Slips, trips and falls are the leading cause of workplace injuries each year. As well as affecting the well-being of staff, they are costly to businesses. However, simple steps such as introducing the correct footwear could mitigate these common safety risks.
These three hazards in the workplace are responsible for up to 40% of workplace injuries according to the Government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE). They may sound minor, yet their seriousness should not be underestimated. Three workers died as a result of slips, trips or falls between 2010 and 2011 – as reported by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) – not to mention those who came away with major injuries.
As well as shattering the lives of workers and their families, these accidents are harmful to employers too. The Labour Force Survey indicates slips, trips and falls lead to the loss of over one million working days each year.
The annual cost linked to loss of productivity has been estimated at a staggering £512m each year, according to HSE.
Yet this figure doesn’t include wider costs of, for example, slips and trips claims and legal fees not covered by workplace insurance. So, as well as safeguarding the well being of staff, preventing slips, trips and falls makes good business sense.
In addition, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 stipulate companies should assess workplace risks, and take action to address any risks identified. So if staff regularly work in conditions, or with substances, that may lead to slips, trips and falls, it is an employer’s duty to take preventative action.
Most trips are caused by obstructions in walkways. Uneven surfaces are the next biggest cause. HSE advises both of these can be mitigated by ensuring walkways are thoughtfully designed and complete with the correct fittings where applicable – such as steps and handrails – and that any protrusions are clearly marked. Once set up, it is important walkways are maintained to these standards. Thereafter, employers should communicate to staff the importance of ensuring walkways are free of obstacles by, for example, introducing a ‘see it, sort it’ policy.
Meanwhile, almost all slips involve contamination such as spillages. HSE reports that people rarely slip on a clean, dry floor. It is substances such as water, oil and dust that turn ordinarily safe workspaces into potential disaster zones.
In some cases contaminations will be there by mistake. It is important to reinforce to staff the importance of cleaning up any commonplace contaminations such as spilled water at the earliest opportunity – even if they themselves were not the cause. Where contaminations present hygiene or chemical risks, staff should restrict access to the area and alert those with the correct skills and equipment to handle the contamination as soon as possible.
Yet, in many sectors contamination may be common to an employee’s day-to-day activities. For example, those working in hospitals, kitchens or building sites. In these settings surfaces are likely to be wet or slippery whether from human waste, food products or rubble. In scenarios where surfaces cannot be kept dry and clean at all times, employers need to be extra vigilant to protect staff from these potential hazards. For example, health and social care organisations report the most slips and trips: up to 1,469 injuries annually (as reported by TUC). In workplaces like these, employers may be advised to introduce slip resistant footwear in order to comply with the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.
Under the regulations, where risks to health and safety cannot be controlled in other ways, personal protective equipment (PPE) should be introduced (see HSE’s guide on PPE). So in settings where floors are likely to be contaminated, employers may be required to mandate the use of slip-resistant shoes. Where PPE is introduced, it is the employer’s obligation to provide it to staff free of charge and it is the employees duty to use it.
Where employers introduce PPE, TUC recommends they seek advice from specialists or from PPE manufacturer to ensure the products they select provide adequate protection from the specific hazards of their workplace.
We partner with the best manufacturers and suppliers in the PPE field and our team of experts are on hand to provide technical advice and assistance about which product options best cater for specific workplace hazards. Our dedicated product specialists are NEBOSH certified ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the PPE market and British and European regulations.
To combat slips, trips and falls, we offer a range of anti-slip footwear from our partner Magnum. The range includes a selection of comfortable, liquid repellent and highly slip resistant shoes, each designed for specific settings. For example, products designed and tested in industrial settings, along with those ideal for nurses and medical staff. Several of these products feature a Pentagrip SRC outsole. As well as being certified to the highest EN slip resistance standards, research indicates it has a slip risk of one in a million.
Please get in touch if you’d like to talk to one of our experts about the most appropriate slip resistant footwear for your workplace.
Your staff and bottom line could thank you for it.