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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