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Slips, Trips and Falls [Jun 2012]

Published: 13th Jun 2012 in OSA Magazine

fall preventionNinety-five percent of accidents in our industry happen due to unsafe situations. Due to all such unsafe situations, the most frequently occurring accidents in professional and non-professional life are slips, trips and falls. They are the major cause of injuries worldwide.

Slips and trips are the most common of workplace hazards and make up more than a third of all major injuries. Many workers suffer serious injuries because of a slip or trip last year. In fact, almost one in every five work-related injuries results from a slip, trip or fall.

Whether on or off the job they are expensive either in terms of lost days of work, or even legal actions - which is quite beyond the fact that they can be extremely painful for the individual concerned, or even tragic, when a fatality occurs.

Defining the hazard

There are so many situations that can cause slips, trips and falls. Most slip, trip and fall injuries can be prevented by eliminating workplace hazards and by behavior modification: people taking the proper action to work safely.

A general cause of such accidents is for a worker to have a minute, momentary lapse in attention thinking about something else, or be distracted by another immediate activity, either of which could end in a slip, trip or fall.

Statistics show that slips, trips and falls are still the most common cause of injuries globally in the workplace. Slip and trip accidents often happen for a number of reasons but, all too frequently, one survey found that those interviewed had jumped to conclusions about how and why they happened, rather than really looking for the true cause. Alternatively, they decided that the incident was just ‘one of those things’ and could do nothing about it.

According to some sources, slips, trips and falls are responsible for:
• 15 percent of all accidental deaths per year
• 25 percent of all reported injury claims per year
• More than 95 million lost work days per year

If we wish to make a conclusive definition, slips and trips occur due to a loss of friction between the shoe and the walkable surface, or a contact with a fixed object which may lead to a fall.

Hazardous situations to avoid

Nearly one in five registered accidents in occupational life is a slip, trip or fall accident. As per analysts in the safety industry, the situations where these accidents can happen are categorised below:
• Dry, dusty floors
• Uneven Surfaces
• Polished or waxed floors
• Loose flooring, carpeting or mats
• Transition from one floor type to another
• Missing or uneven floor tiles and bricks
• Damaged steps or no handrails
• Sloped surfaces
• Shoes with wet, muddy, greasy or oily soles
• Ousted electrical cords or cables
• Open desk or file cabinet drawers
• Damaged ladder steps
• Ramps without skid resistant surfaces
• Metal surfaces
• Wet or slippery surfaces caused by grease, leaves, spilled water or caused by weather – rain, ice, sleet, snow or frost

Certain other factors which can have a bearing on these situations are:
• Environmental factors
• Physical and mental condition of the person
• Outsole of the shoe (material, design)
• Wear of the outsole and speedy contact with a surface or resistance with surface contacted

In general

Metal has a lower force of friction/traction and can be more slippery than many other materials. Metal surfaces can become smooth and slippery with wear, and are extremely slick when wet, muddy or greasy.

Behaviours can contribute to a slip, trip, and fall injury too, if careless work habits are practised. The following human factors can also influence statistics of slips, trips and falls:
• Eyesight, visual perception
• Age
• Physical state, fatigue
• Stress, illness
• Medications, alcohol, drugs

Costly effects – human and otherwise

Slips and trips often result in falls and more serious outcomes, including disabling injuries and even death. The costs to both worker and employer can be huge and may include:
• Lost wages
• Productivity and business loss
• Insurance
• Costs of replaced worker
• Pain
• Disability
• Depression
• Reduced life
• Death
Other than above losses there are various types of injuries that can be caused by these accidents:
• Sprains or strains
• Bruises or fractures
• Abrasions or cuts

Important note about slip resistance

The analysis of accidents results in a special main emphasis on accidents with falls. A large number of such accidents are caused by slipping during walking. The causes for slipping are varied. They are especially to be found in the makeup and fouling of the floor or the grounds, in the form of footwear and in the construction and wear of the outsole.

Slip resistance is therefore a key element for safety of footwear; all shoes worn in the workplace should be provided with anti-slip soles.

Within harmonised European Standards, however, neither concrete requirements nor test methods for the determination of slip resistance are given. Thus, slip resistance does not form part of the categories addressed. The reason is that there are numerous influencing factors and different ways these effect the slip resistance. Furthermore, there were in the past different views in the member states of the European Community as regards to the applicable test methods.

Avoiding hazards to avoid accidents

• Wear footwear that is appropriate for the conditions inside and outside, is tested and has standard markings
• Wear slip-resistant soles
• Avoid wearing high heels
• On snowy, icy and rainy days wear boots to work and change after arriving
• Reduce wet or slippery surfaces
• Always use installed light sources that provide sufficient light for your tasks
• Clean footwear of mud or snow when entering a building
• Avoid creating obstacles
• Use a flashlight if you enter a dark room where there is no light
• Ensure that things you are carrying or pushing do not prevent you from seeing any obstructions such as spills
• Take your time and pay attention to where you are going and what you are doing
• When moving from carpet to tile or dry tile to wet tile, the friction (grip) between the sole of the shoe and the floor surface lessens
• Focus on where you’re going, what you’re doing, and what lies ahead
• Expect the unexpected
• Take responsibility for fixing, removing, or avoiding hazards in your path
• Wear sturdy shoes with non skid soles and flat heels
• Avoid baggy or loose pants you could trip over
• Walk, don’t run
• Wipe your feet when you come in from rain or snow
• Report or replace any burned out lights or inadequate lighting
• Watch out for floors that are uneven
• Keep your hands at your sides, not in your pockets, for balance
• Don’t carry loads you can’t see over
• Walk slowly on slippery surfaces – slide your feet and avoid sharp turns
• Sit in chairs with all four chair legs on the floor – don’t lean back on two chair legs
• Make sure all wheels or casters are on the floor
• Be constantly alert for – and remove or go around – obstructions in your path
• Don’t run through working areas
• Control individual behavior and other related human factors as explained above
• Keep fastidious housekeeping a high priority
• Use warning signs to alert people to surfaces that are wet following recent cleaning or spills
• Signage should indicate procedures, such as specific footwear required for certain locations. This is important especially for visitors to the workplace
• Conduct periodic inspections of the property and grounds to identify and correct slip, trip and fall hazards
• Plan any work ahead
• Delegate responsibilities
• Implement the planned activity with safe measures
• Walk with the feet pointed slightly outward, and make wide turns at corners
• Wear Personal Protective Equipment

Be proactive, be safe

Behavioral safety initiatives may be used to target issues such as the improvement of housekeeping levels, or the wearing of PPE. Setting up a behavioral safety campaign helps measure the background level of housekeeping, for example. Subsequent levels are then measured against this benchmark. Good housekeeping has additional, positive knock-on effects such as increased production and enhanced company image, and is a good method for getting the entire workforce involved in safety issues.
The main barrier to safe practise is often seen by managers as financial. They perceive an economic cost and drain on the bottom line and, in addition, have to demonstrate to the budget holders as well the cost savings or, if they were to be seen to be more proactive - a return on investment.

The influence of management on safety culture and safety performance must be one of your key objectives. In controlling slips, trips and falls, supervisory staff that demonstrate enthusiasm for, and take part in safety practise will be more likely to help nurture a positive safety culture.

The involvement of top management in safety matters also appears to be crucial, such that employees are in no doubt that preventing slips, trips and falls is just as important - if not more - as other criteria such as profit and production targets.

Some easy and inexpensive ways to reduce slips, trips and falls are: remove the hazards; monitor near misses; avoid spillages and contamination; implement good cleaning regimes; ensure good lighting is present in workplaces.

Constant consultation with both workers and the public can also be productive, and organisations should also ensure that management and employees are properly trained to carry out tasks.


Slips, trips and falls are dangerous hazards in the workplace and can cause severe injuries. The causes cannot be limited to the examples given, which provide an overview. The suggestions made to prevent incidents occurring cannot be limited either.

There are many ways in which the workplace design and environment can cause slips, trips and falls due to same level hazards. There is plenty of scope for designing and maintaining the workplace in a way that will eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, the chances of someone having a slip, trip or fall on the same level.

All managers and supervisors should be aware of their accountability for hazards relating to slips, trips and falls, including floor quality, cleaning, housekeeping, machinery and equipment, lighting, ramps, stairs, and drainage.

Having said all of the above, there always exists plenty of scope for properly designing and maintaining the workplace in such a way that will eliminate, or reduce, the chances of slip, trip or fall hazards. We need to simply follow the steps below to achieve it, making a thorough hazard identification and risk assessment.
• Identify hazards that are likely to cause slips, trips or falls
• Assess the risks these hazards can create by analysing how serious the hazard is and what can be the consequence of encountering the hazard
• Eliminate, reduce or control the risks by making changes to protect people
• Educate people about hazards, train on mass basis
• Assign responsibilities, date and timeline against actions to be taken to eliminate, reduce or control the risks
• Reporting
• Monitor, review and provide feedback to whole team and management involved in your hazard identification and risk assessment process ?

Published: 13th Jun 2012 in OSA Magazine


Sanjeev Paruthi

Mr Sanjeev Paruthi is a postgraduate Chemical Engineer from Punjab University Chandigarh (India), and is presently associated with a multinational EPC Company as its HSE and Process Safety Engineer at Gurgaon-India.

His experience of six years comprises of working with Hindustan Zinc Limited, Tata Coffee Limited and with leading consulting and Training Company in the domain of Process Safety/Risk Management. He also holds PG Diploma in Business Management from ICFAI. He is also pursuing an Advance Diploma in Industrial Fire Safety Management from Mohali Punjab, India.

Mr Paruthi has wide range of consulting and training experience for working with Chemical, Fine Chemical, Refinery, Petrochemical Storage Installations, paints and allied chemical industries. He has also designed Fire Prevention and Detection systems for Refinery in his current company. He has led various HAZOP and HAZID sessions and prepared various HSE documents under a refinery project.

Mr Paruthi has also conducted Operational Process Safety Studies.

His technical expertise is in the following domain areas:
• Quantitative Risk Assessment, HAZOP Studies, Process Hazard Analysis
• Fire Risk Assessment
• Process Safety Training and Development
• Process Safety Management Studies and Audits
• SIL Studies
• Hazardous Area Classification
• Static Hazards Evaluation
• Lockout Tagout
• Chemical Handling Safety (Gas/Vapour/Dust)

Sanjeev Paruthi




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