Slips, trips, and falls are the most common cause of injuries suffered in the workplace. According to the HSE they account for some 40% of all major injuries suffered at work, and as they say, can cause other types of serious accident such as falls from height. Someone could be working on a flat roof for instance, which might appear to be fairly safe, but could slip on some bird faeces resulting in falling off the roof.
However, most slips and trips occur on floors, which is where most people are most of the time. Not all of us are up on a roof.
Now there can be many reasons for people falling as the result of a slip or trip on a floor. For example, there may be a spill of some type or another on the floor which has not been wiped up. The floor could be worn, and a wooden floorboard could have become loose. A carpet may also have become worn and ruffled at the edge. People could have come into a building from outside when it is raining and tramped rainwater on to the floor inside the door.
Then there are many, many different types of floor surfaces. Some are inherently dangerous simply because of the material of which they are made, or because of the way the surface has been worn down through a lot of foot traffic. A warehouse floor could become slippery as the result of wear from the constant movement of fork lift trucks. A shiny marble or granite floor surface may look amazing but will naturally be a lot more slippery than a floor surface covered with a thick carpet. Tile floor surfaces can vary enormously too.
Spills can also vary according to the function of the building. A factory floor may suffer from spills of oil, while a restaurant could suffer from all sorts of food spills. A bar or pub floor might have someone drop a glass of gin and tonic, leaving a piece of lemon on the floor which would naturally be very slippery if someone were to step on it before it had been cleaned up.
Then there are floor surfaces which might be perfectly safe under normal circumstances when they are dry, but become extremely slippery when wet, such as the aforementioned situation where people come in from outside when it is raining.
There are also floor surfaces which are outside a building, but nonetheless the responsibility of the building owner/manager because customers or visitors have to walk over them to get to the building they are going to. A simple example would be a situation where the weather is freezing, and ice has developed on a car park surface. If the ice has not been cleared away, the building manager/owner could be deemed responsible for any injuries caused as a result of slipping on the ice even though the initial cause is not their fault. There are plenty of solicitors out there who are only too willing to search every possible loophole in the law for their clients who have suffered injury, on a no win/no fee basis. The usual fee is 25% of all damages recovered, which can run into the hundreds of thousands. You bet they will work on no win/no fee! Some they may lose, but overall it is a very profitable business. Do you know any solicitors who are poor?
As mentioned earlier, your floor surface could be inherently dangerous, but you wouldn't know it. As luck would have it there is a simple slip resistance test which can be carried out with a small portable piece of equipment, and it is called the Pendulum Test. The equipment replicates the action of a heel striking your floor surface and can be tested on both a dry and wet floor. The result is measured on a sliding scale and the "magic figure" is 36. If your floor scores above 36 it is deemed to be safe.
But what if it fails the test?
That is not actually a serious problem, because there are several different types of anti-slip floor coating that can be applied to the floor in order to bring it up to - and in many cases well beyond – the desired level. They are not expensive but could save your business a small fortune in damages.