Slips and trips at historic properties

24 July 2019

Historic properties can present different slip and trip hazards to modern buildings and can challenge standard preventative methods, often due to the fabric of the building or design constraints.

Historic Property Interior

Slips and trips hazards

Slips and trips cause many injuries, mostly minor but they can be severe and disabling. They are the most common cause of injury in UK workplaces1, and they account for over a third of liability claims2. Hazards can be present inside a property and outside of it, in car parks, grounds and access roads, and temporary structures such as marquees.

Slip and trip risks can develop over time

In comparison with today, historic properties were most likely built to different standards (if any at all) and for very different purposes. Over time, buildings change becoming worn or damaged and whilst this is part of their story, hazards develop. 

Most slips occur when smooth flooring such as stone becomes wet or contaminated as a result of weather conditions or a spillage. Commonly, trips are caused by broken or uneven flooring, hidden steps or worn floor coverings and where electricity cables trail across the floor. Poorly lit areas and tight spiral staircases can also cause a slip or trip.

Guidance for slips and trips in historic properties

Following a unique project by Ecclesiastical and leading researchers at the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL), we have produced a series of guides to help manage slips and trips at historic premises. 

The eight-part guide considers a 360o view from prevention to defensibility, and outlines cost-effective, yet sympathetic solutions to protect buildings as well as people. 

You can access the practical findings of this unique research by reading more about the different risk factors via the images below or going direct to the guidance documents listed at the bottom of this page. 

The problem and the solution

Stairway hazard and solution

 

Building design

The fabric and design of a building can be something to celebrate but might also be a risk. 
 
How do we strike the balance between protecting people and preserving our history, all without breaking the bank? 

  • Hazard
    Dark stairs in the same wood as surroundings
  • Solution
    Varnish nosings a shade lighter or darker and add a handrail.
Find out more button (IMAGE)
 
 

Broken steps hazard

 

Inspection and maintenance

It is important to have an effective approach to inspecting and maintaining floors, paths and other walkways in preventing slips and trips. 
 
It can also help in a defense case should a claim be made against you.

  • Hazard
    Broken paving
  • Solution
    After inspection, fence it off. 
Find out more button (IMAGE)
 
 

Mat slip hazard

 

The environment and contamination

People are more likely to slip if they don’t see the hazard or if something on the floor affects their grip. 
 
The most important risk factors are lighting levels; adverse weather conditions (affecting conditions underfoot); and contaminants (anything on a floor surface that can make it more slippery).  
 
  • Hazard
    Wet weather being walked inside
  • Solution
    Correct sized and positioned entrance meeting. 
Find out more button (IMAGE)
 
 

Cleaning

 

Cleaning

Proper cleaning and good housekeeping can help to eliminate many slip and trip hazards. 
 
It is easy to get this wrong or ignore it, introducing trip hazards or leaving smooth floors wet and slippery.
 
  • Hazard
    A warning sign left in place after the floor has dried.
  • Solution
    Ensure staff/volunteers know to remove the sign as soon as the floor is safe. 
Find out more button (IMAGE)
 
 

 People on stairs hazard 

People

Understanding how people access and use your property is an excellent way to identify slip and trip hazards. 
 
Consideration should be given to normal, day-to-day activities and the different behaviours displayed at events. 
 
How you share information with staff/volunteers and visitors about preventing slips and trips is also a key precaution. 
 
  • Hazard
    A staircase that is difficult for someone with a physical disability to use
  • Solution
    Present a short video about the spaces that cannot be accessed.  
Find out more button (IMAGE)
 
 

Slips, trips and the law

Naturally, you will want to meet any legal responsibilities you may have. Understanding these will be important and should help you respond in a sensible and proportionate manner.

You can access detailed information about these in relation to slips and trips in Module 2: Slips and trips and the law.
1 Health and Safety Executive – Preventing slips and trips at work, a brief guide. www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg225.pdf
2 Ecclesiastical claims data
HSL