Is It That Difficult for Employers to Prevent
Slip, Trip and Fall Accidents in the Workplace?

See also: Risk Management

'Trips and slips', as they are colloquially known in the legal sector, are a type of accident that crosses over into many different areas of personal injury law.

For example, there are the 'slips and trips' that occur when you fall on poorly maintained pavements or highways.

Successful supermarket, café, bar and entertainment venue slip trip and fall claims often result from liquid spills left on walkways that the proprietors haven't cleaned up quickly enough.

Google the search term 'slip, trip and fall accident claims', and you are met with a vast number of results—our search returned 105,000,000. Leading the pack on page one of Google are all the large, national firms of personal injury solicitors.

There's a simple reason why the search term is so popular; slip trip and fall injury claims are still big business for personal injury lawyers nationwide.

Slip, trip and fall accidents happen daily in the workplace and in large numbers. Most industries face the risk of dealing with slip and trip claims brought against them at some point in their lifetime.

If you believe we are exaggerating the problem, take a look at the statistics from the latest UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) annual report, Non-fatal injuries at work in Great Britain, 2021/2022:

  • 550,000 workers self-reported they had sustained non-fatal injuries

  • 61,713 employer-referred (to RIDDOR) non-fatal injuries suffered by employees

  • 415,000 non-fatal injuries resulting in up to 7 days of absence from work

  • 150,000 non-fatal injuries resulting in more than 7 days of absence from work

  • Slip, trip and fall accidents on the same level caused 30% of all reported non-fatal injuries to employees.

By no means all slip and trip accidents at work are the employers' fault. However, given the figures quoted, even the most conservative estimate would suggest that many workplace slip, trip and fall accidents are due to employer negligence.

Page after page of solicitors trying to get that next slip, trip and fall accident at work case through their Google listing seems to corroborate this view, too.

What common hazards cause workplace slip, trip and fall accidents?

  • Loose mats and floor coverings
  • Fraying carpets
  • Potholes
  • Cracked tiles
  • Wet or contaminated floors
  • Slippery spillages not cleaned up or flagged up as hazards by barriers or signage
  • Slippery floors
  • Trailing cables or other items left on floors
  • Items left blocking aisles, walkways, gangways or near fire doors or escape routes
  • Absence of or broken handrails on stairways
  • Poor lighting
  • Changes in floor elevation with no warning
  • Flooring that is unsuitable for the task(s) carried out on it
  • Failure to grit icy yards and other outside areas of the workplace

You may ask why any business cannot remove or manage potential hazards like those listed above. You wouldn't be alone, either. Last year, HR specialists Worknest produced a report confirming that over 80% of "wholly avoidable workplace accidents are due to poor planning or lack of risk assessments."

So, why are there so many slip and trip accidents at work?

  • Many employers tend to believe slips and trips will inevitably happen due to circumstances beyond their control, anyway and lead to a "What's the point mindset", setting in. Some believe all slip and trip accidents are the fault of the employee.

  • There is a sense of inevitability surrounding trip and fall accidents in the workplace that can breed a culture where management fails to take trip and slip accidents seriously.

  • The general malaise surrounding the high incidence of slip and trip accidents filters down to the workforce, with a pervading attitude of: 'if the management doesn't care, why should we?'.

  • When this happens, there is a lack of will to engage staff in learning to take responsibility and manage the risk posed by trips and slips.

  • Bad practices develop as managers fail to address them.

What incentive is there for employers to take slip and trip cases more seriously?

1. There's a business case for doing so

The HSE estimates that employee slip, trip and fall accidents cost employers over £500 million a year.

This figure does not include the cost to the health service of treating injured employees (estimated at £133 million per annum).

Nor does it consider the cost to employees from loss of income and the often unquantified cost of the pain, suffering and loss of amenity, the injuries sustained in the accident caused.

That said, when an employee brings a successful employer's liability claim against their employer, it's a given that the pain, suffering and loss of amenity will be quantified by the court when it awards damages to the successful claimant! As a result, the employers' bill for slip and trip cases rises yet further (albeit that in most cases, the cost of successful slip and trip accident claims is usually paid by employer's liability insurance cover).

All businesses affected by slip and trip cases in the workplace share the overall costs associated with these types of accidents. Therefore, it must surely make sense, even to employers with the most jaundiced of views about slip and trip cases, to see the wisdom of trying to stop so many of them from happening!

2. There's a legal and moral case too

If you think we've painted too pessimistic a view of how employers generally see slip, trip and fall cases in their workplaces, you may be right. Nevertheless, in our defence, the statistics speak for themselves.

We still accept that most employers take their duties to keep their employees safe at work very seriously. Whilst they are obliged to by law, most genuinely care about their employees and would take steps to minimise the risk of them coming to any harm at work, even without the duty of care imposed on them at common law and by statute.

The legal duties on employers to keep their employees safe whilst at work

Common Law Duty: Employers must take all reasonably practical steps to ensure their employees' health, safety, and wellbeing.

By implication, employers should do all they reasonably can to prevent slip trip and fall accidents because of hazards like those mentioned earlier.

Legislation applicable to slip, trip and fall claims and their prevention includes:

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 – employers owe a duty of care to their employees and others who may be affected by their work activities.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (Regulation 3): duty on employers to assess risks and act accordingly when hazards are identified.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (Regulation 12) requires floors to be in a suitable condition and free from hazards.

How can workplace slip, trip, and fall accidents be reduced?

  1. Attitudes and perceptions surrounding trip, slip and fall accidents must change before any substantial reductions in accidents can occur.

    It's not just about changing employer attitudes; workers must also buy into the idea that sensible measures can help minimise the risk of slip and trip accidents.

    Still, change must start at the top, and just as poor attitudes rub off on everyone else, so too do positive 'can do' mindsets. Strong leadership with competent and effective managers encouraging worker involvement is the powerful platform for effecting change when tackling the causes of trip, slip and fall claims.

  2. Introduce or reinvigorate a robust risk management system concerning the potential hazards that can cause slip, trip and fall accidents. This involves:

    • Plan – developing policies, profiling and assessing risk, developing strategies, benchmarking and measuring performance.

    • Do – Implementing the practices and procedures from the planning stage. Active management of the health and safety measures to be taken and ensuring education, training, competence levels and work involvement are introduced and/or maintained.

    • Check – monitoring the health and safety measure put in place, investigating accidents, and responding accordingly, where improvements are required

    • Act - address problem areas uncovered by observation, monitoring, and reviewing.


The fact the HSE website devotes as many pages as it does to slip, trip and fall accidents and how to prevent them is, somewhat ironically, a direct response to the annual accident at work statistics HSE itself produces.

Every year, slip, trip and fall accidents are the most common cause of non-fatal injuries in accidents at work, which speaks for itself. Employers and, to some extent, employees are not taking slip, trip and fall accidents seriously enough. As we've also revealed, most slip, trip and fall accidents aren't difficult to prevent if there is a will to try and do so. However, there's a saying:

"Where there's a will, there's a way."

The opposite is also true, and it seems there isn't the will where slips and trips are concerned; otherwise, we wouldn't be looking at statistics telling us 180,000 employees in the UK suffered injuries in slip, trip and fall accidents the last year.

About the Author

Carl Waring is a Solicitor and Head of Business Development at Mooneerams, The Personal Injury Solicitors.