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Environmental Health and Safety

Slips, Trips, and Falls: Understanding, Preventing, and Mitigating Risks

By Gian Joseph, Safety Advisor

As we enter the rainy and cold season, we face several risks , which include slips , trips, and fall s in our day-to-day activities. It is important t o be aware of hazards around us and learn how to properly identify and assess any risks with each step.  

Slips, trips, and falls (STFs) are common accidents that can lead to severe injuries. These incidents occur in various settings, from homes and workplaces to public spaces , and i t is essential to understand the causes, consequences, and , most importantly, strategies for prevention and mitigation.   

1. Understanding the Dynamics of STFs. STFs are caused by the following .  

Insu fficient friction between the shoe and the walking surface. Common causes include wet or greasy floors, spills, and loose debris (Slip and Fall Accidents, 2021).  

When a person's foot collides with an object or an uneven surface, it caus es them to lose balance. Typical trip hazards include cluttered walkways, electrical cords, uneven flooring, and damaged or upturned mats (Slip and Fall Accidents, 2021).  

2. The Impact of STFs  

Slips, trips, and falls have far-reaching effects, affecting individuals and society . Personal i njuries range from minor cuts , bruises, sprains , and abrasions to fractures, dislocations, and head injuries (National Safety Council, 2021). The medical expenses associated with treating STF-related injuries can be substantial , including hospital stays, surgeries, rehabilitation, and ongoing care (National Safety Council, 2021). STFs can result in missed workdays and reduced productivity for both individuals and employers. Workers' compensation claims and absenteeism contribute to economic costs (National Safety Council, 2021). Lastly, t he physical and psychological consequences of STFs can limit mobility, independence, and overall quality of life, especially among older adults ( Sahyoun et al., 2020).  

3. Prevention and Mitigation Strategies  

Preventing and mitigating STFs involves a combination of awareness, environmental modifications, and education . H ere are some ways you can take precaution s against STFs in your daily activities;  

Clear Pathways: Maintain clear, unobstructed walkways by removing clutter and tripping hazards such as cords, toys, and loose rugs (Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA], 2002).  

Adequate Lighting: Ensure proper lighting in all areas, both indoors and outdoors, to improve visibility and reduce the risk of tripping over obstacles (OSHA, 2002).  

Slip-Resistant Flooring: Install slip-resistant flooring materials, especially in areas prone to moisture, like bathrooms and kitchens (OSHA, 2002).  

Footwear: Encourage the use of proper footwear with good traction, especially in environments where slip hazards are prevalent ( Sahyoun et al., 2020).  

Handrails and Guardrails: Install and maintain handrails and guardrails on stairs, ramps, and elevated platforms to provide support and prevent falls (OSHA, 2002).  

Warning Signs: Use signage to alert individuals to potential hazards, such as wet floors or uneven surfaces (OSHA, 2002).  

Education and Training: Promote awareness and provide training to individuals on recognizing and avoiding STF hazards (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health [NIOSH], 2015).  

Workplace Safety: Employers should implement safety protocols and conduct risk assessments in the workplace, addressing potential STF risks (NIOSH, 2015).  

Regular Maintenance: Routinely inspect and maintain buildings, walkways, and outdoor areas to identify and address potential hazards promptly (NIOSH, 2015).  

4. A Holistic Approach to STF Prevention  

Preventing and mitigating STFs require a collaborative approach involving individuals, organizations, and communities:  

Individuals : Exercise caution when walking, especially in unfamiliar or potentially hazardous environments. Wear appropriate footwear and take your time, especially in wet or slippery conditions ( Sahyoun et al., 2020).  

Employers: Create a safe work environment by identifying and mitigating STF risks. Provide training to employees on safety protocols and the proper use of equipment (OSHA, 2002).  

Property Owners and Managers: Ensure properties are well-maintained and free from hazards. Regularly inspect and address issues promptly (NIOSH, 2015).  

Government and Local Authorities: Enforce building codes and regulations that promote safety, especially in public spaces and commercial buildings (OSHA, 2002).  

Conclusion  

Slips, trips, and falls are preventable accidents that carry substantial personal, economic, and societal costs. By comprehending the causes, consequences, and prevention strategies, we can significantly reduce the incidence of STFs and mitigate their impact. Whether at home, at work, or in public spaces, prioritizing safety and fostering awareness about STFs is crucial for the well-being of individuals and communities. Let us strive collectively to create environments where everyone can move safely and confidently, free from the fear of falling.  

References:  

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (2015). Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls in Wholesale and Retail Trade Establishments. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2015-100/pdfs/2015-100.pdf  

National Safety Council. (2021). Injury Facts. https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/work/overview/work-safety-introduction/work-...  

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). (2002). OSHA Publication 3151-12R. Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls in Wholesale and Retail Trade Establishments. https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3151.pdf  

Sahyoun , N. R., Pratt, L. A., & Lentzner , H. (2020). The Changing Profile of Nursing Home Residents: 1985-1997. Journal of Aging and Health, 12(3), 336-363.  

Slip and Fall Accidents. (2021). InjuryClaimCoach.com. https://www.injuryclaimcoach.com/slip-and-fall-accidents.html  

Please note that the sources cited are accurate as of the time of writing this article. For the most current information, consult authoritative sources and local health authorities.  

Go to the staff directory for individual contacts within EHS. You may also use the Weill Cornell Medicine online directory to search for faculty and staff.

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Weill Cornell Medicine Environmental Health and Safety 402 East 67th Street Room LA-0020 New York, NY 10065 Phone: (646) 962-7233 Fax: (646) 962-0288

25th July, 2023

14 Causes Of Slips Trips And Falls In The Workplace

Around 30% of workplace injuries are caused by slips, trips and falls on the same level. But what's causing this huge amount of accidents at work? Here are 14 causes of slips trips and falls that led to around 170,000 injuries in the UK last year.

14 Causes Of Slips Trips And Falls In The Workplace header image

Slips, trips and falls on the same level might not seem like a major issue. You don't have that far to fall. So apart from the obvious embarrassment if other people are watching - where's the harm?

It's estimated around 170,000 injuries in the UK in 2021/22 were from slips, trips and falls on the same level - 30% of all non-fatal injuries - according to HSE statistics . And over 18,000 of those are reported injuries.

That's more than a little embarrassment. Did you have a nice trip? No, I'm in agony. I spent 9 hours in A&E and I'll be off work for a month.

It's not just minor injuries that result from slips, trips and falls. Reported injuries are generally more serious injuries involving things like broken bones, dislocations, or more than seven days off work.

So what's causing these accidents? Here are 14 common causes of slips and trips at work:

  • Slippery floors
  • Dusty floors
  • Loose mats and floor coverings
  • Unsuitable footwear
  • Icy conditions
  • Loose flooring
  • Uneven flooring
  • Obstructions
  • Trailing cables
  • Bad lighting
  • Poor housekeeping

The causes of slips, trips and falls are often easy, and cheap, to fix. Simple quick actions, like cleaning up a spillage, or moving a cable, can eliminate the risk.

Removing a slip or trip hazard is often all it takes to stop the problem before someone gets hurt.

Causes of slips

Slips can be caused by a variety of things, not just the obvious spillages. Let's look at some common examples you might find in your workplace.

1. Wet floors

Wet floors can be caused by a variety of things. Spillages are an obvious culprit. Cleaning activities can also create wet floor surfaces.

wet floor sign

When it's raining outside, entrance areas can become wet as rain travels in from people's shoes and clothing.

Poorly maintained buildings may also leak and let rain and wet weather conditions in from the outside.

2. Slippery floors

Glossy, polished floor tiles can be a slip hazard if they are used in an unsuitable place, like a bathroom or entrance, where the floor may become wet.

If footwear with smooth soles, or socks are worn, the flooring may be slippy even in dry conditions.

3. Dusty floors

It's not just liquids that can cause slips. Dusty surfaces can also create a slip hazard, preventing shoes from gripping the floor.

Some work activities like sawing wood or breaking up materials can generate loose fragments or dust that create a slippery surface on top of the floor.

wood dust

4. Loose mats and floor coverings

Some mats create a slip hazard if they don't grip well with the surface underneath. Step on it in the wrong way and it can slide from under you. Ouch!

Workers might also try to temporarily protect a new floor with sheets or cardboard. If floor protection is not secured to the surface, it can also slip and slide underneath you.

5. Unsuitable footwear

Ever tried running in slippers, or socks? It's not recommended.

Shoes with a slippery sole aren't going to help you avoid slip hazards. They become one.

6. Icy conditions

Working outdoors in winter, or in cold environments?

footprint in snow

Ice is a slippery surface, even for the most robust footwear. Make sure you consider the possibility of ice forming on surfaces causing a slip hazard .

7. Wet ground

Speaking of working outside, in wet weather the ground can become slippery, especially in grassy or muddy areas.

In autumn, wet leaves on paths can also increase the risk of slips.

Causes of trips

Now you know what to look out for when it comes to causes of slips, but what about trips? Trip hazards can happen in any type of work environment, and it's not just cables you need to look out for.

1. Obstacles

Leaving materials, tools or equipment lying around, especially in walkways, are a common cause of trips at work. You need to use tools to work, but placing a tool or material in the wrong place can be unexpected to someone else.

packaging on floor

Packaging and waste materials are also common causes of trip hazards at work.

2. Loose flooring

So we mentioned loose mats and floor coverings can be a slip hazard. They can also be a trip hazard.

  • a rug curled up at the corners
  • a loose floorboard sticking up
  • an unsecured tile lifting up
  • a temporary floor covering

3. Uneven flooring

When you are walking along a familiar pathway, looking forward, you might not notice uneven flooring ahead of you.

Potholes, broken slabs, cracked surfaces, and uneven paving on footpaths can create trip hazards where you don't expect them.

uneven floor

4. Obstructions

Obstructions are like obstacles but fixed rather than temporary. Examples of obstructions include:

  • floor-mounted socket covers left open

You might not realise an obstruction is there until you trip up - that's what makes it a trip hazard. And it's why you see those yellow mind-the-step signs, that you also didn't see until it was too late.

5. Trailing cables

Electricity is everywhere, or at least it feels like we need it everywhere. But unless you are using wireless equipment, you need to plug it in.

And, that cable that you use, might just get in someone else's way. Be mindful when using mobile cabled equipment, because when you're moving around, so does the cable.

training cable tripping worker up

6. Bad lighting

Obstacles and obstructions are worse if you can't see them. If you can't see them, you can't avoid them.

Hopefully, they won't be there to begin with, but good lighting helps identify hazards and gives you a chance to clear them away before they cause an accident.

Lighting can also be used to help highlight changes in floor level.

7. Poor housekeeping

Poor housekeeping is a leading cause of slips, trips and falls at work because if you don't clean up after yourself, you get more of those obstacles we talked about earlier.

cleaned up waste in bags

Removing waste and cleaning up regularly can help keep your workplace free from slip and trip hazards.

Now you know the causes, it's easy to see how a quick tidy-up of spillages and obstacles can prevent many slips and trips from happening. Our simple guide to slips and trips at work can help you spot slip and trip hazards and fix them before they cause an accident.

Reducing the risk of slips, trips and falls at work is not a one-time thing. But regular housekeeping can keep you on top of those hazards.

Regular maintenance will help remove broken, loose or frayed floor coverings, and highlight when flooring needs replacing.

Highlighting changes in floor levels or surfaces, and providing handrails can also increase safety where slip and trip hazards can't be fully removed.

Keeping your workforce aware of the dangers can also help increase compliance with housekeeping practices, cleaning up spillages, removing obstacles and wearing the right footwear. Download the free slip and trip toolbox talk to help raise awareness in your workplace.

This article was written by Emma at HASpod . Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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Prevention of Slips, Trips and Falls

On this page, how do falls happen, how to prevent falls due to slips and trips, what can you do to avoid falling at work.

Statistics show that the majority (67%) of falls happen on the same level resulting from slips and trips. The remaining 30% are falls from a height. This document will summarize information on "falls on the same level" (slips and trips). Falls from an elevation, such as falls from ladders, roofs, down stairs or from jumping to a lower level, etc., is discussed in other documents since each type of fall must be assessed as part of a fall prevention program .

Slips happen where there is too little friction or traction between the footwear and the walking surface. Common causes of slips are:

  • wet or oily surfaces
  • occasional spills
  • weather hazards
  • loose, unanchored rugs or mats
  • flooring or other walking surfaces that do not have the same degree of traction in all areas

Trips happen when your foot collides (strikes, hits) an object causing you to lose balance and, eventually fall. Common causes of tripping are:

  • obstructed view
  • poor lighting
  • clutter in your way
  • wrinkled carpeting
  • uncovered cables
  • bottom drawers not being closed
  • uneven (steps, thresholds) walking surfaces

Both slips and trips result from unintended or unexpected change in the contact between the feet and the ground or walking surface. This fact shows that good housekeeping, quality of walking surfaces (flooring), selection of proper footwear, and appropriate pace of walking are critical for preventing fall incidents.

Housekeeping

Good housekeeping is the first and the most important (fundamental) level of preventing falls due to slips and trips. It includes:

  • cleaning all spills immediately
  • marking spills and wet areas
  • mopping or sweeping debris from floors
  • removing obstacles from walkways and always keeping walkways free of clutter
  • securing (tacking, taping, etc.) mats, rugs and carpets that do not lay flat
  • always closing file cabinet or storage drawers
  • covering cables that cross walkways
  • keeping working areas and walkways well lit
  • replacing used light bulbs and faulty switches

Without good housekeeping practices, any other preventive measures such as installation of sophisticated flooring, specialty footwear or training on techniques of walking and safe falling will never be fully effective.

For more information about effective housekeeping, visit the OSH Answers document on Workplace Housekeeping - Basic Guide .

Changing or modifying walking surfaces is the next level of preventing slip and trips. Recoating or replacing floors, installing mats, pressure-sensitive abrasive strips or abrasive-filled paint-on coating and metal or synthetic decking can further improve safety and reduce the risk of falling. However, it is critical to remember that high-tech flooring requires good housekeeping as much as any other flooring. In addition, resilient, non-slippery flooring prevents or reduces foot fatigue and contributes to slip-prevention measures.

In workplaces where floors may be oily or wet or where workers spend considerable time outdoors, prevention of fall incidents should focus on selecting proper footwear. Since there is no footwear with anti-slip properties for every condition, consultation with manufacturers is highly recommended.

Properly fitting footwear increases comfort and prevents fatigue which, in turn, improves safety for the employee. For more information on footwear visit the OSH Answers document on Safety Footwear .

You can reduce the risk of slipping on wet flooring by:

  • taking your time and paying attention to where you are going
  • adjusting your stride to a pace that is suitable for the walking surface and the tasks you are doing
  • walking with the feet pointed slightly outward
  • making wide turns at corners

You can reduce the risk of tripping by:

  • keeping walking areas clear from clutter or obstructions
  • keeping flooring in good condition
  • always using installed light sources that provide sufficient light for your tasks
  • using a flashlight if you enter a dark room where there is no light
  • making sure that things you are carrying or pushing do not prevent you from seeing any obstructions, spills, etc.
  • Fact sheet last revised: 2023-03-28

NIOSH logo and tagline

Young Workers: Slips, Trips, and Falls

Slips, trips, and falls are common causes of injuries.

Young workers can slip when they lose their footing, trip when catching their foot on or in something, and fall when coming down a ladder. Common causes of slips, trips, and falls include:

  • Greasy floors
  • Snow and rain
  • Loose mats or rugs
  • Stepladders

Did you know?

Falls from portable ladders are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries.

Poor lighting and clutter can also cause injuries such as sprains, bruises, fractures, scratches, and cuts.

Tips to Stay Safe

Employers can remind young workers to:

  • Clean up spills and anything slippery. Check with supervisors about how to use cleaning products. Don’t use cleaners that could make the floor slippery.
  • Clear walkways, stairs, and lobbies of anything that might be a tripping hazard, such as cords, wires, empty boxes, and clutter.
  • Make sure that floor mats lay flat rather than wrinkled or bunched.
  • Use handrails when walking up and down steps.
  • Before using any ladder or stepladder, make sure it opens fully.
  • Check that ladder extensions are fully locked and that the ladder legs are stable on a flat, non-slippery surface.
  • Clean off any slippery material on the rungs, steps, or feet of a ladder before use.
  • Don’t go over the load limit noted on the ladder.

Slip-Resistant Shoes: Learn how 5-star rated slip-resistant shoes can reduce food services worker slip injuries.

  • Infographic (also available in Spanish )

Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls in Wholesale and Retail Trade Establishments

Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention for Healthcare Workers

  • Portable Ladder Safety Quick Card
  • Ladder Safety App
  • Safe Work for Young Workers
  • Young Workers – Employer Responsibilities for Keeping Young Workers Safe

Talking Safety Curriculum

Research from NIOSH illustrates that more needs to be done to ensure that as young people join the workforce they are better protected from hazards. The “ Talking Safety Curriculum ”, intended for use in classrooms and other group settings, can be used for this purpose.

Related Topics

  • Traumatic Occupational Injuries
  • Childhood Agricultural Injury Prevention Initiative
  • Safe • Skilled • Ready Workforce Program
  • Safety Matters

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  2. 3 Big Causes of Slips, Trips and Falls

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  3. OSHA Guidelines on Slips Trips and Falls

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  4. 4 tips to avoid slips, trips & falls

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  5. Share this infographic that outlines the common causes of slips and

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  6. Preventing Slips, Trips & Falls Poster

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  2. Preventa Safety Tips: Slips, Trips & Falls

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  4. Webinar: How to Reduce Outdoor Slip, Trip and Falls

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  6. Toolbox Talk: Slips, Trips & Falls

COMMENTS

  1. Slips, Trips, and Falls: Preventing Workplace Trip Hazards -

    In fact, according to OSHA, slips, trips, and falls cause nearly 700 workplace fatalities per year – that's 15% of all workplace deaths. The trouble is that the circumstances that lead to slips and trips tend to be spontaneous and changeable – they don't exist until suddenly they do.

  2. Slips, Trips and Falls

    It may come as a surprise that the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death is falls. In 2022, 46,653 people died in falls at home and at work, according to Injury Facts ® . For working adults, depending on the industry, falls can be the leading cause of death.

  3. Slips, Trips, and Falls: Understanding, Preventing, and

    STFs are caused by the following. Insufficient friction between the shoe and the walking surface. Common causes include wet or greasy floors, spills, and loose debris (Slip and Fall Accidents, 2021). When a person's foot collides with an object or an uneven surface, it causes them to lose balance.

  4. 14 Causes Of Slips Trips And Falls In The Workplace

    Here are 14 common causes of slips and trips at work: Wet floors. Slippery floors. Dusty floors. Loose mats and floor coverings. Unsuitable footwear. Icy conditions. Wet ground. Obstacles. Loose flooring. Uneven flooring. Obstructions. Trailing cables. Bad lighting. Poor housekeeping.

  5. CCOHS: Prevention of Slips, Trips and Falls

    Common causes of slips are: wet or oily surfaces. occasional spills. weather hazards. loose, unanchored rugs or mats. flooring or other walking surfaces that do not have the same degree of traction in all areas. Trips happen when your foot collides (strikes, hits) an object causing you to lose balance and, eventually fall.

  6. Falls in the Workplace

    Print. Falls are a hazard found in many work settings. A fall can occur during walking or climbing a ladder to change a light fixture, or as a result of a complex series of events affecting an ironworker 80 feet above the ground. Mast Climbing Work Platform Inspection Tool.

  7. Young Workers: Slips, Trips, and Falls

    Common causes of slips, trips, and falls include: Spills. Greasy floors. Ice. Snow and rain. Loose mats or rugs. Stepladders. Did you know? Falls from portable ladders are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries. Poor lighting and clutter can also cause injuries such as sprains, bruises, fractures, scratches, and cuts.

  8. Why does it matter

    Slips and trips are the most common cause of major injuries at work and can happen almost anywhere. 95% of major slips result in broken bones and they can also be the initial cause for a range of...