The heavy thud of raindrops on rooftop, window pane and pavement announce the return of autumn to the British Isles – and long winter seasons of slips, trips and falls. Any walking surface, inside and out, can become a potential tripping hazard – and a personal injury claim - wherever shoes and boots leave muddied trails and puddle smears to catch shopper and shop assistant, alike.
In 2011/12, “Over half of reported major injuries to employees involved a slip, trip or fall (53 per cent), of which, three quarters were slips and trips,” according to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). During the same period, RIDDOR found that “slip and trips alone” accounted for 30,000 accidents, of which nearly 9,000 were major injuries with 21,000 - or more than a quarter - ‘over-3-day’ injuries.
But of course, slips and trips can happen any time, where there is an uncleared liquid spillage, uneven, unstable or disrupted surface, fallen objects, general clutter and even an over-polished floor.
Floor Maintenance - is a key area of health and safety concern, which strangely enough, the law does not actually provide a set of firm rules, by which an accusation of not maintaining a reasonable standard of care may be claimed.
Meeting a standard for reasonable care - embodies the legal concept of a property owner acting “reasonably” in his efforts to keep a “safe place” for invitees. So, even though a property owner is not a guarantor of invitee safety, he must act reasonably to keep invitees from being injured. A property owner’s commitment to reasonableness is therefore, not judged on a firm set of criteria, but rather an interpretation of what reasonableness might constitute for the type of facility owned or maintained.
Under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 - employers have to ensure their employees and anyone else who could be affected by their work (such as visitors, members of the public, patients etc.), are kept safe from harm and that their health is not affected. This means slip and trips risks must be controlled to ensure people do not slip, trip and fall.
In addition, The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 includes duties on employers to assess risks (including slip and trip risks), and where necessary, take action to safeguard health and safety and The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require floors to be suitable for the workplace and work activity, kept in good condition and kept free from obstructions. Also, people must be able to move around safely.
Risk assessments - as always, are central to ensuring the safety of all those who will be using a specific type of work surface.
There are a number of tests that are liable to be undertaken, including simple floor identification, slip resistance tests, pendulum tests (replicates a heel strike, the point at which most slips occur), surface roughness (heel to surface contact through a contaminant), flooring treatments, maintenance and footwear.
Control measures - to prevent slips and trips can be divided into three important areas: management systems, contamination control and obstacle removal, through which, contamination is prevented, the correct cleaning method is selected and does not introduce an additional slip risk.
Ultimately, there are many human factors, which contribute to the likelihood of a slip and trip, whatever controls are put in place and it’s important to identify any problems that may arise at any time, but most of all as the autumn / winter seasons begin.