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Slips, trips and falls

Slips, trips and falls (STF) can be more than just embarrassing: they can cause serious physical injuries such as cuts, fractured bones, dislocations, damage to the internal organs, even death.

Who’s at risk

In the last 5 years, the occupations most at risk of STF included cleaners, laundry workers and farm workers.

Serious STF injuries occurred mainly to workers’ knees, ankles and lower back.

STF are the second most common serious injury for workers in Tasmania (after body stressing).

Definitions and causes

Slips

  • Occur when your foot loses traction with the ground surface.
  • This might be due to inappropriate footwear, or walking on floor surfaces that are highly polished, wet, dirty or greasy.
  • Inclined ramps can also be slip hazards.

Trips

  • Occur when you catch your foot on an object or surface.
  • In most cases people trip on low obstacles that are hard to spot, such as uneven edges in flooring, loose mats, open drawers, untidy tools or electrical cables.
  • Can result from a slip or trip, but many occur during falls from low heights such as steps, stairs and curbs, falling into a hole or a ditch or into water.

Falls

As well as problem surfaces or obstacles, poor lighting can also contribute to STF.

Managing the risk

If you’re a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), you must manage the risks to health and safety associated with STF. Doing a risk assessment is your first step.

You and your workers can also use our slips, trips and falls checklist to look at your housekeeping, lighting, footwear and flooring and surfaces. See Resources below.

Control options: Design

  • Minimise any changes in the floor level. If levels must change, use ramps rather than steps when connecting pedestrian pathways .
  • Install slip-resistant floor surfaces (appropriate for your work) which increase the surface roughness of the flooring.
  • Avoid sudden changes in floor surface texture. If these are required, ensure good lighting and visual cues highlight the change.
  • Ensure stairs have uniform risers and treads.
  • Consider installing handrails for stairs.
  • Make sure all stairways are well lit.
  • Provide ample storage space to avoid materials being placed in aisles.
  • Put drains as close as possible to any source of water or liquid that is frequently generated.
  • Ensure grates in walkways or aisles are slip resistant.

Control options: Housekeeping

  • Implement procedures for storage and cleaning, including reporting problems such as spills, and have signs to put out when these happen.
  • Provide enough rubbish or recycling bins.
  • Provide a bin near entrances for people to put wet umbrellas in.
  • Encourage workers to clean their workplaces daily before they leave.

Control measures: Training

Train your workers in:

  • how to recognise STF hazards
  • how to identify and/or follow effective control measures
  • their responsibilities to maintain good housekeeping and cleanliness.

Control measures: PPE

Personal protection equipment (PPE) such as slip resistant footwear should only be used:

  • as a last resort when there are no other practical control measures available
  • as an interim measure until a more effective way of controlling the risk can be implemented
  • as a back up to higher level control measures.

Control methods: For trips

  • Provide sufficient storage to keep materials out of aisles, corridors and even work areas.
  • Provide enough power sockets and computer service jacks to reduce or remove the need to have cords lying on the floor or even hanging power cords over work areas.
  • Clean up workplaces and removing rubbish or obstructions.
  • Display warning strips and signs to alert workers to changed or uneven surfaces.

Other STF pointers

  • More than one control measure may be needed to provide the best protection.
  • Consider seasonal factors — such as shorter, darker winter days, autumn leaves and debris, and winter frosts — and the effects these have on surfaces.
  • Review your control options regularly to ensure they remain effective.

Resources and solutions

Four Simple Steps to Prevent Fall Injuries: WorkCover Queensland (external link)

Updated: 29th October 2019