taken to prevent slips and trips. This is not a requirement if there are less than five employees, but nonetheless it is good practice.
There are many simple ways to prevent slips and trips such as using entrance matting, fixing leaks from machinery, maintaining plant and machinery adequately, and designing work to minimise spillages. Flooring should be checked for worn or damaged areas and these rectified. Floors that are likely to get wet or suffer from spillages should be of a type which doesn't become slippery. Of course, this can be difficult if the building is rented or even if it is owned but is not new built.
Fortunately, there is a test called the Pendulum Test which can be used to determine the slipperiness of any floor surface. Pendulum slip testing uses a small portable piece of equipment which mimics the action of a heel striking a floor surface and produces a result on a sliding scale. The magic figure is 36 and if the reading is above this, the floor surface is considered safe. If it is below 36 the floor surface will need some attention.
However, this is not a major problem because there are companies that manufacture a range of anti-slip coatings for treating different types of floor surface, including surfaces outside such as tile. These are not expensive to apply and worth every penny if they reduce or even remove the risks of slips and trips occurring, together with the possible financial consequences of having a floor surface that is in a dangerous condition. Solicitors everywhere advertise their "no win, no fee" services for injuries caused by neglect, and today people are only too quick to take advantage if they have suffered injury in a slip or trip accident.