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What causes slips and trips – flooring advise

Slip and trip accidents can happen for a number of reasons, but all too frequently we jump to conclusions about why they happen rather than really looking for the true cause or, we decide that it is just one of those things and do nothing.

The following should help you to understand what causes a slip or trip and give you some ideas on what you can do to stop accidents from happening again. What you may find is that there are a number of options open to you that are quite straightforward and relatively easy to implement.

The diagram below is the slip and trip potential model. The bubbles highlight the main factors that can play a part in contributing to a slip or trip accident. One or more may play a part in any situation or accident. Click on each bubble for more information

cleaningflooringenvironmentfootwearpeoplecontamination and obstacles



  • The floor in a workplace must be suitable for the type of work activity that will be taking place on it.
  • Where a floor can’t be kept dry, people should be able to walk on the floor without fear of a slip despite any contamination that may be on it. So it should have sufficient roughness. (See ‘ Assessing the slip resistance of flooring [PDF 321kb]’ for more information on surface roughness)
  • The floor must be cleaned correctly to ensure that it does not become slippery or keeps its slip resistance properties (if a non slip floor)
  • The floor must be fitted correctly
    • to ensure that there are no trip hazards
    • to ensure that non slip coatings are correctly applied
  • The floor must be maintained in good order to ensure that there are no trip hazards e.g. holes, uneven surfaces, curled up carpet edges
  • Ramps, raised platforms and other changes of level should be avoided, if they can’t they must be highlighted

Stairs should have:

  • high visibility, non slip, square nosings on the step edges
  • a suitable handrail
  • steps of equal height
  • steps of equal width

For detailed information on flooring and stairs see Safer surfaces to walk on, CIRIA link to external website

Case studies

  • Poor floor specification threatened opening of museum
  • Pub restaurant chain’s choice of kitchen floor surface
  • Holed walkway went unrepaired for months before injuring a health service worker
  • Further case studies


Most floors only become slippery once they become contaminated. Prevent contamination and you reduce or even eliminate the slip risk.

Contamination can be classed as anything that ends up on a floor e.g. rainwater, oil, grease, cardboard, product wrapping, dust etc. the list is endless. It can be a by-product of a work process or be due to adverse weather conditions. If product ends up on the floor it is costing the company money.

First think about whether you can eliminate the problem, e.g.

  • Fit effective canopies to external entranceways to stop rainwater from entering a building · Fix leaking machines
  • Change the system of work

If not, can the contamination be controlled e.g.: –

  • drip trays for leaks
  • lids on cups and containers
  • good sized mats at building entrances to dry feet

If you can’t stop contamination from getting onto a floor you will need to ensure that it is cleaned effectively and quickly. More information on cleaning.

If you are relying on the floor to be good enough to cope with the contamination and still be non-slip you need to remember that the more viscous (the thicker) the contamination the rougher a floor needs to be in order for slips not to happen. (For more information look at ‘ Assessing the slip resistance of flooring’ for more information on surface roughness )

Case studies

  • Oily floors in engineering workshop
  • Tackling slips and trips in a further education establishment
  • Carpet company fails to maintain their own carpets
  • Further contamination case studies


50% of all trip accidents are caused by bad housekeeping. So improving housekeeping would eliminate a large number of accidents.

  • Ensure there is a suitable walkway through the workplace
  • Keep it clear, no trailing wires, no obstructions.
  • Look at people’s workstations, are the floors tidy, do they have enough storage space?
  • What about other rooms? Are they tidy, are goods suitably stored, are there enough bins?

Good housekeeping doesn’t cost money; it just takes a little personal effort. Do all staff at your workplace (workers, managers, cleaners, maintenance technicians etc.) have a see it, sort it attitude?

Case studies

  • Trip risk warnings ignored
  • Japanese 5S management system


Cleaning affects every workplace, nowhere is exempt. It is not just a subject for cleaning managers and staff; everyone in the workplace has a job to do e.g. keeping your workspace clear; and dealing with your own spillages.

The process of cleaning can create slip and trip hazards, especially for those entering the area being cleaned, such as the cleaners, for example, smooth floors left damp by a mop are likely to be extremely slippery and trailing wires from a vacuum or buffing machine can present a trip hazard.

An effective cleaning regime requires a good management system to help you identify problem areas, decide what to do, act on decisions made and check that the steps have been effective. Good communications are needed at all levels e.g. between equipment and chemical suppliers to ensure suitability of product for the type of contaminant and floor.

Effective training and supervision is essential to ensure cleaning is undertaken to the correct standard. Cleaners need to be informed of their duties and why the cleaning needs to be undertaken in a particular way or at a particular time. Lack of understanding can lead to inappropriate shortcuts.

Contamination is implicated in almost all slip accidents. Regular and effective cleaning to remove contamination helps reduce accidents.

Top tips –

  • Use the right amount of the right cleaning product
  • Detergent needs time to work on greasy floors
  • Cleaning equipment will only be effective if it is well maintained
  • A dry mop or squeegee will reduce floor-drying time but whilst the floor is damp there will be a slip risk.
  • A well-wrung mop will leave a thin film of water sufficient enough to create a slip risk on a smooth floor.
  • Spot clean where possible.

People often slip on floors that have been left wet after cleaning. Stop pedestrian access to smooth wet floors by using barriers, locking doors, or cleaning in sections. Signs and cones only warn of a hazard, they do not prevent people from entering the area. If the spill is not visible they are usually ignored

For more information on cleaning and preventing slips and trips look at the guidance sheet ‘Cleaning and its impact on slips and trips [PDF 60kb] PDF

Case studies

  • No one told the cleaners
  • Serious burn lead to serious fine for fast food company
  • Further cleaning case studies

People or human factors

How people act and behave in their work environments can affect slips and trips.

Individual behaviour

  • A positive attitude toward health and safety, a ‘See it, sort it!’ mentality can reduce the risk of slip and trips accidents e.g. dealing with a spillage, instead of waiting for someone else to deal with it.
  • What footwear is worn can also make a difference e.g. wearing high heels at work will make you more vulnerable to a slip.
  • Things that prevent you from seeing or thinking about where you are going, can also increase the risk of an accident e.g. rushing about, carrying large objects, Becoming distracted whilst walking e.g. using a mobile phone

Physical attributes – If individuals have a physical problem that stop them from seeing, hearing, or walking in a regular manner it can increase the likelihood of an accident that effects gait and ability to walk

Factors in work, or created by the work activity can help stop or increase the risk of slips and trips.

Look at: –

  • What tasks are taking place? Can they be improved? e.g. fewer/smaller boxes to carry so worker can clearly see route ahead.
  • Maintenance of equipment
  • Housekeeping systems
  • Provision of appropriate personal protective equipment

Case studies

  • Changing attitudes to tackling slips and trips
  • Logical approach cuts slips and trips by two thirds at food processor

Further information

  • Diversity in the workplace


Environmental issues can increase the risk of, or prevent slips and trips, so it is important to take them into consideration. But firstly, what does the term ‘Environment’ mean as regards slips and trips? Lighting (natural or otherwise), loud or unfamiliar noises, the weather, humidity, condensation etc.

The following gives an indication of how they can affect slips and trips

  • Too much light on a shiny floor can cause glare and stop people from seeing hazards on the floor and stairs.
  • Too little light will also prevent people from seeing hazards on the floor and stairs.
  • Unfamiliar and loud noises may be distracting.
  • If rainwater gets onto a smooth surface inside or outside of a building, it may create a slip hazard. Good entrance design (e.g. canopies) can help.
  • Cold weather can cause frost and ice to form, which may create slippery surfaces. (Link to gritting)
  • Condensation may make a smooth floor slippery.

More information on ‘Environment’ can be found in the Safer surfaces to walk on, CIRIA link to external website

  • Controlling slips and trips in winter weather conditions

Case studies

  • Slippery store entrance in wet weather
  • Cold store
  • Walkway level changes hard to spot


Footwear can play an important part in preventing slips and trips.

  • Where you can’t control footwear e.g. pedestrians using a shopping centre thoroughfare. It is vitally important to ensure that smooth floors are kept clean and dry.
  • For work situations where you have some control over footwear, but where floors are mainly clean and dry, a sensible footwear policy can help reduce risks. For slips and trips sensible means: – flat, with a sensible heel, with the sole and heel made in a softer material that provides some grip.
  • In work situations where floors can’t be kept dry or clean e.g. food preparation, the right footwear will be especially important, so a slip resistant shoe may be required. If an employer introduces a slip resistant shoe policy, the footwear will be considered to be personal protective equipment and will be subject to the requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations e.g. will have to be provided to employees free of charge (for more information on the regulations see – The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations [PDF 100kb] PDF)

Choosing the most suitable slip-resistant footwear for a particular environment / work activity can be difficult. Descriptions of slip-resistance given in suppliers brochures range from ‘improving the grip performance’ to ‘excellent multi-directional slip-resistance’, but often do not describe the work environments for which footwear are, or are not, suitable.

Slip-resistant industrial footwear will normally have been tested for slip-resistance according to BS EN 13287:2004 – Personal protective equipment – Footwear – Test method for slip resistance, often using SATRA test method TM 144. Do not select footwear on the basis of brochure descriptions or laboratory test results alone. Footwear, which claims ‘slip-resistance’, may not perform well in your work environment. So how can you make the best choice?

  • Undertake a footwear trial before buying sufficient stock for your entire workforce.
  • Footwear can perform differently in different situations. For example, footwear that performs well in wet conditions might not be suitable where there are food spillages.
  • A good tread pattern is essential on fluid-contaminated surfaces. The pattern is characterised by, among other things, leading edges in all directions to sweep away lubricant leaving dry contact under cleats.
  • Sole tread patterns should not become clogged with any waste or debris on the floor. If they do then that design of sole is unsuitable for the situation.
  • Sole material type and hardness are key factors; caution is needed in making generalisations and testing is always recommended.
  • When choosing footwear take account factors such as comfort, durability and any additional safety features required, such as steel mid-sole. The final choice may have to be a compromise.

Case studies

  • Temporary staff miss out on anti-slip footwear
  • Pet food company reduces slip accidents after introducing new footwear
  • Further footwear case studies

Source: Office for National Statistics licensed under the Open Government Licence v.1.0.


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