We all slip or trip from time to time. Studies have shown that surfaces need only be a few millimetres out from what our brain is expecting for us to lose our balance or catch a toe, and there’s just no accounting for losing your footing on an unmarked wet floor.
At best, a slip or trip is embarrassing. We look around hoping no one has noticed, try and laugh it off or pretend it was deliberate (like by breaking into a little jog). However, at worst, a slip or trip can be career ending and life changing. Fall awkwardly, land on your back, or break a bone and a little embarrassment becomes a lot of pain.
One of the most common places we are likely to slip or trip is at work. Most of us spend around a third of our waking hours at work, often carrying out repetitive tasks from which we are easily distracted. Similarly, unlike your own space where you usually know what-goes-where, or even the outside world where we set our receptors to a higher level, at work we feel familiar and at home. So, if something is moved or not as it should be we can easily succumb to a fall.
The most common causes of slips include wet floors from cleaning or leakages, inappropriate footwear and poor flooring. One or a combination of these factors found within the workplace slip model can cause potentially dangerous falls. And remember, at work, you are often surrounded by hazardous machinery or substances that can make a slip a more serious incident.
Slip hazards can be avoided with better signage (the wet floor sign is a common example), provision of correct footwear (which falls within the employer’s PPE legal obligations) and a risk assessment of flooring types and suitability.
The trip triangle model focuses on obstructions in hallways, uneven surfaces and poor design (such as irregular staircase risers). In order to prevent trips, always check walkways are suitably cleared. Even if you have walked a certain way thousands of times without thinking, it only takes one poorly placed object to trip.
Good housekeeping practice, such as avoiding creating trip hazards with wires and other obstructions, can help. This may involve working closely with your cleaning team and creating a ‘see it, sort it’ attitude amongst staff. Many accidents are caused by people ignoring issues on the grounds that it’s not ‘their job’ to deal with it.
A more proactive attitude towards design and maintenance is also essential to avoid trip hazards (and to an extent slips too). By regularly assessing the work environment and making sure surfaces are flat, flooring is in good condition and safety measures are in place, you can avoid many of the dangers in the workplace.
The frustrating thing about so many slips and trips is that they are completely avoidable, yet can be so devastating. But with a little thought, planning and good practice, you can prevent a large number of incidents happening in the first place.