Ahead of winter’s freezing conditions, the autumn weather can bring risks of its own when it comes to slip, trip and fall incidents. Wind, rain and even the humble leaf can be responsible for causing injuries but diligent risk management can help protect people and businesses.

Along with the crisp air and vibrant colours of autumn come the risks posed by wet and windy weather and the treacherous surfaces formed by fallen leaves. This hazardous combination can make slips, trips and falls more likely not only in public spaces but also in workplaces—particularly in areas such as building entrances, loading docks and sites of construction or renovation.

In addition to the slippery surfaces fallen leaves can create, there can also be hidden dangers beneath the leaves as they drift and build up—such as potholes, uneven paving or debris. Employers should treat these risks with equal weighting to those of snow and ice, not least because these types of risks may not appear as obvious.

Trip or fall incidents can lead to severe injuries, time off work or even fatalities, but as most seasonal risks can be predicted, businesses have the opportunity to limit their exposure.

Did you know?

30% of all non-fatal injuries to employees are caused by slips, trips and falls on the same level every year.

20% of injuries from slips, trips and falls result in employees being off work for seven days or more.

2 fatalities a year are reported by employers due to same-level slips, trips and falls.

Source: HSE, Kind of accident statistics in Great Britain, 2022 (hse.gov.uk)

Workplace accidents and employer responsibilities

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of major injury in UK workplaces1. This can be as a direct result of the slip or fall, or because it results in the individual suffering a more serious accident, such as being injured by machinery.

Health and safety legislation, including the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act), the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, dictates that employers have a legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of all employees, including taking steps to assess and control slip and trip risks in and around the premises.

If an employee or member of the public claimed compensation for such an injury, it may not just be for their medical bills, but potentially for lost income, out-of-pocket expenses (such as travel to and from hospital) and emotional distress resulting from their pain and suffering.

Guidance for businesses to reduce slip, trip and fall risks

To minimise the risk of slips, trips and falls in wet weather and areas with abundant leaf fall, businesses should implement the following preventive measures:

Regular inspections: Conduct frequent inspections of all walking surfaces, including pavements, parking areas, footpaths, fire escapes and entrances/exits, to identify potential hazards such as wet leaves or slippery spots. Address any issues promptly.

Leaf removal: Keep outdoor areas clear of leaves by raking and disposing of them regularly. Consider using leaf blowers or sweepers for larger spaces.

Tree maintenance: Assess the health of trees close to buildings, pathways and car parks, and the risk of falling branches or severe leaf fall. If you need to remove any trees or branches, employ the services of a qualified tree surgeon with sufficient professional indemnity (PI) insurance.

Signage and barriers: Use clear warning signs to alert employees and visitors of slippery surfaces or areas under maintenance, and temporary barriers when necessary to prevent access to hazardous areas.

Drainage maintenance: Ensure that gutters, drains and downpipes are clear and functioning correctly to help prevent water from accumulating on pathways.

Lighting: Ensure adequate lighting in all areas, both indoors and outdoors, to help people identify hazards more easily.

Anti-slip matting and surface treatments: Ensure matting at entrances is of adequate size and absorbency for your employee footfall. Consider applying anti-slip coatings/strips on walking surfaces, especially in areas where slips and falls are more likely to occur.

Training and awareness: Educate employees about the risks of slips, trips, and falls, and provide guidance on how to navigate such conditions safely.

Footwear guidance: In wet weather, encourage employees to wear appropriate footwear with slip-resistant soles, especially in areas prone to leaf accumulation or the pooling of water.

Immediate clean-up: If puddles or leaf build-up occur, address the risk immediately. Have an efficient cleaning protocol in place for prompt action and use the appropriate wet floor signage until the area is clean and dry.

Report all incidents, however minor: Ensure all slips and stumbles resulting in either no injury or minor injury are reported. These near-misses may be a warning of the potential for a more serious incident.

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The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.