Slips, trips and falls - general information

Slipping, tripping or falling at the workplace can lead to serious injuries.  The employer has a duty of care to provide and maintain a safe and healthy workplace - all potential hazards must be identified, the associated risk assessed and then controls introduced to eliminate or reduce those risks as far as practicable.

Action Plan for OHS Reps

Step 1: Understand the causes of slips, trips and falls, and using both workplace inspections and discussions with your fellow workers, identify whether these hazards are present in your workplace. Consider using a mapping exercise to do this (see the UK's retail union guide - see below).

Step 2: Assess the risks

Step 3: Meet with the employer to ensure that action is taken to eliminate these risks. If this is not possible, then options to reduce the risk must be discussed.

Common causes of slips

  • inappropriate floor surface - e.g. smooth, shiny tiles in a wet area
  • slippery floor surfaces - e.g. oily, icy, wet or dusty
  • poor housekeeping - e.g. spills not cleaned up immediately
  • inappropriate or sudden changes in floor surfaces
  • inappropriate drainage - e.g. liquid and waste from machinery leaking onto floors
  • inappropriate footwear

Common causes of trips

  • poor housekeeping - e.g. objects left in corridors, cluttered work spaces
  • poorly maintained floor - e.g. cracked concrete or tiles, frayed or lifted carpets
  • low, unseen objects - e.g. electrical cords, boxes, stock, pallets, packing material
  • view obstructed due to carrying of objects
  • uneven surfaces or changes in floor levels
  • poorly lit stairwells
  • inadequate storage areas
  • passage or walkways being used for storage

Common causes of falls

  • poor systems of work - e.g. using ladders or chairs to access high storage areas, climbing down ladders while carrying objects, unsafe loading or unloading of vehicles
  • view obstructed due to carrying of objects
  • loading docks and mezzanine storage areas with no fall protection
  • uneven surfaces or changes in floor levels
  • poorly maintained and dimly lit stairwells
  • poor access to storage racking

There are many things that the employer could do to reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls. A few examples are:

  • modify practices that cause spills and ensure spills are cleaned immediately. This means ensuring staff have enough time to do this.
  • provide staff with appropriate footwear - e.g. low heel with good tread
  • treat floors to increase slip resistance - e.g. acid etching, grooving or coating
  • provide adequate lighting and signage
  • improve storage at the workplace
  • remove tripping hazards like cords, etc by installing additional powerpoints or taping cords out of the way; etc
  • minimise changes in floor levels - e.g. if levels must change, use a ramp rather than steps and provide handrails
  • provide staff with a trolley or other mechanical aid to carry objects which may obscure their vision apply high visibility paint and edge strips to mark changes in floor levels provide adequate lighting and signage in stairwells and other hazard areas

See Also:

  • From WorkSafe:
  • The Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) also has a webpage on Slips and Trips.  From there you can download advice, Compliance guidelines. The department also has a number of modules on Slips, Trips and Falls for different industries where students may work (eg Slips, Trips and Falls in Retail) Do a search for slips, trips and falls.
  • NSW WorkCover has a useful five page Fact Sheet Portable Ladders which provides advice on the safe use of all types of ladders, and includes references to relevant Australian Standards. Two other useful publications are:  Working off stepladders and a Guide: Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls
  • From Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, Guide to preventing slips, trips and falls [pdf] (2007)
  • From Work Safe WA:
    • Managing the risks of falls in workplaces.  Falling from one level to another is a major workplace hazard and is the most common cause of death from traumatic injuries in construction. Fall hazards occur in all industries and most fatalities occur from a relatively low height. It is vital to secure the health and safety of workers by undertaking adequate risk management. This 13 minute film demonstrates how to identify fall hazards, assess the risks, control the risks, and implement and maintain controls.
  • The UK Health and Safety Executive has (at least) two great webpages:

    Shattered Lives
    Campaign site - which has 'e-tools' for download and use, and also provides advice on how to reduce accidents in a number of industries including food and retail, hospitality, building and maintenance, construction, health services and education.

    Slips and Trips: The site has a 'Slip assessment tool' (SAT) which can be used in all workplaces, and there are also a number of booklets which can be downloaded. There are other leaflets which apply to specific industries (such as catering, education, etc) which can be downloaded from the Information section of this page.  Some useful publications include: 
    • Preventing slips and trips at work  [pdf]
    • a guide for health and safety reps Working feet and footwear [pdf] that states that workers should be able to wear the footwear that is appropriate to their occupation, working environment, and feet.
    • Footwear page which includes advice on soles, walking surfaces and testing for slip resistance.

Last amended June 2015


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