The environment and contamination

09 July 2019

How environmental conditions and contamination can be managed to reduce the risk of slips and trips.

Matt hazard (860)

Slips and trips – hazards caused by environment and contamination

There are a number of environmental factors that can affect how likely people are to slip. The most important of these include lighting levels (that can help or hinder how easily people will spot hazards), and weather conditions (affecting underfoot conditions indoors and out).

‘Contamination’ refers to anything on a floor surface that can make it more slippery, including dust, mud, gravel, oil and grease, not just water. The amount of contamination needed to make a smooth floor slippery is very small indeed. A slightly damp floor will be just as slippery as one with a deep spill of water on it. The only difference is that the big spill may be easier to spot. 
 
Controlling contaminants by keeping floors clear, clean and dry helps to reduce the risk of slips.   

Slips and trips in historic properties

Improvements such as installing an anti-slip floor, providing extra lighting or fitting a canopy over an entrance doorway may not be practical in a historic property due to conservation reasons as well as cost. 

Similarly, many historic properties will not to be lit to modern standards and frequently lighting levels are kept low, again for conservation reasons. 
 
Risks may also be increased if the property has a high footfall, is open to the public or used for larger events, as there is the potential for more contaminants being walked in from outside or frequency of spillages occurring. 

Top tips for preventing slips and trips

Here are some solutions and considerations to overcome these challenges: 

  • Use LED bulbs as they last longer and can be more cost efficient.
  • Where lighting levels are kept low for conservation reasons, use localised lighting or other means of highlighting hazards.
  • Document and communicate your bad weather plans to staff and volunteers, whilst monitoring local weather forecasts so that you can be proactive when snow or ice are anticipated.
  • Regularly clean entrance matting and ensure it is large enough to capture all moisture walked into the property, and it is in the correct position.
  • On a wet day, walk in from outside and see how far into the building your wet shoes create footsteps – this indicates the amount of absorbent matting you need.
  • Provide lids on drinks cups.
  • Convert shortcuts across grass or muddy/gritty areas to proper paths if appropriate.
  • Include the removal of leaves, moss and algae in your regular maintenance schedule.
  • Choose lighting that illuminates the area sufficiently without creating shadow or glare and set timers and sensors to ensure they activate quickly and do not cut off too soon.

Always consider...

  • If your precautions are adequate given your circumstances.
  • Completing a risk assessment if you need one to comply with health and safety law.
  • Providing information and training for any employees and volunteers on what they need to do.
  • Making periodic checks that your arrangements and precautions remain adequate.
  • Documenting your arrangements and responsibilities for preventing slips and trips, perhaps as part of your health and safety policy.
  • Highlighting challenging areas in your visitor and user information.
Our cold weather advice and the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) ‘Lighting at work, HSG38’ publication may also be of interest. 

Download the guidance

More detailed information about controlling specific risk factors is provided in the guidance produced in collaboration with the HSL below.

HSL