Slips and trips are the major cause of injury at work. They account for 40% of all the reported most severe injuries, and they can also lead to other serious accidents such as falls from height, for example. They are also the most common cause of injuries to the public, whether that is out on a public pavement or highway, in a store, in a public building, or anywhere else.
As you might expect, there is plenty of health and safety legislation in place about what you should do and what you should not do if you are an employer, or if you are in charge of any place where the public have access. Between those two things, that covers just about anywhere other than a private home. People do suffer from slips and trips in the home, but there is no legislation that covers that.
As regards employers, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that every employer must take all reasonably practical steps to ensure the health and safety of all employees and anyone who may be affected by their work. That includes taking steps to control slip and trip risks. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require all employers to assess risks, including slip and trip risks, and take measures to control them if necessary. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require floors to be suitable, in good condition, and free from obstructions. People should be able to move around safely.
This means that an employer must sit down and think about all the potential risks that the place of work presents and must then take all reasonable precautions to deal with them. Part of the problem may be that the employer may simply fail to realise that certain things could present a risk, so it is recommended that employers ask their employees, because in this case many heads are better than one, and employees may notice something that the employer doesn't and may have suggestions on how to deal with it.
Employers must also keep a written record of their findings and the actions that they took to minimise any risks uncovered. This does not apply if you employ less than five people, but the HSE nonetheless recommends that you should do it. The HSE also says that few workplaces remain constantly the same, so employers should review their findings on a regular basis, and certainly if any changes are made. For example, an engineering workshop may purchase a new machine which is larger than one it is replacing, and this could block off what was an easy escape route in the event of a fire. In this case some sort of alternative must be provided. Even something as simple as taking on an additional employee could present a risk of some sort or another.
Floor surfaces are another consideration. Again, taking the example of an engineering workshop, there may well be oil spills. These should be promptly and thoroughly cleaned up to prevent slips and falls. An older machine may leak oil on to the floor, so it should be properly maintained, or steps taken to prevent it leaking.
Floor surfaces may become worn with heavy foot traffic and this could also cause slip dangers. Floors should be properly maintained, and cleaned regularly and thoroughly. If a floor surface is still wet after cleaning, staff must be kept away from it until it has dried.
Some floor surfaces may seem safe when dry but become very slippery when wet. For instance, people coming from outside when it is raining may make the floor slippery. A simple cure is to provide a door mat.
There is a simple test that can be carried out to assess the slipperiness of floor surfaces. If they are found to be below par, an anti-slip floor coating can be applied to bring them up to a safe level. There are many different types of anti-slip coatings and the one that is chosen has to be right for each individual floor surface.