Slips, trips and falls: on the same level
Slipping, tripping and ultimately falling from any height, can result in short to long-term injuries, even death.
Slips, trips and falls (STF) are the most common cause of serious injuries at work in NSW after hazardous manual tasks, with both contributing to musculoskeletal disorder (MSD).
MSDs that may result from a slip, trip or fall include:
- sprains, strains or other soft tissue injuries
- back and disc injuries
- permanent long-term injuries/impairments or
- even death, because of a fall.
Common sources of risk within internal environments include:
- uneven flooring
- changes to flooring/traction types (concrete to carpet)
- sloping surfaces
- poorly maintained floor surfaces
- slippery floor surfaces, resulting from cleaning products/methods
- contaminants or spills (liquids, water, grease, oil, dust or paper)
- cluttered or inadequate space to perform tasks
- poorly lit areas
- lack of appropriately marked walkways, edges or steps
- loose or unanchored rugs/mats
- loose cords and cables
- lack of or inappropriate use of aids/equipment to reach items or products stored at a height.
Other common sources of risk may include:
- poor lighting when exiting and entering vehicles
- footwear is inappropriate for environmental conditions
- uneven ground surfaces, holes and cracks
- uneven or various step height and width
- plant growth or other contaminants (grass, moss, lichen)
- pets and other animals
- obstructed view or other distractions (mobile phones/displays).
In addition to the working environment, it is also important for a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to consider and minimise the human/individual, organisational and psychosocial factors, which may contribute and increase the likelihood of a slip, trip or fall incident occurring, these may include factors such as:
- work load and time management (rushing around)
- policy, procedures, workplace support and leadership
- workers with special needs or disability.
Unlike falls from working at heights (common within construction and manufacturing industries), incidents involving slips, trips and falls at the same level, can happen in any workplace, at any time.
No industry is exempt or at a lesser risk.
Hazards and risk controls
|Slips||occur when there is too little friction or traction between footwear and the walking surface|
|Trips||occur when the foot collides with an obstruction or there is foot contact with a highly tactile surface, resulting in the loss of balance and a likely fall|
|Falls||occur because of either a slip, trip, loss of balance or where the surface a person is standing on / stepping onto, collapses or moves from underneath their footing them causing the person to rapidly descend from a height or on the same level, to the ground or lower level without control|
When considering possible solutions, you must consult with your workers. You can use the Hierarchy of Controls as a guide. Listen to their views about the working environment and draw on their experiences and ideas to make the most appropriate changes to suit your workplace.
|Hierarchy of Controls||Examples|
|Eliminating the hazard creating the risk||Remove slip, trip or fall on the same level hazards at the planning and design stage or when renovating a facility. Install more power outlets and eliminate split level flooring.|
|Substituting the hazard creating the risk with a hazard that gives rise to a lesser risk||Resurface floors. Replace substances or equipment currently being used.|
|Isolating the hazard from the person put at risk||Limit access to high-risk areas.|
|Minimising the risk by engineering means||Apply floor treatments. Contain spills. Improve lighting. Install handrails.|
|Minimising the risk by administrative means||
Adopting safe working practices. |
Providing appropriate training, instruction or information.
Regular environmental workplace inspections.
Monitoring of tasks undertaken.
Regular monitoring of relevant records, data and statistics.
Housekeeping and cleaning.
|Using personal protective equipment||Wearing appropriate footwear.|
1. Risk management
In consultation with workers, when managing risks within the workplace:
- identify potential risks which may contribute to a slip, trip and fall
- assess the risks, what is the likelihood and consequence of the slip, trip and fall occurring.
- implement control measures to eliminate, or if unable, then reduce the risk/s as much as reasonably practicable
- implement a review or evaluation schedule to ensure the current control measures remain effective and have not introduced any new hazards to the workplace/work area.
2. Systems of work
A PCBU must:
- provide workers with information, instruction, training and supervision on work processes and equipment relevant to their task
- provide workers with adequate space to perform tasks
- identify workplace risks and implement control measures in consultation with workers
- ensure there are appropriate and clear requirements for reporting safety risks, so they can be fixed
- ensure regular inspections and maintenance of all areas and equipment, within the workplace
- ensure suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is worn by workers when identified as a suitable control measure, that is appropriate for the work environment, such as non-slip footwear for wet, oily, dusty or icy environments
- keep items at a suitable height to avoid the need to climb to reach them
- keep hallways and corridors clear of obstructions.
Workers must take all reasonable efforts to follow safety procedures, training and instructions provided by the PCBU.
3. Floors, ground surfaces and lighting
During the workplace design stage, a PCBU should ensure:
- floor surfaces are appropriate for the type of work or tasks being carried out
- where appropriate, floor surfaces are consistent (slip resistant/friction level) when people are moving between different areas at the workplace
- stairs and steps or changes to surface heights are clearly identifiable
- stairs are constructed with adequate and consistent depth, height and edges
- appropriate type and amount of lighting is installed to ensure safe entrance/egress in and around work areas and is appropriate for the task to be performed
- there is a sufficient number of power outlets installed or suspended to eliminate cords on floors
- adequate exhaust and drainage is installed to prevent the buildup of dust, vapours and other contaminants.
At all times, a PCBU and workers should ensure:
- adequate space between and around work areas to perform tasks
- adequate storage of equipment, goods and personal belongings to eliminate clutter and obstructions
- to restrict access to work areas with higher risks of slips, trips and falls
- regular floor cleaning and maintenance, using the appropriate cleaning products
- appropriate (fit for task) footwear is worn where required as a control measure for a risk.
When considering the most appropriate type or slip resistance floor surface for your workplace, refer to the following table:
|Concrete||Rounded aggregate can be slippery when concrete wears. Interior surface is often sealed to prevent dusting and absorption of liquids - this can increase slipperiness.|
|Terrazzo||Gives good appearance and wears well but can be slippery when wet, when excess polish used or when dusty.|
|Quarry tiles, ceramic tiles||Low water absorption and good resistance to chemicals. Slippery in wet conditions if smooth but can be moulded with aggregate or profiles to improve slip resistance - special cleaning equipment may then be required.|
|Glazed ceramic tiles||Slippery when wet, particularly with soapy water. Some slip resistance treatments available, but preferable not to install these products on floors.|
|Vinyl tiles and sheet||Easy to clean. Use sheet form where frequent washing is required to avoid water getting under tiles. Slippery when wet, particularly if polished, however slip resistant vinyls are available. These have aggregate moulded in. Thicker and softer vinyls are more slip resistant that hard ones.|
|Cork||Must be sealed to prevent absorption of oil and water but may then be slippery when wet.|
|Steel plate||Tends to be slippery when wet or oily, particularly when worn.|
|Rubber||Less effective in wet conditions. Must be fixed down well at the edges and joints or will cause a trip hazard.|
|Plastic matting||Interlocking PVC extrusions give good drainage and slip resistance. Hose down or steam clean.|
|Carpet||Carpet has a shorter life than hard floor surfaces but it can be a cost-effective solution. Installations should be wall-to-wall to avoid the hazard of a trip on edges. When use in small local areas, such as at entrances, it should be installed in a recess in the floor. Alternatively, it should be rubber-backed and with hardwearing tapered edges. Trolleys can be harder to push on carpet, but if larger wheels are fitted and the carpet does not have a deep pile, this is not a serious problem.|
|Fibreglass gratings||This product can have grit particles moulded into upper surface to provide very good slip resistance. Fluids are quickly drained away.|
In order to reduce and eliminate the risks of slips, trips and falls both a PCBU and workers should ensure:
- regular inspections are programmed for internal and external floor surfaces to detect early signs of damage or introduced risks
- all incidents, near misses and other observed risks are appropriately reported and managed/controlled
- regular maintenance programs are scheduled for floors/ground surfaces that follow the manufacturer's instructions. Sometimes this may be as simple as a cleaning routine
- good housekeeping is maintained in and around work areas
- footwear and mats used are appropriate for the task and environment
- where required, regular inspections are completed on machinery and equipment to detect early signs of damage, spills or any other introduced risks, which may lead to slips, trips and falls.
5. Workplace incidents
- Workers should immediately notify their Supervisor/Manager and a PCBU must provide First Aid procedures.
- If there is a serious injury, death or dangerous incident at your workplace, you must report it to SafeWork NSW immediately on 13 10 50.
- Commence an internal incident investigation, identify and then implement corrective actions to prevent recurrence.
Workplace injury tips
- Use the Have you been injured at work? web app to find out what you need to do next. The app contains information on your weekly payments and entitlements and will help you plan your next steps in recovery and return to work.
- Contact icare for information on notifying a workplace injury and the claims process.
- For recovery at work information visit the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA), Injury Advice Centre.
Technical help and resources
Codes of Practice and Guidance
For practical information about preventing and managing Slips, Trips and Falls see the Safe Work Australia - Factsheet Slips, Trips at the Workplace.
For more information about the risk management process, see Code of Practice for How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks.
For more information on working at heights and managing the risk of falls, see Code of Practice for Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces.
Slip Resistance of Pedestrian Surfaces - Guide to the reduction of slip hazards
AS 4586-2013/Amdt 1-2017
Slip resistance classification of new pedestrian surface materials
Fixed platforms, walkways, stairways and ladders - Design, construction and installation
Safety, protective and Occupational footwear – Guide to selection, care and use, see Appendix A and B – selection guide based on the slip – Resistance characteristics of sole materials and Assessment of Footwear
Personal Protective Equipment – Safety footwear, see 5.3.5 – Slip resistance requirements
SafeWork NSW Guidance and Resources
- Easy to do Work Health and Safety: a small business interactive tool kit
- SafeWork NSW – Facilities at work
- SafeWork NSW – Falls safety guide
- SafeWork NSW – Working at heights
- SafeWork NSW – Falls on the same level (examples of eligible Small Business Rebate items)
- SafeWork NSW – Safe design and use of stairs
- SafeWork NSW – Slips, trips and falls self-assessment tool
Other legislative requirements within the Work Health and Safety Regulations that will apply to a PCBU and workers, in the management of slips, trips and falls in their workplace, include but not limited to:
- managing risks to health and safety
- information, training and instruction
- First Aid
- Emergency Management and
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Sample hazard checklist
Checklist for the prevention of slips, trips and falls on the same level
|If any of these hazards are ticked, actions needs to be taken.|
|Can water be walked onto smooth floors (eg foyers) on rainy days?|
|Are there any hard, smooth floors in wet or oily areas?|
|Are there any leaks of fluids onto the floor from processes or machines?|
|Is poor drainage causing pooling of fluids?|
|Are there any floor surface transitions not easily noticed (any ridge that is as high as a footwear sole or higher?)|
|Is there any ice or water on cold room floors?|
|Is the floor slippery when wet?|
|Is there poor drainage causing pooling of fluids?|
|Are there any anti-slip paint, coating profiles or tapes worn smooth or damaged?|
|Are there any isolated low steps (commonly at doorways)?|
|Are there any trip hazards due to equipment and other objects left on the floor?|
|Are there any raised carpet edges or holes worn in carpets?|
|Are there any tiles becoming unstuck or curling at the edges?|
|Are there any holes or unevenness in the floor surface?|
Stairs and ramps
|Is the lighting insufficient for ramps or steps to be seen clearly and without glare?|
|Do any steps have too small a rise or tread or an excessive nosing?|
|Are any step edges (nosings) slippery or hard to see?|
|Are the steps uneven or are there excessive variations in step dimensions?|
|Are handrails inadequate on stairs?|
|Are ramps too steep or too slippery?|
|Is there sufficient lighting in passageways and at flooring transitions, ramps or stairs?|
|Does the lighting throw distracting shadows or produce excessive glare?|
|Is there a build up of moss or other vegetation on pathways?|
|Are there any surface transitions not easily noticed (any ridge that is as high as a footwear sole or higher)?|
|Are there potholes in footpaths or walkways?|
|Is there a build-up of polish on floors?|
|Is there an excessive residue of detergent?|
|Do employees have to walk on floors wet from washing?|
|Are wet floor signs not available or not used correctly?|
|Do you need to provide information / training / advice to contractors regarding cleaning procedures?|
|Are paper, rubbish, dirt, spills etc. left on the floor?|
|Are aisles poorly marked and cluttered?|
|Are any anti-slip paint and coating profiles or tapes worn smooth or damaged?|
|Are there any trip hazards due to equipment and other movable objects left lying on the ground?|
|Do spills (wet or dry) occur regularly during work processes?|
|Do employees have to talk or work on greasy, oily or wet floors that are not adequately slip resistant?|
|Do loads that are carried or pushed interfere with forward vision?|
|Are the loads to be carried excessive or likely to upset a person's balance?|
|Do heavy trolleys have to be pushed up ramps?|
|Are employees hurried due to time constraints?|
|Do the employees' safety shoes lack grip?|
|Are the tread patterns on safety footwear too worn?|
|Are the tread patterns clogged with dirt?|