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Taking Slips Seriously?

From YouTube video clips to television programmes that thrive on it, it seems that human slip ups are a great source of amusement to many. As long as the poor individual comes out unscathed, it is fair to say that we are all guilty about having the odd snigger at someone else’s expense. But, there is a serious side to slipping that simply shouldn’t be ignored. And one that certainly isn’t funny.

Slip-related accidents, whether at home, in the workplace or in other public areas, are linked to some rather startling statistics. Combined with tripping, this type of accident remains the most common cause of major injury in the UK workplace according to HSE statistics. Both slipping and tripping can also lead to more serious accidents, especially if machinery, hot or hazardous liquids or sharp objects are close by.

Slips frequently lead to fractured bones (especially dangerous to those individuals with low bone density). So irrespective of age, a slip or fall can be very serious.

The facts:

HSE statistics for 2011-2012 reveal Slips and Trips are the most common cause of major injuries to employees. Combined slips, trips and falls accounted for more than half of all major reported injuries (53%) and almost a third of over 3 day injuries (29%), making up 34% of all reported injuries to employees. (RIDDOR) This is similar to the percentage of major injuries of this type reported for the previous 5 years.

Human Health and Social Care was the sector with the most ‘major slips and trips’ (1377) followed by Transportation and Storage with the highest number of ‘over 3 day injuries’ as a result of slips and trips (3615). Other sectors featuring highly in the ‘over 3 day injury’ category includes Human Health and Social Care (3046 slips and trips) and Manufacturing (2686 slips and trips). Source: RIDDOR

Slips and trips injuries comprise 35% of ‘major’ injuries in the food and drink industries (e.g. causing a bone fracture or requiring hospitalisation). Slips injuries are more prevalent in the food and drink industries than in most other industries.

An estimated 1.3 million working days have been lost as a result of slips, trips and falls (940,000 days approx. of which are down to slip-related accidents alone) according to the Labour Force Survey.

Slips do not just occur in the workplace. The general public are also affected and this is generally more prevalent in Autumn and Winter months due to weather conditions such as rain, snow and ice causing slippery surfaces. Hence, the reason Accident & Emergency very often experience increased admission (especially for fractured bones) during December and January. For example, Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) state that from March 2010 to February 2011, falls accounted for 459,344 finished admission episodes (FAE) while ‘Unspecified falls’ (183,606) accounted for the highest proportion of admissions, followed by a ‘fall on same level from slipping tripping and stumbling’ (88,630).

There are many more minor injuries caused by slips, trips and falls that are unreported, but very often still cause pain and discomfort to the individual concerned.

Who is at most risk?

Everyone is potentially at risk of slipping, but certain groups of people and professions are more vulnerable than others such as:

  • Children are more likely to fall when playing.
  • Adults with certain health conditions present risks such as balance, poor eyesight, muscle weakness and disability.
  • Employees whose jobs involve working on wet/oily/or debris-prone work surfaces.

Sectors at Risk:

All workplaces, homes and public areas are at some risk, especially:

  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Retail – in particular food retail
  • Catering and Hospitality
  • Building and Plant Maintenance
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction

What can be done?

Conduct a Risk Assessment to identify potential hazards and take preventative measures accordingly.

Ensure a floor surface is ‘fit for purpose’.

Good housekeeping is essential for all commercial and public buildings through regular cleaning and ensuring that walkways are hazard free.

Effective entrance matting will help to prevent moisture, mud, ice and snow from being walked into buildings and is especially important where there are smooth floor surfaces.

Anti-slip floor products can be very beneficial to many manufacturing facilities and other businesses, such as catering environments.

Clean any spillage immediately. Until dry, stop people from walking on this area.

It is important to regularly clean floor matting of any type to maintain optimum performance.

For external walkways and stairs, slip resistance can be aided through the installation of GRP products, which come in the form of sheets, stair treads and nosing.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has an extensive range of information and tools available to increase safety underfoot, including advice for specific industry sectors. http://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/slips.htm