Falls, slips and trips cause more workplace accidents than anything else, and can often lead to other types of accident (for example, a trip leading to a fall from height).

In one case, a commis chef slipped in the hotel kitchen he was working in and, as he reached to steady himself, put his arm into a container of hot oil. He suffered serious burns and had to undergo surgery, missing five months of work. His employer had not put suitable safety precautions in place and were fined £14,000 plus costs of £2000. Although it was the hot oil that caused the injuries, the initial cause of the accident was the fall, which the employer had not taken the necessary steps to avoid.

These highly-preventable incidents lead to a very high human cost in terms of broken bones, cuts and bruises, as well as the psychological effects of workplace injuries, the financial issue of being off work sick for long periods of time and the effects on loved ones. Sadly, slips and trips lead to two fatalities, on average, every year.

Slips and Trips can Happen Anywhere

Part of the reason for the widespread nature of falls, slips and trips is that they can occur in any workplace.

Of course, there are many examples of people slipping due to spillages in kitchens and restaurants, where the likelihood of floors being wet is higher. Construction sites are high risk because of the number of potential obstructions, such as building materials. Badly lit places – often outdoor work spaces or warehouses – can also be at a particularly high risk of these kinds of accidents.

However, no workplace can be complacent about its risk level. Office kitchens can be a hotspot for slips. The large number of appliances in the average office can also lead to trailing cables – one of the most common causes of trips.

Complacency can sometimes lead to slips and trips being a neglected topic during workplace training. Companies that take fire safety and manual handling training very seriously, for instance, can sometimes let themselves down on slips and trips, or dismiss the precautions as “just common sense”. Like most safety training, many of the rules relating to slips and trips are indeed common sense, but training is still extremely important; ideas of what constitutes common sense vary from person to person and rules can often be forgotten in the course of daily working, especially if people haven’t received recent refresher training.

Companies of all sizes need to be equally aware of their duties in this area. In March 2017, Tesco was fined over £200,000 after a member of staff slipped at their Three Bridges store because of a water leak. She was off work for several months. This shows that prosecutions can be pursued against any companies, from independent SMEs to large chains.

Taking the Risks Seriously

Unfortunately, there is a tendency to view the likelihood of falls, slips and trips as a less serious threat to employee safety than things like fire safety. The attitude that slips and trips are an inevitable part of life is also still with us. This feeds into the higher number of these kinds of workplace accidents.

It’s vital that these potential hazards are treated with the same degree of seriousness as any other risk to employee health and safety. Though most cause minor injuries, 95% of major slips lead to broken bones and every year sees a small number of fatalities resulting from them in the UK. The costs to both employers and the NHS run into the hundreds of millions. As the leading cause of workplace injuries, slips and trips are not to be taken lightly.

It’s also not only employees who are at risk. In cases where a member of the public is injured in a workplace, around 50% are due to slips and trips. Employers have a duty of care towards the public just as they do towards their own staff and contractors.

The statistics around slips and trips can be quite sobering but it’s important to remember that with the right precautions, nearly all of these accidents can be prevented.

Causing nearly a third of UK workplace accidents, slips, trips and falls are a major concern for employers and employees alike. They are the most common cause of workplace injuries, beating the combined total of manual handling and falls from height.

Employers should do everything in their power to protect their staff from these incidents. The first step is to conduct a thorough risk assessment, highlighting all of the environmental factors that could lead to a slip or trip. Once you are aware of the risks, it becomes easier to work out which control measures are needed.

Making Changes to the Workplace

All areas of the workplace need to be well-lit. Poor lighting is the cause of a lot of trips, with employees less likely to spot an obstruction in their path or a trailing wire. Outdoor areas, construction sites and warehouses are three types of workplace where this can be an especially important issue, but it needs to be considered everywhere.

Poor housekeeping should be kept in check with regular training to ensure employees understand the importance of removing obstacles from walkways and avoiding trailing cables from computers, printers or machinery.

Employers should consider areas that get the most footfall at different times of the working day. Is the flooring in these areas in good repair and made of the correct anti-slip material? Would it help to add a no-slip mat to certain areas?

A manufacturing bakery decided to tackle its high slip accident rate by improving their flooring in areas where there was often contamination, such as water and other baking products, and lots of pulling and pushing-related tasks took place. They trained their staff, issued anti-slip footwear and introduced a “micro-rough” finish floor that provided anti-slip protection without compromising on food hygiene. Their aim was to reduce their slip rate to zero, which should be the aim of all organisations.

Keeping Track of Changing Circumstances

Many falls, slips and trips take place due to the workplace’s building set up, but others are dependent on other things such as weather, spillages, changing footfall over time and the state of repair of carpeting. Changes in office layouts can also create more trip hazards if electrical equipment needs to be plugged in in a different place, producing hanging cables across walkways.

Wet weather greatly increases the potential for slips and trips. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website features a case study of a supermarket that successfully reduced the amount of accidents taking place at its entrance, which was getting extremely wet during rainy periods due to customer footfall. They changed the technique and frequency of the cleaning in this area (switching to a wet vac rather than a mop to leave the surface dry) and changed their matting system. To reduce the risk in a longer-term manner, they built a canopy over the entrance so that less water was being brought in.

Even if the flooring is anti-slip, it needs to be monitored regularly for signs of damage. All risk assessments should be reviewed regularly and when there are any changes in circumstances, so flagging this as a potential hazard is a useful way to keep an eye on the carpet’s condition over time. If there is damage, it should be pointed out to all staff as appropriate and repaired as soon as possible.

Spillages are one of the most common causes of slips. All employees should know what to do in the case of one, either from everyday liquid such as water or tea, or hazardous materials (if your workplace stores these). Some spillages require specialist cleaning products and techniques whereas others can be cleaned up by any member of staff, as long as they have the correct equipment. All staff should be aware of spillages as soon as they happen so they can avoid the area until it’s been cleaned up.

As the leading cause of workplace injuries, slips and trips have been addressed in most of the major health and safety legislation of the past few decades.

Falls, slips and trips at the same level cause around 31% of non-fatal workplace accidents. In the most serious cases, they lead to two fatalities on average every year. Many victims are left with life-changing injuries and are forced to miss significant amounts of work, having an impact on their financial situation as well as the bad effects on their health. Businesses also suffer from not taking the necessary steps to prevent these incidents, with millions lost to employee absence and possible prosecutions, if they’re found to have been negligent. Slips and trips are a very serious matter and should never be dismissed as an inevitable part of working life. In nearly all cases, they’re preventable with the right preparation and good quality training for all staff.

Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974

This Act formed the basis for all subsequent health and safety legislation in Britain. It requires employers to protect the health and safety of their employees and the general public as far as is reasonably possible, taking all steps necessary to do so. This includes preventing falls, slips and trips. Many of the prosecutions for health and safety violations mention this Act specifically.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (Regulations 8 and 12)

These regulations built on previously existing legislation. There are two regulations in particular that relate to falls, slips and trips.

Regulation 8 requires all areas in a workplace to be lit well. Poor lighting is a leading cause of these kinds of accidents, as good visibility is so important for employees to be able to protect their own health and safety and spot hazards in their way.

Regulation 12 ensures suitable flooring, stating “every floor in a workplace and the surface of every traffic route in a workplace shall be of a construction such that the floor or surface of the traffic route is suitable for the purpose for which it is used… every floor in a workplace and the surface of every traffic route in a workplace shall be kept free from obstructions and from any article or substance which may cause a person to slip, trip or fall”.

Employers must take every possible step to make sure they’re compliant with these regulations.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (Regulation 3)

These are the regulations that introduced the duty on the employer to conduct risk assessments, which includes slips and trips risks. Regulation 3 also specifies that any employer with five employees or more should produce the document in written form (smaller companies may still find it useful to do so, even if they aren’t legally obliged to).

Summary of Laws about Slips and Trips

As with all health and safety hazards, employers have a legal and moral obligation to protect their employees (and the public) as far as possible from the damaging effects of falls, slips and trips.

They must ensure:

  • Working areas are properly lit
  • Floor surfaces are fit for purpose and in good repair, even during extreme weather
  • Staff are given the correct footwear to use
  • A thorough risk assessment has considered all of the slips and trips risks
  • Spillages are dealt with appropriately
  • Working areas are kept free from obstructions that might cause a fall, such as objects left in the middle of walkways
  • Every other reasonable and appropriate step has been taken to reduce the risks of slips and trips.

The penalties for flouting these laws can be very severe – and more importantly, can leave the employees involved with life-changing injuries or even result in their deaths.

In 2018, Hull City Council were fined £185,000 and costs of more than £44,000 after an August 2014 incident where a council worker slipped at the ice rink at Hull Arena. He suffered broken ribs and a serious head injury. It was found that workers had not been provided with appropriate safety footwear after a manager deemed them “too expensive” at £25 a pair, and there had been several similar incidents on the ice in the previous three years.

Falls, slips and trips are the most common cause of accidents at work, accounting for 31% of non-fatal workplace injuries in 2017/18. Employers are bound by health and safety laws to take every reasonable step they can to prevent this type of injury affecting their employees.

The vast majority of injuries sustained due to slips and trips are preventable. In one particularly serious case, a retailer was fined £36,000 after a kitchen worker slipped in their kitchen, fracturing her skull and leaving her unlikely to work again. This terrible incident could have been prevented had her employer taken basic steps to make slips and trips less likely and taken notice of the four “near misses” that had happened in the kitchen over the previous 12 months.

When employers are aware of the most common causes of falls, slips and trips, they can take steps to minimise the risks in their workplace. Worker training can also help to spot the hazards early and stop any unfortunate falls, slips or trips.

Trailing Cables and Poor Housekeeping

Employees need to be able to move safely through their workplaces without encountering obstacles in their walkways or trailing cables that can easily trip them up. In areas with a lot of machinery, this is particularly important. Office settings can also fall foul of this; with computers, printers, fans and other electrical devices often together in limited spaces, it can be easy to ignore the dangers of stepping over cables to get around.

The authorities take this matter so seriously that prosecutions can occur even before an accident has taken place. A restaurant in Derbyshire was fined £1000 plus costs for endangering their workers after ignoring previous warnings about their storage area, including a trailing wire over a doorway that posed a significant risk of trips.

Poor Lighting

If the area’s lighting is inadequate, it stops employees from being able to take their usual steps to protect their safety. It becomes harder to judge the quality or unevenness of the ground and to spot any obstructions in the walkway. Warehouses and outdoor working areas can often have less lighting than they need and this needs to be rectified as a matter of urgency when it’s noticed.

Uneven or Damaged Floor Surfaces and Inadequate Floor Coverings

Badly fitted carpets, cracked tiles and missing anti-slip mats can all lead to slips and trips. Kitchens and areas where the ground may be wet (such as in swimming pools or leisure centres) need to pay especially close attention to this, but it can happen anywhere. Damage to flooring should be repaired immediately, even if it seems relatively minor.

Employers need to ensure workers have the appropriate footwear for the surfaces they’re going to be working on. In cases where this is a health and safety matter, it would be covered by the employer’s responsibilities to provide adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for all of their workers, in good condition and for free.


Whatever the nature of the workplace, spillages happen. It might be someone dropping a cup of tea or a hazardous substance being dropped during transportation, or anything in between these scenarios.

Workers need to be aware of the appropriate way to deal with these incidents and how to clean them safely – or who to notify if they’re unable to clean up that particular spillage themselves, as is the case with dangerous or specialist substances.

Weather Conditions

The risk of falls, slips and trips increases greatly during times of extreme weather. It’s sensible to take extra precautions when heavy rain or snow is forecast.

All major health and safety legislation in the UK covers falls, slips and trips, and states that employers have a legal – as well as moral – duty to do everything in their power to prevent them. By staying aware of the most common causes of slips and trips, hazards can be spotted as early as possible and dealt with appropriately.

Falls, slips and trips account for a large proportion of workplace accidents and injuries. Just as with fire safety, working at height, hazardous substances and any other health and safety topic, they need to be treated with the greatest concern and risk assessed to ensure everyone is doing everything they can to prevent these kinds of incidents.

Once the risk assessment is completed, it should be communicated to all staff, and they should be properly trained to recognise and handle risks.

What should a Slips and Trips Risk Assessment include?

A thorough slips and trips risk assessment answers the following questions:

  • What hazards are there?
  • Who is affected by these hazards? Do they pose more of a threat to some groups or individuals than others?
  • What action is being taken to address these hazards? Who’s responsible for making sure the control measures are carried out?
  • When were these control measures put in place and when will they be reviewed?

To make sure all of these areas are covered for each slip and trip hazard, it might be useful to write it down in a grid system. Though only employers with five or more staff are required to produce a written document, smaller companies sometimes find it helpful to do so anyway, as they’re still required to have a risk assessment and communicate it to their staff. It provides a useful record and a way of making sure every employee is aware of the potential hazards they face.

A straightforward example of a hazard being risk assessed is:

Hazard – Boxes left in the main corridor after daily deliveries are causing a trip hazard.

Who might be harmed? – All staff, but particularly the employees whose department works from the nearby office rooms.

Control measures – Set aside a storage area where boxes can be left after delivery until they’re ready to pick up.

Who needs to know – All staff but especially those who handle deliveries when they come in.

Review – Look into it whenever the risk assessment is updated and monitor it on an ongoing basis to ensure the new delivery area is being used.

Risk assessments should be reviewed regularly. They also need to be updated whenever there’s a change in circumstances – for example, a change in the layout of an office, or new starters being brought on board. Certain risks need to be monitored on an ongoing basis. Flooring, for instance, can become damaged through general use, and upturned or damaged carpets can produce additional risks. Some hazards can be managed by one permanent control measure (e.g. improving lighting in a specific part of the workplace) and others need ongoing care (e.g. high spillage areas that need cleaning regularly).

Both permanent and temporary hazards should be taken into account. Many hazards will always be there but others will be dependent on circumstances, such as entrances that become slippery during wet weather. No workplace can be complacent about its slips and trips risks, but kitchens are at a particularly high risk of these kinds of accidents since spillages are more common and work is often conducted at speed.

Importance of Risk Assessments

Risk assessments don’t need to be difficult or particularly time-consuming. The time invested in properly handling the risks of falls, slips and trips is time well-spent. It avoids the human cost of an injured employee and the business costs of their absence and any possible prosecution; it’s a key part of an employer’s duty of care towards its staff and the public.

It’s helpful to consult all members of staff when writing the risk assessment. They will have valuable insight into the situation on the ground in their area and may bring to light hazards that you didn’t know about before – many of which are easily fixed.

Spillages can happen in any workplace. Whether it’s a relatively minor case of somebody dripping some tea in the office kitchen or a large chemical leak that can only be cleaned up with specialist equipment, spillages should be treated with the seriousness they deserve. Slips and trips are the most common causes of workplace injury, resulting in anything from minor bruising to fatalities, but they are almost always highly preventable. Making sure floors are clean and tidy is one way of preventing these incidents.

Many people consider cleaning floors to be a relatively straightforward task they can simply approach with “common sense”. It’s true that the rules for safely cleaning floors are easy to follow once you’re aware of them but a sense of what constitutes common sense varies from person to person, and the same technique won’t work in all cases; for example, using a wet mop for a wet spillage might make the problem worse and simply spread the hazard further across the floor surface.

The people most at risk from a spillage are those cleaning it up, so even for small spills, it’s important to take extra care.

Selecting the Correct Equipment and Techniques

Once a dirty or wet floor is spotted, it’s essential to stop people accessing the area until it is clean and dry. Signs and cones can do this job but might be ignored if the spillage is not obviously visible, so restricting access by locking doors or a similar method is better, if possible.

Consider which substance has been spilled. Is it water or something harmless, or is it a chemical that could cause irritation if it made contact with the skin? Choose the right cleaning materials and make sure you’re using the right amounts. Make sure detergents have enough time to work on greasy floors and use a dry mop or dry vac to leave the surface dry after cleaning.

Making Sure Spills are Reported

Some companies implement a “deal with it” policy towards anyone who spots a spillage. If someone is in the middle of a busy working day, it can sometimes be tempting to leave minor spills or to assume somebody else is dealing with them. Unfortunately, this has led to many workplace slips and injuries.

It won’t always be possible for the person who first spots the spillage to be the one who cleans it up (although staff training can be very useful for letting people know how to deal with smaller spills themselves). However, if staff go into such a situation with a “deal with it” mentality rather than ignoring the problem or assuming someone else will handle it, they’re more likely to notify the person who does need to know, ensuring the cleaning takes place quickly.

The Dangers of Slips and Trips

Making sure floors are cleaned correctly is not just a case of making the workplace look tidy. Falls, slips and trips account for around 31% of all workplace injuries. They are also the most likely type of accident to lead to other types of injuries – for example, a slip leading to a fall from height, or a trip leading to a worker touching a hot surface and getting burned. In one harrowing case, a 16-year-old fast food worker sustained serious burns to her left arm after slipping on water from a leaking ice-making machine and putting her hand into a 360°F oil fryer. The machine had been leaking for several days but the outlet was understaffed and serving customers was prioritised more highly than cleaning up spillages. After a £15,000 fine from the local authority, the employer changed their processes and provided staff with updated training.

Floor cleaning is an important part of an overall culture of good housekeeping. Removing obstructions from walkways and making sure electrical devices don’t leave trailing wires reduce the risk of slips and trips and also reduces a workplace’s fire risk – clutter and below par electrical safety are huge risk factors for workplace fires.

Protecting the health and safety of employees is an employer’s primary duty to their staff. The most common causes of workplace accidents are falls, slips and trips. It is therefore a legal as well as moral obligation for employers to take every possible step to prevent these incidents.

As well as the obvious human cost of these injuries, falls, slips and trips can have a big financial impact. Fox’s Biscuits gave their policy a significant improvement after realising slips and trips were costing them thousands of pounds per year and, one year, 95 days of combined employee absence. By updating their policies, they were able to significantly reduce the amount of these kinds of accidents – a great outcome for the health and safety of their staff and for their business as a whole.

Conduct a Risk Assessment

Risk assessments are a vital step in keeping track of your workplace hazards. Considering all types of potential risks (and speaking to staff, who will most likely have valuable insight and suggestions for improvement) often brings to light issues that were being neglected and might have resulted in a health and safety breach.

For slips and trips, consider both the environment (e.g. trailing cables, flooring in a bad state of repair or inadequate lighting) and the way employers and visitors to the site move around the workplace (e.g. areas and times where there is heavy footfall in particular areas). A record of any “near misses” or previous instances of people tripping can provide good clues as to where the problems might lie.

Fix the Issues

As with all risk assessments, policies relating to slips and trips should be shared widely with employees who have been properly trained in them, and reviewed regularly. This is especially important after any changes in circumstances such as new employees joining or a change in the physical aspects of the workplace, such as a remodelling or an office move.

All reasonable steps should be taken to reduce the likelihood of slips and trips. What shape this takes will vary from business to business and site to site. In all cases, all areas should be adequately lit, with appropriate floor cover (including non-slip mats if needed), and staff should be issued with specialist footwear if their job requires it. All electrical devices should be looked at to ensure there are no trailing wires and all employees can move about their work space without having to step over cables. If extra sockets need to be put it to avoid this, that can also be a step towards greater electrical safety by avoiding socket overload.

It’s important for employers to take into account that some risks may be time- or weather-dependent. For example, a carpark may appear to have adequate lighting during the summer months but turn dangerously dark during winter afternoons. Likewise, a normal welcome mat at an entrance may be perfectly fine for most of the year but extra precautions might be needed during snow or heavy rain.


Risk assessments should not be written in isolation. Policies are more effective and more likely to be followed if staff feel they’ve had some input into their creation and that the policies are relevant to their day to day working experiences. Both employers and employees have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of all colleagues, site visitors and members of the public, so good quality training is vitally important. New starters should be given health and safety training as soon as possible to make sure they’re just as aware of potential risks as long-standing employees.

Staff need to be aware that good housekeeping is not just a matter of cleanliness and keeping the workplace free of clutter; it’s a health and safety matter, with a real impact on both slips and trips and fire safety.

Many companies find it useful to operate a “deal with it” policy towards spillages and trailing cables. During the course of a busy work day, it can sometimes be tempting to spot a potential hazard and assume it’s already being dealt with. However, if everyone takes this attitude, hazards can be left for longer than necessary and increase the likelihood of someone slipping. “Deal with it” policies don’t assume all spillages can automatically be dealt with by the first person who sees them (some require specialist equipment or cleaning products and techniques to clean, especially potentially hazardous substances) but make it more likely that, in these circumstances, the correct person to handle it will be informed as soon as possible.

Most falls, slips and trips are preventable and can be stopped with easy, common sense solutions. It just takes awareness of the risks and an ongoing commitment to protecting all staff from harm.