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Slips, trips & falls overview

Slips, trips and falls are the second most common cause of workplace injury, after hazardous manual tasks.

Industries which experience the highest proportion of slips and trips are:

  • manufacturing
  • health and community services
  • construction
  • retail trade.

In particular, slips and trips are a common cause of injury to personal care and nursing assistants, cleaners and sales assistants.

These incidents are a significant problem affecting every workplace, from the factory floor to the office and quite often can result in serious injury and lengthy amounts of time off work.

Hazards and risks

Commons slip and trip hazards often arise from:

  • the type and stability of the floor or ground surfaces such as uneven or broken concrete and sloping ground
  • slippery floor surfaces caused by water, fluid spillage and oil
  • equipment, boxes and materials blocking walkways
  • stairs or steps
  • carrying things that obscure the view ahead
  • poor lighting
  • inadequate or improper footwear
  • incorrect use of ladders
  • falling or moving objects.

In terms of fall hazards, they are often found where work is carried out at heights such as:

  • stacking shelves
  • working on a roof
  • unloading a large truck
  • assessing a silo.

Falls can also occur at a ground level as a result of a slip or trip.

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has a duty of care to provide a safe workplace and systems of work, information, instruction and training. Additionally, they have to give workers an opportunity to consult about work health and safety, whilst being responsible for identifying hazards, assessing risks and managing the hazards also.

Risk assessment

A risk assessment should be undertaken to determine the level of risk and appropriate controls. This gives the PCBU the opportunity to discuss issues and negotiate suitable arrangements for reducing slips, trips and falls.

An important part of the risk management process is to have good communication and consultation between PCBUs, workers, health and safety representatives and committees. Doing so will help to identify hazards before any injury, illness or incident can occur. This then leads to developing measures to eliminate or reduce the associated risks.

As workers, you have a responsibility to protect your own health and safety along with others affected by the work, whilst also abiding by procedures and policies in relation to workplace safety. It is necessary for all workers to be provided with important information and training to allow them to fulfil this obligation.

Risk control measures

Often, it is the little things that cause slipping, tripping and falling to happen in the first place, so it is important to remember to work together. There are several ways to help minimalize these incidents occurring, such as:

  • maintaining good house-keeping protocols, including rubbish removal
  • storing equipment correctly
  • using ladders and steps correctly
  • reporting damage to floors and surfaces
  • clearly identifying and staying on marked walkways
  • implementing a clean and clear walkway policy
  • affixing mats to the floor surface
  • restricting access to areas that are potentially hazardous
  • providing ramps instead of steps where the height of floor levels change
  • restricting tasks to suitably trained workers
  • providing adequate aisle width and lighting
  • using warning signs.

Further information

Managing the risk of falls in the workplace - Code of practice

Our four-part educational video series will help business operators manage the risk when working at heights and assist them to comply with their work health and safety responsibilities.