Slips, trips and falls account for the vast majority of incidents reported to the Health and Safety Enforcing Authorities. They can occur anywhere for seemingly any number of reasons. A whole range of factors and issues contribute to each slip or trip incident; an area seemingly risk free one day can be a real problem the next day. The factors that contribute to each incident include the floor surface, the environment, the footwear in use, contamination, obstacles and obstructions, the cleaning regime and the person involved.
Sometimes the cause of a slip or trip is obvious; e.g. tripping over a damaged carpet on a staircase or slipping on a patch of wet floor during cleaning. But in other cases the lack of friction between the shoe sole and the floor material may be entirely to blame. Friction between shoe and floor (technically – the coefficient of friction) can be reduced by the presence of fine almost invisible contamination and by dampness.
Other common causes are:
- hazardous storage of tools and equipment during maintenance operations.
- spills and splashes of liquids (oil, detergents).
- ingress of rain under doors or carried in by pedestrians and leaking roofs.
- the use of unsuitable floor cleaning methods with the effect of increasing the likelihood of slips occurring.
- inadequate drying of floor surfaces with no signs warning people in the vicinity.
- changes in floor levels.
- poorly maintained floors and pavements.
Legislation requires that floors and stairs should have no dangerous bumps, holes or slopes, be stable and not slippery. They must be maintained and kept clean. Employers are also required to keep traffic routes through the workplace clear and free from obstruction for both people and vehicles.