Slips, trips and falls

Slips and trips are the most common of workplace hazards and make up over a third of all major injuries. Over 10,000 workers suffered serious injury because of a slip or trip in 2009.

At the UKC in 2009 there were 23 reported accidents resulting from falls (14 staff, 6 students and 3 members of the public). It is quite likely that many more falls occurred but that people did not report them because their injuries were trivial. Full reporting of all slips, trips and falls would help us build up a better picture of the risks across campus and allow us to target preventative changes more accurately.

Some typical risk situations for slips, trips and falls

  • Unsafe ladders [see ladders for more information]
  • Unsafe stairs
  • Slippery surfaces
  • Walkway obstructions
  • Improper shoes
  • Running
  • Poor lighting

If the above are present, there may not automatically be an accident but hurried or careless movements or work habits do make an accident more likely!

Stair safety

Watch out for the risk situations

  • Treads are slippery, worn or broken
  • Slippery under certain conditions, e.g. fallen leaves, rainwater, wet footwear
  • Railings are loose or absent
  • Too steep, or not steep enough
  • Lighting inadequate
  • Distractions

Use the stairs safely

  • Never run up or down
  • Don't carry anything that blocks your vision
  • Use the railing
  • Don't block stairs with obstructions
  • Keep one hand free for support, or to break a fall

Falls on level ground

The likely times when falls occur

  • Running or walking too fast
  • Slipping on ice or wet surfaces
  • Poor visibility - dust, glare, smoke
  • Unable to see - load too large
  • Not looking
  • Inappropriate shoes
  • Not keeping all the chair legs on the floor

Things you should do

  • Keep everything in its proper place
  • Put things away after use
  • Step over or around obstructions, not on them
  • Ensure adequate lighting
  • Walk and change direction slowly - especially when carrying something

And things to avoid

  • Don't leave tools or materials on the floor
  • Don't block walkways with machines, equipment, supplies etc.
  • Don't leave cords, cables and hoses on walkways
  • Don't place anything on the stairs
  • Don't leave drawers open
  • Don't carry or push loads that block your vision

Other things to look out for

  • Loose or bent floor boards or tiles
  • Unsecured rugs
  • Changes in level or slope of floor
  • Changes in floor surface
  • Broken concrete
  • Manholes
  • Uncovered drains
  • Temporary obstructions e.g. deliveries

More hints to prevent slips

  • Clean up spills, drips and leaks immediately
  • Provide hazard signs until surfaces are dry
  • Avoid turning sharply on slippery surfaces
  • Keep your hands at your sides, not in your pockets
  • Test grip on wet or slippery surfaces
  • Don't rely on someone else to clear up or report a hazard

The risk of injury can be reduced by

  • Reducing the number of slips, trips and falls
  • Training and informing staff and students and promoting ongoing awareness
  • Conducting or reviewing a suitable and sufficient risk assessment
  • Taking precautions to reduce the likely harm if a fall happens
  • Marking dangerous areas
  • Guarding edges
  • Only carrying reasonable loads


When to use, or not to use, a ladder

Ladders are primarily for access and to undertake simple inspections. They should not be used as a working base, unless the job is uncomplicated, and can be carried out in a short period without requiring both hands.

A competent person should conduct a risk assessment to determine whether ladder use is appropriate for the job.  The risk assessment should address ladder condition, location and tasks.  Some general points appear below.

Setting up a ladder

  • Ensure the ladder is on a level surface
  • Use boards on soft ground
  • Anchor the ladder at the top
  • Tie the ladder at the bottom or ensure someone holds it
  • Ensure there is no more than 1 metre extension above the top support point
  • Use the 4 to 1 rule:- foot of ladder should be one foot horizontally from wall for each four feet distance vertically to the top support point

Things you must do when using a ladder

  • Wipe shoes before climbing ladder
  • Face ladder when climbing it
  • Hold on with both hands when ascending or descending
  • Hold on with one hand while working
  • Use a hanger for tools or buckets
  • Keep weight centred between rails

Things you must NOT do when using a ladder

  • Don't carry objects while climbing - use a belt, pocket or hoist
  • Don't stand on the top two rungs of a stepladder
  • Don't stand on the top four rungs of a ladder
  • Don't have two people on the ladder at the same time
  • Don't lean to the side when on the ladder - keep your belt buckle inside the rails!

Other tips when using a ladder

  • Don't use boxes or chairs - get the ladder or steps
  • If the ladder is near a door, lock it or block it

Ladder safety checklist