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Written on 17th February 2023 by Kim Milan

Slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of injuries at work, both to employees and other visitors to the workplace. According to RoSPA, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, workplace slips, trips and falls cause 40% of all reported major injuries.

That should put the prevention of injuries from slips, trips and falls high on any business owner or employer’s agenda. However, research reported by RoSPA in 2022 suggests employers’ attitudes towards slips, trips and falls prevention often include inevitability, inaction and blame. This exposes their people to increased risk of serious injury and the employer to HSE (Health & Safety Executive) prosecution and workplace accident serious injury claims. 

Who is responsible for injuries caused by slips, trips and falls in the workplace?

The law requires employers and business owners to take reasonable steps to reduce the risk of injury from slipping, tripping and falling accidents at work.

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to take reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of their employees and others affected by their work.
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to assess risks and take any necessary actions to address them.
  • The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require floors to be appropriate, free from obstructions and kept in good condition.  

The fact that the law imposes a legal duty or responsibility on every employer implies that awareness and action by employers can and should prevent  slipping, tripping and falling injuries at work.  HSE takes this legal duty very seriously and prosecutes employers who persistently ignore their responsibilities.

Where a breach of this duty causes or contributes to a worker suffering a serious injury, we can usually recover compensation for their injuries and financial losses, as well as rehabilitation funded by the employer’s insurers, through an accident at work compensation claim.

RoSPA disappointed by employers’ attitudes towards prevention of slip, trip and fall injuries

RoSPA reported that the responses of nearly 3,000 people in their recent study revealed a stark lack of awareness amongst particularly SME (small and medium sized business) employers about their responsibilities to protect employees and visitors from injury from falls.

RoSPA found that a significant proportion of business decision-makers don’t see slips, trips and falls as important. Those who recognised the importance were mainly from larger organisations. Just over a quarter (27%) said slips, trips and falls were not an issue in their industry, but this figure fell to 11% amongst larger organisations.  Nearly 10% of employers gave negative or hostile responses when asked if their business had a slips, trips and falls problem, and many dismissed any consideration of ways to eliminate slips, trips and falls with comments which included that it was a ‘stupid idea’. 

Nearly a third (32%) of business decision makers thought slips, trips and falls were caused simply by people not looking where they were going. 17% thought the biggest barrier to safety was their own staff, either from human nature (9%) or poor attitude or adherence (8%).

25% considered footwear to be a common cause of slipping, tripping and falling accidents. 63% of employers said they have an active footwear plan to prevent slips and trips, but 54% of employers never check whether their staff’s footwear is suitable for their work.

Employers and business decision makers were asked about how the ageing workforce and fatigue contributed to workplace slips, trips and falls. 56% of employees said that their employer took steps to manage employee fatigue. Larger organisations were significantly more likely to recognise being overworked, increased workload flow, surface condition and running in the workplace as major causes of slips, trips and falls in their business than SMEs.

53% of respondents believed that falls were inevitable as people get older, with 10% of business leaders attributing older age as a primary cause of employee slips, trips and falling accidents in their workplaces. However, only 28% said that their risk assessment specifically considered age-related risks for slips, trips and falls, and fewer than 30% of employees thought their employer takes steps to address the risk of older people falling at work.  

More than half (51%) of business decision makers believed that slips, trips and falls are inevitable in the workplace. 16% thought that eliminating these accidents is impossible or that nothing can be done to prevent them. The transport and distribution industry had the highest proportion of people who believed that slips, trips and falls are inevitable (72%). Even where it was thought that more could be done, prevention of slips, trips and falls was not seen as a priority.

RoSPA found that business decision makers tended to attribute slips, trips and falls to personal responsibility, human factors and physical conditions, rather than management failings. HR and business decision makers’ responses suggested that employers are doing very little to prevent slipping, tripping and falling accidents in their workplaces, with only 33% having a dedicated falls prevention programme in place.

Workplace culture is often a consequence of employers’ and leaders’ attitudes. RoSPA wants employers to be better educated so that they can demonstrate to their people that slips, trips and falls are taken seriously. By raising awareness, they can create positive organisational cultures in which slips, trips and falls are reported, rather than hidden for fear of embarrassment or blame, so that steps can be taken to reduce the risk of similar accidents in future.

Compensation and rehabilitation for serious injury caused by slips, trips and falling accidents at work

13% of respondents said that their working life had been affected by experiencing, or caring for someone else who had experienced, a slip, trip or falling accident at work. Data from RoSPA’s partner in the research, insurer RSA, suggested that the average claim arising from slip, trip and fall injuries at work was for around £25,000.

At Boyes Turner, our own experience in handling serious injury claims demonstrates that workplace slips, trips and falls can also cause injuries of much greater severity, such as head or brain injury, spinal injury, multiple, complex or major trauma, or fatal injury, in which the rehabilitation costs and compensation recovered are substantially more.

You can read more about some of the settlements we have secured for clients or visitors who were injured in workplace slips, trips and falls here:

If you have suffered a serious injury as a result of unsafe working conditions or an accident at work, you can talk to one of our experienced solicitors, free and confidentially, to find out more about claiming compensation, by contacting us here.