Slipping and tripping accidents seem like something that might happen in a slapstick comedy, but when they happen in real life in the workplace they are not so funny and can actually be quite dangerous. A slip or a fall at work could result in a head injury, a broken bone, a bruised tailbone or a spinal injury. These injuries can cause workers to have to take time off from work and can even disable them permanently.

Statistics show that 66% of falls in the workplace happen from the same level, resulting from slips or trips – only 34% of falls are from a height. There is a difference between a slip and a trip. Slipping occurs when there is not enough friction between your footwear and the surface that you are walking on, such as when your feet slip out from under you on a wet or oily surface.

A trip occurs when your foot or leg collides with an object, which causes you to lose your balance and fall. This could be caused by obstructions in your way, bad lighting, cables across the floor, uneven carpeting or a bumpy walking surface. The similarity between both slips and trips is that they both involve an unexpected change in how your feet interact with your walking surface – causing you to fall. Depending on how you fall and what part of your body strikes the ground (or other objects in the area) you could injure yourself quite severely.

Most slips and trips in the workplace are caused by obstructions or uneven surfaces. These problems are simple to fix and if attention is paid to this issue, the working environment can become a lot safer. When you take health and safety training for your job, you will be instructed on the dangers of slips and trips and you will learn about guidelines that will help you reduce your risk.

Common Causes of Slips and Trips

Most of the time, we walk from place to place uneventfully without falling and injuring ourselves. However, there are certain factors in our environment that can make it more likely for us to slip and fall. For example, if you are walking on a surface where oil or grease has been spilled, the slippery surface can make it more likely for you to lose your footing and fall – potentially injuring yourself. Also, if the working area is poorly lit you will not be able to see hazards correctly and you will increase your risk of tripping over them. Other factors that can make trips and slips more likely include trailing wires and cables, smoke or dust obscuring vision, wearing unsuitable footwear, unsecured mats, uneven walkways and inclement weather conditions.

What Kind of Injuries are Caused by Slips and Trips?

Many people think that slips and trips only cause minor injuries, but this is not the case. If a person slips and lands on a hard floor surface, or collides with another object such as a metal machine or the edge of a table or desk – they can injure themselves quite severely. Also, if the slip occurs on a staircase this can result in a dangerous fall.

Slip and trip incidents have resulted in broken bones, concussions and deep lacerations. Also, in some serious cases they have resulted in brain injuries, spinal injuries and even fatalities.

How to Prevent Slips and Trip at Work

There are a number of things that you can do in order to prevent slips and trips at work and the injuries caused by them. Here are a few steps that every business should take:

  • Ensure that all workers are trained and advised of the risks associated with slips and trips in their job.
  • Make sure that all employees have received the appropriate health and safety training as relevant to their job, so that they are aware of the risks and how to prevent them.
  • Perform a risk assessment of the workplace and identify any hazards that might make a slip or a trip more likely. Create a custom tailored plan for your workplace to decrease these hazards.
  • Check in frequently to make sure that preventative measures are working and assess any issues.
  • Take a look at the surfaces that employees are walking or standing on. Are they oily or greasy? Could they be covered with snow or ice? Are they uneven? Supervisors and managers are responsible for making sure that the surfaces that employees walk on are as stable and secure as possible.
  • Always follow safe working procedures. For example, if a large cart needs to be transported and one worker cannot see around it, there should be two employees working together to transport it safely.
  • Make sure that spills in walkway areas are cleaned up as quickly as possible before they become a hazard. Equipment for doing this, such as buckets, mops and shovels, should be readily available.
  • When wheeled carts are being used, the castors should be cleaned and maintained frequently so that they will always roll smoothly and not “pull” in any direction.
  • When working outside, remove snow and ice from all pathways to prevent slipping.
  • Monthly inspections by the Health and Safety Committee should be carried out in the workplace to identify risks.
  • Any rugs and carpets that don’t lay flat should be secured by tacking or taping them down.
  • Employees should always wear the appropriate footwear for the task, such as grip soles and anti-slip boots.
  • Workers should also be instructed to maintain a safe pace of walking and avoid running in the workplace. It is also safer to make wide turns at corners and walk with feet pointed slightly outward.

Slips and trips are more dangerous than you might think, but preventing them is really quite simple. If you can keep these tips in mind and follow the guidelines covered in your health and safety course, you will avoid this risk of injury and make the workplace much safer for everyone.