Why is it important to prevent Slips, trips and falls?

As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure
Falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths worldwide[1], in the workplace slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of injury[2] however research shows that over 70% of these types of incidents could have been prevented[3].

In addition to the physical causes of slips such as wet or dusty floors, it is also important to factor in situational awareness from employees and members of the public. As humans we tend to underestimate the risk to ourselves, and when in situations requiring concentration, we can tune out the surrounding environment to focus on what needs to be done[4]. Add to this a confirmation bias that we are safe in our surroundings[5], and it is easy to see why slips, trips and falls are so common – we are busy completing tasks in the fastest manner possible and this limited attention is focused on the task at hand that we do not see the hazards, for example; missing the slip hazard on the floor because our mind is occupied looking for something on a supermarket shelf.

Whilst the causes of slips, trips and falls can vary there are some key factors that are recognised as being the main contributors to slip, trip and fall incidents.

What are the three main causes of slips in the workplace?
Slipping is caused by a lack of grip between surfaces, most commonly between the surface a person is navigating and their footwear. The lack of grip can be caused by many factors; however the following are the most common causes of slipping:

  1. Wet/oily floors
  2. Uneven slippery floors
  3. Dusty floors

With the exception of flooring type, these factors all come back to one root cause: contamination[6] – anything from spills, leaks, dust, and even routine cleaning can be a slip contaminant if the correct actions are not taken to make others in the surrounding areas aware of the potential hazard. 

How to prevent slips?
Every business is legally required to have detailed risk assessments, which can assist in understanding potential problem areas, for example a supermarket may identify fridge and freezer aisles as hot spots for slip hazards due to malfunctions, leaks or simply doors being left open. In addition, a robust cleaning policy is required and control measures such as regular inspections of known problem areas could be one way stores choose to effectively manage the risks. These measures do rely on diligent following of designated controls of risk, which in busy retail environments may not always be possible.

However, a detailed risk assessment cannot mitigate against other factors such as high employee turnover (leading to lack of knowledge of policies, and confidence in implementing them) and our innate human tendency to underestimate risks contributing to hazards not being recognised fast enough to prevent incidents.

Even the most vigilant employee must first spot the hazard, place a wet floor sign, collect equipment and then perform the cleaning up needed.  However, some of the biggest barriers to fixing the problem of slips, trips and falls are people not taking risks seriously enough, and poor application of risk assessment and management controls1.

When we also factor in the capacity and footfall in areas such as supermarkets, shopping malls and restaurants, it can be easy to see why accidents happen – the sheer number of people in an area can make it difficult for anyone to identify a hazard until it’s too late.

This is where computer vision can become a strategic asset for businesses where spills and thus slip hazards frequently occur. AI recognition offers the ability to continuously monitor problem areas and can integrate with existing processes to mitigate risks. For example, retail businesses can use computer vision to identify hazards in real-time and create a notification process for employees to take immediate preventative action. By utilising the power of AI, we reduce the risk of hazards not being correctly identified due to human error.

Managing trip and fall hazards
Whilst slip hazards can affect anybody, falls tend to affect more of the older population with statistics showing that 30% of people aged 65 will fall at least once a year and this increases to 50% for those aged 80 and over[7].

The human costs of falls are huge, they are a leading cause of injury and the ninth highest cause of disability-adjusted life years5, meaning life-altering changes following a fall. The financial implication is also enormous, with compensation and medical cover in the tens of billions of dollars annually as an additional cost to business as well as the impact on individual ability to work, unexpected medical bills and adjusting to new lifestyle needs as a result of life-altering falls.

Trip hazards can be as simple as packaging on the floor whilst shelves are restocked, wet floor signs left out after the floor has dried or bunched up rugs in entrances. These are all simple examples, with control measures easily prescribed in risk assessments, less easily quantified are the abilities to ensure strict adherence to risk assessment control methods and implementation – particularly in busy, heavy footfall environments.

Who are the regulators for Health & Safety?
Each country has its own regulatory body which provides a set of standards or rules for businesses to implement in order for both associates and members of the public to enjoy a safe working or shopping environment.

In the US the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – is responsible for regulating and enforcing health & safety, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) acts similarly in the United Kingdom, and Europe is regulated by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.

Whilst all businesses are expected to, by law, assess and manage the risks within their business there is only so far that a risk assessment can go in terms of lowering or removing the risk factors in the physical environment. Strict methods of control can be documented and addressed in theory; however, this is of little comfort to businesses facing legal action following an in-store incident when a risk has not been properly managed in real terms. The investigation of whether strict risk control methods are followed would likely be prompted by a failure of one of these controls, resulting in an incident which then leads to further control methods being needed and ultimately somewhere to place the blame for a risk management failure.

HSE[8] advise that the 5 steps needed in risk management are as follows:

  1. Identify hazards
  2. Assess the risks
  3. Control the risks
  4. Record your findings
  5. Review the controls

How can SpillDetect® help Health & Safety Managers?
SpillDetect® has been developed in partnership between SeeChange and Ocucon and provides a full solution to addressing the risk assessment by offering continuous monitoring trained to spot the hazard. It additionally offers customised notifications for risk control measures to be implemented allowing real-time notifications to be sent to employees in store and swift preventative action to be taken. Furthermore, the critical business insights provided around hazards can be recorded and reviewed for a full audit trail in line with compliance requirements, improving occupational health & safety through deployment of workplace technology.

Will this benefit insurance premiums and reduce liabilities?
In business terms there are two main types of insurance that slips, trips and falls can have an impact on from insurance claims and increased premiums.

Public Liability Insurance
Whilst this insurance isn’t legally mandated, it is one of the most common insurance policy types due to the level of protection it can offer businesses. This covers the cost of compensation claims made by members of the public for personal injuries, loss or damage to property, or death occurring on business premises[9].

The cost of premiums is linked to the nature of the business, the perceived likelihood of claims being made and to the actual number of claims made in your insurance history.

In real-terms, this means that a reduction in the number of in-store incidents would translate to fewer insurance claims, and therefore a reduction in premiums.

Employers Liability Insurance
Employers are legally obliged to hold employers’ liability insurance to cover the cost of compensation for employees injured or made ill through work[10]. Again, this cover is linked to the nature of the business, the number of employees a business has, the perceived risk to employees within the business and the number of claims previously made.

As with public liability insurance, a reduction in the number of claims made would translate to a reduction in business risk and therefore a reduction in insurance premiums.

Reducing liabilities can be a challenge in any business environment as human nature and anatomy lends itself to poor risk perception and a lack of full awareness of surroundings. This doesn’t mean that accidents such as slips, trips and falls are inevitable or unavoidable and SpillDetect® is a pioneering method of highlighting a hazard and alerting for someone to take action.

In deploying SpillDetect®, businesses can reduce their liabilities without adding any additional risk assessment control methods – the solution can be integrated with existing infrastructure and communication methods, as well as being able to scale across multiple locations offering businesses full flexibility and ensuring processes are streamlined to meet the business needs.

What are the benefits of SpillDetect® for retail environments
SpillDetect® features our award-winning AI machine learning solution, designed to directly address a leading pain point for retail environments. SpillDetect® not only provides a full audit trail for spill events, providing proof of action taken and risks mitigated, but it does so without changing in store infrastructure.

The solution is designed to integrate with existing in-store CCTV and VMS, with actions and insights deployed through existing communication channels. This approach means no disruption to business and can be seamlessly scaled across multiple locations, offering full visibility of risk management across the retail portfolio.

In the age of digital revolution, the power of AI offers a significant advantage to businesses allowing risks to be recognised in real-time and removed, before they become a liability. In harnessing this power, businesses not only have the opportunity to reduce their risks, liabilities, insurance premiums and more, but they also make a positive impact on the world by helping to reduce the number of life-altering accidents that could have been avoided.