Mark Thomas asks: can slips and trips be prevented?

23 Aug

Statistics show that slips and trips are the most common cause of major injuries in UK workplaces, costing UK society around £600m a year. Reported accidents to workers for 2009/10 reveal that slips and trips resulted in four fatalities, 10,561 major injuries (41% of all major injuries) and 23,088 over-3-day injuries (23% of the total). They also accounted for just under 40% of all reportable injuries to members of the public, and are often the initial cause of other accidents, such as falls from height.

However, despite efforts from HSE and others in recent years – including large publicity campaigns, such as Shattered Lives (http://www.hse.gov.uk/shatteredlives) – the accident figures remain stubbornly high. So, can the problem be solved or are slips and trips ‘just one of those things that happen’ and for which ‘nothing can be done about them anyway’?

On question that needs to be asked is why are slips and trips rarely, if ever, covered on health and safety vocational training courses? Two years ago HSE developed a useful e-learning package on slips and trips (STEP) aimed at managers, supervisors and shopfloor staff – is it being used to train people in your workplace?

In addition, although there are European Standards on flooring and footwear many are beginning to question if these are adequate, given there are so many slipping accidents. Are employers able to easily identify the appropriate type of flooring for their workplace from manufacturers’ literature? If you find yourself charged with buying slip-resistant flooring, do you understand all the slip test data that manufacturers and suppliers quote for their products?

And if the European Standard for slip-resistant footwear is up to scratch why do nearly 40% of reportable slips and trips occur in sectors where workers already wear safety boots?

On the other hand, many slipping accidents are caused by inappropriate cleaning – smooth floors being left wet after mopping, for example. Surely this is a simple problem to solve? What are your thoughts?

There are some success stories quoted in HSE’s Shattered Lives campaign, where companies have reduced slips and trips. Have you got a successful intervention on slips and trips that others could learn from? And what effect will the planned 35% cut to HSE’s budget have on the UK’s efforts to prevent  slips and trips at work?

If you want to learn more about this subject, watch out for my article in the September edition of Safety Management magazine, landing on doorsteps in the coming days.

About our guest blogger

Mark Thomas is a consultant on slips and trips who previously worked as a policy adviser for HSE’s slips and trips team. He can be contacted at: markslippythomas@hotmail.co.uk

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