There are some dangerous assumptions surrounding slips, trips and falls at work that may leave your health and safety policies lacking the conviction they need to cover you if there is an accident at your workplace. Believe it or not, the following statements are true!
- The law dictates that duty holders* are to ensure that anyone that could be affected by their workplace are kept safe from harm, including from the hazards of slips, trips and falls.
- Slips, trips and falls in a workplace are NOT treated by the law as inevitable accidents and the person in the accident is not usually blamed just for being clumsy! For example, 50% of all trip accidents are found to be caused by bad housekeeping, and so the blame, and therefore the cost, usually falls to the duty holders*.
- Accident insurance will not cover all costs for slips, trips and falls in a workplace; each accident occurs hidden costs that may include production delays, temporary labour and/or training, investigation time, fines and loss of company image.
- Slips, trips and falls need to be taken seriously, on average these accidents account for over half of all major workplace injuries every year and cause two fatalities a year!
*Duty holders are employers, the self employed, and any person who controls the work of others, such as facilities managers.
Luckily, simple cost effective health and safety policies can reduce these accidents. In turn, these policies can increase the chances that you, as the duty holder, are not found to blame if an accident does occur!
To reduce slipping and tripping hazards (and so possible consequent falls) your health and safety policies should ensure that areas where people walk are provided AND maintained in good condition, clean and free from obstructions. Also, any slopes or change in level should be clearly visible. To aid maintenance, employees should be trained and encouraged to fix, or make safe and report, anything they see that damages the suitability of the walkways.
To reduce risks of falling from height your health and safety policies should ensure that all work at height activities are risk assessed, planned and carried out by competent persons and that the following hierarchy for work at height is followed:
Avoid working at height (eg. Work from ground level instead)
If the above is not possible: Use measures to prevent falls (eg. guardrails and working platforms)
If the above is not possible: Use measures to minimise the distance (eg. nets or airbags) and consequences (eg. personal fall protection – work restraints, fall arrest and rope access) of potential falls.
By law employees must not cause danger to themselves or others and must use any safety equipment provided, so you are not expected to cover ‘what if’ hazards for employees possibly partaking in dangerous activities. So, do you chose to ignore slip, trip and fall hazards because you still think they are just inevitable, or try to avoid becoming part of the statistic by implementing simple cost effective health and safety policies?