Slip, trip and fall accidents are amongst the most common in the workplace and while they can’t be avoided altogether there are ways to minimise the risks for employees.
Under section 19 of the 2005 Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, employers are required to carry out risk assessments and this has had the effect of significantly reducing the numbers of workplace slip, trip and fall accidents but if employers are found to be negligent in certain ways, then they can be liable.
Basically, if an employee suffers an injury at work then according to UK health and safety laws their employer can be held responsible. Legally, employers must carry out a risk assessment to identify the possible dangers their workers could face and put in place measures to control the level of risk. This includes that of slips, trips and falls.
Employees also have a responsibility for their own safety
This they can do by remaining vigilant and keeping the workplace tidy. They should be encouraged to always report potential hazards and near-misses. It’s vitally important for employees to be proactive about safety and check their work area each and every day before they start and at regular intervals whilst they are working.
The reality of accidents at work
The shocking truth is that slips trips and falls currently cause almost a third of non fatal injuries in the workplace while falls from height are the biggest cause of death of workers in the UK.
There are a number of reasons why they might happen and the health and safety executive (HSE) has a slip potential model as a guide which can be accessed here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/slips/preventing.htm
Of course human error is always a factor and the accident could be caused by something as simple as a worker not paying attention, however, even in this instance it might not be their fault. For example, a person might not be paying attention because they’ve been distracted by something in the workplace that is the fault of the employer.
How do these accidents happen?
Slips trips and falls can be caused by anything, from something as simple as a wet floor, to employers not providing the correct equipment.
Here are just some ways they could happen:
- Floors could become contaminated by an oil spillage for example.
- Loose rugs or mats.
- Routes may be blocked.
- Damaged or uneven flooring might be a trip hazard.
- Floors might get wet during cleaning.
- There might nor be enough lighting.
- Plant and equipment may not be properly maintained.
- Staff may not be provided with the correct footwear such as slip-resistant boots (if it is PPE it must be provided free of charge).
- Trailing cables.
- Bad organisation for work, meaning that people are rushing around all the time.
- Stairs without handrails.
- Distractions that might prevent workers to see where they are going.
- Precautions not taken when working at height and using ladders.
- No protective equipment such as proper headgear
Who could have a STF accident?
The answer is almost anyone. And you don’t have to work in a hazardous industry such as construction for it to happen.
If an employer hasn’t conducted a proper risk assessment then they could be liable if a worker injures themself.
They should also assess who is most at risk such as the young, the elderly, the infirm, those with a disability, pregnant women, or those who may be carrying items and then take the necessary measures to prevent or control (minimise – where prevention is not possible) the risk of slipping or tripping.
Also employers should record and review potential hazards periodically and when there has been any significant change. Research has established that on average, there will be about 40 cases of a slip or stumble resulting in either no injury or only a minor one for every major injury which occurs but employers should encourage staff and visitors to record all slips and trip incidents as these may just signify that a more serious accident is waiting to happen.
The HSE has a free online learning tool, called the Slips and Trips eLearning Package, referred to as ‘STEP’ . This is designed for both employers and workers in all sectors, providing help on assessing and managing slip and trip risks in the workplace.
Workers who believe their employer has been negligent or breached their statutory duties by for example not carrying out a proper risk assessment, can pursue injury claims for accidents and here at Wafer Phillips we have experts in employment law who can help you with your claim.
Anyone who thinks they’ve been impacted by those standards not being upheld can contact us at www.waferphillipssolicitors.co.uk