Slip, trips and falls at work

More than one-third of all major injuries reported each year are caused as a result of a slip or trip (the single most common cause of injuries at work). These cost employers £300 million a year in lost production and other costs.

Slips and trips

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers must ensure that their employees and anyone else who could be affected by their work (such as visitors and members of the public), are kept safe from harm, and that their health is not affected. It is a requirement under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 to prevent, or at least control, slips, trips and falls, so far as is reasonably practicable. Regulation 12 require floors to be suitable for the workplace and work activity, kept in good condition

What do I need to do?

Risk assessments should be carried out to identify areas which may cause a serious risk of a slip, trip or fall. Kitchens are particularly prone to grease and water creating a slippery environment. Additionally, look out for trailing cables over floors and boxes in corridors or obstructions on stairs. You should look at removing the risk by designing out dangerous areas if possible, for example removing changes in floor level, or installing non-slip flooring. You should also remove obstructions and floor storage wherever possible, reduce spillages, remove trailing cables. You also need to consider slip resistant footwear for staff at high risk of slipping.

If it is not possible to stop spillages, then it is necessary to adequately control the problem by mopping up spillages as soon as possible and providing appropriate warning signs. You will need to ensure that staff training is adequate so that they are all aware of the need to report defects, and to clear spillages quickly, to reduce the risk of an accident.

Falls from height

Falls from height are the most common kind of accident causing fatal injuries. Our Health and Safety team receive a significant number of accident reports as a result of falls from heights, some of which are major injuries caused by unsafe working practices. Accidents have been caused by people falling through fragile materials on roofs or skylights, and from window ledges by window cleaners not using fall arrest systems (such as a harness and lanyard attached to a fixed, secure anchorage point such as an eye bolt fixed into the structure of the wall). The use of ladders accounts for a lot of injuries from working at height.

What do I need to do?

You should avoid working at height in the first place if it is reasonably practicable to do so. A common activity involving working at height includes the need to replace electrical light bulbs. In such cases, techniques may include Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM), which would involve replacing all the electrical lights at height when only 90% of their life has been used. This then only exposes you to the risk of working at height once every 2-3 years, whereas if you were changing every light bulb as soon as they failed, you are exposing yourself (or your staff) to that risk on numerous occasions. Other techniques could involve using ‘cherry pickers’ which are a lot more stable, and safer as there is less risk of falling out. However, operatives still need to wear and attach their lanyards to eyebolts in the working platform, as well as secure their tools, to prevent them falling out.

Any ladders used on site must be secured against unauthorised use by contractors, visitors, or untrained members of staff. They should also comply with either BS 2037 (Aluminium), BS 1129 (Wood) or BS EN 131 (which was the previous Class 2 rating). They should not be of a domestic rating (BS Class 3) due to their use in a commercial premises and reduced durability. You should also implement a monitoring system to ensure that they are regularly checked for safety and replaced when necessary. Any staff using steps and ladders must be properly trained in their use.

Window cleaning

Where window cleaning cannot be carried out safely from inside the premises without the risk of falling out, or if scaffolding and cherry pickers are not reasonably practicable to use for this purpose, then you should follow the following procedure:

a) carry out a suitable and sufficient site-specific risk assessment of the window cleaning arrangements relating to all windows which expose persons cleaning the external surfaces to a significant risk of falling*, (including emergency rescue procedures if the window cleaner should fall and be suspended in their harness)

b) where the above risk assessment identifies the need for **suitable anchorage devices (such as eyebolts), then the window cleaner must be instructed to wear a full body harness with associated lanyard, and to latch on to the anchorage device whenever they are obliged to either climb out of, or lean out of, the appropriate window;

c) prepare a safe system of work for the cleaning of these windows. This may include the use of the harness and anchorage devices as stated in (b) above, if deemed necessary;

d) advise your window cleaning contractor of the outcome of the above risk assessment, and instruct the contractor to work in accordance with the safe system applicable to this area; and

e) put in place a suitable monitoring system to ensure that the contractor complies with the above instructions.

*A 'significant risk of falling' will occur where it is reasonably foreseeable that either out of necessity, or for the ease of cleaning external surfaces of a window, a person will: stand on an external windowsill, sit on a windowsill with the majority of his or her torso on the outside of the window; or stand on any balcony, flat roof, or walkway, unless there is a suitable barrier with a minimum height of 1100mm between the cleaner and the drop.

**'Suitable' provision should include either: fitting windows that can be cleaned safely from inside (e.g. fitting access equipment) or, providing suitably placed anchorage points for safety harnesses that conform to European Standard EN 795:1997 (these should only be installed by a competent contractor and tested in accordance with BS 7883:2005).

Legislation

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places duties on employers, self-employed and employees. Under the Act, employers have a duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees.

In addition to The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers will have to comply with:

  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • Workplace (Health & Safety at Work) Regulations 1999
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002
  • Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992, Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
  • Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998