Slips, Trips, and Falls: A Comprehensive Guide For The Proactive Manager (Part One – Regulatory Requirements)

Posted 11.05.23 by:

Slips, trips, and falls in the workplace are common and the number one cause of workplace injuries. We’re not just talking about minor injuries, either. Believe it or not, something as simple as a carpet in your entranceway can cause severe trauma and, in rare cases, death.

Understanding Impact

Slips, trips, and falls happen often. In fact, 27.4% of nonfatal workplace injuries in private industry were caused by slips, trips, and falls. If we look at the big data, in 2019 in the United States, there were 888,220 workplace injuries (reported), and 244,000 were slips, trips, and falls caused. (source)

Statistically, these numbers are quite revealing. The median number of injuries one can expect is 2.8%. So, three of every 100 workers will have an injury at work this year, according to the injury statistics.

This guide will review all the ins and outs of slips, trips, and fall incident management. I’ll provide a roadmap for making management and prevention much easier for you. Stick with me to the end, and I’ll give you my favorite not-so-secret incident management tool advice so you can make your job easier too. Let’s get started.

Understanding Slips, Trips, And Falls

To create a safe and manageable work environment, we must understand exactly what slips, trips, and falls are. You know the common definition, but let’s examine how the authorities view such terms.


Most countries in the G20 or UN follow a basic understanding of the incident definition. However, for the purpose of clarity, we’ll use OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the United States) for our definitions.


According to OSHA, a slip is when a person loses balance due to a lack of friction between the floor and their footwear. Examples might include wet smooth tile or marble flooring, or if you live in the north, a typical slip scenario is ice on the ground.

Common Causes
  • Oil or similar lubricating chemicals
  • Wet surfaces
  • Ice


A trip is a scenario where a person loses balance due to a collision between a foot and an object. Practical scenarios might include a fold in a moveable floor rug, uneven flooring or steps, or even objects left on the floor. Trips are potentially dangerous not just due to the collision between foot and object but because they have a tendency to throw a person to the ground. Well, I don’t need to tell you how dangerous that can be when:

  • Working at heights
  • Working around sharp objects
  • Working around moving equipment or vehicles

For obvious reasons, a trip can quickly escalate into a life-or-death severe scenario.

Common Causes
  • Rugs
  • Uneven flooring
  • Objects in walkways


OSHA views a fall as the movement towards a lower level, typically at rapid speed or acceleration (gravity). You might go so far as to assume that the fall is the tail-end of the trip, and in many cases, you would be correct in making that assumption. However, the wording that OSHA uses to define a fall makes the assumption more evident that it intends to regard falling from a higher level to a lower level as the pre-emptive definition of a fall.

Examples of falls include falling off a loading dock edge, falling down some stairs, or falling off your chair (it happens more than you know).

Common Causes
  • Unguarded work platforms
  • Lack of fall prevention equipment
  • Trips and slip events


A worker is about to trip on an electrical cord - a common cause for trip and fall incidents at work. Learn more at
Close up of a carpenter legs stumbling with an electrical cord at house

I’ve provided a few causes of slips, trips, and falls in the workplace, but let’s define the more broad reasons to get the proper perspective.

Environmental Factors

As mentioned earlier, if you’re in North America, Europe, or another place that sees ice and snow in winter, you know that environmental factors can easily cause slips, trips, and falls. Ice, snow, and hail can easily make a person slip and fall.

Rain is also a factor in slipping on smooth surfaces. Naturally, we don’t have many smooth outdoor places where people might slip, but even a wood walkway outside can turn into a slippery surface in the right wet conditions.

Human Factors

Humans are notorious for making problems for each other, and often, it isn’t even intentional. Take a worker who is carrying some boxes and set them down for a moment to answer the phone. Maybe they get distracted and merely forget the box was placed in an aisle. Sure enough, if Murphy is afoot, then someone is going to trip over the box.

Human factors may not be limited to the common practice of leaving a parcel in a walkway. Some jobs require workers to instigate slippery conditions; just think of anyone who has to wash down a truck with soapy water, work with oily equipment, or any number of other common work scenarios that involve processes that could cause slippery conditions. A janitor mopping up a spill is the simplest human factor that comes to mind, especially if there are no slippery when wet floor signs are posted.

Equipment Factors

Although equipment can play a significant role in workplace slips, trips, and falls (in several ways), truth be told, each of the ways that equipment factors into slip, trip, and fall events all go back to a person in some way or another. Here are some of the ways people let 

equipment causes dangerous situations that can cause slips, trips, falls, and injury to people.

  • Poor Maintenance: Equipment that people improperly maintain can create hazards. For instance, a machine can leak oil or other fluids, creating a slippery surface. Machines or other equipment might also have loose parts that could cause someone to trip.
  • Improper Use: Misusing equipment can lead to accidents. For instance, if you use a ladder that’s too short, you might overreach and fall. Don’t stand on chairs or tables in the office instead of using a step stool or ladder. I have found in every job that one person thinks they can stand on a wheeled desk chair to reach something, but I warn you: Don’t do it. You aren’t Spiderman.
  • Equipment Placement: The location of equipment can also cause accidents. Electrical cords and cabling are notoriously making people faceplant. If you have ever worked in maintenance (or entertainment), then you’ll know what I’m talking about. 
  • Inadequate Safety Features: Some equipment may lack necessary safety features that could prevent slips, trips, and falls. For example, a ladder without non-slip feet can easily slide on a smooth surface, leading to a fall. 

Similarly, machinery without proper guardrails or other safety devices could put workers at risk of falling. Check your equipment for necessary safety features. Machinery should have proper guardrails or other safety devices to prevent falls. Furthermore, it would be best to insist on daily walk-around safety inspections for all your vehicles or equipment. Enacting smart safety protocols reduces the risk.

  • Inappropriate Equipment: Sometimes, the equipment itself is not suited for the job or the environment, increasing the risk of slips, trips, and falls. For instance, forklifts used in an area with a slippery floor can lead to accidents.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): The absence or misuse of PPE can also contribute to slips, trips, and falls. For instance, workers not wearing appropriate footwear for their environment (like non-slip shoes in a wet or oily environment) can easily slip and fall. Similarly, workers who don’t use precautions like a fall protection safety harness are asking for accidents to happen.

To mitigate these risks, ensure that regular maintenance and safety checks of all equipment are standard practice at your workplace. Workers should also have training in correctly using and placing all equipment, and appropriate PPE should be provided and used consistently.

Common injuries

A worker gets treated for a knee injury following a trip and fall incident at work. Learn how to mitigate slip and fall incidents from

Knowing something and doing nothing about it is pointless. If we look at the data, then we know that each year it is expected that 2.8% of workers will have an at-work accident. That’s 1.4 workers out of 50 (0.7 out of 25). With these numbers, a team of 12 can expect one worker every two years to have an at-work injury. Let’s see what injuries are most common.

Sprains And Strains

Workplace sprain and strain injuries happen most to the torso. In many cases, this means someone’s back. Nearly 40% of injuries in 2021 (In the US) involved the torso.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the US Bureau of Labor Statistics said back in 2005 that sprains and strains accounted for 43%, and mostly back injuries, of private industry, lost time accidents. That is, 43% of the 1.3 million injuries and illnesses reported in 2003. Twenty years ago, and things haven’t changed much. 


According to the injury attorney Adam Skutner (no affiliation), you have a five percent chance of breaking a bone when you slip and fall. I’ve known three people who slipped, fell, and tried to put their hands out to stop the fall. Two of them broke their wrist; the third person sprained it. And that’s just off the top of my memory. So when I hear that five percent break bones, I’m not surprised it’s five percent; I’m surprised it isn’t more.


If you’ve ever dislocated something, then you know it’s as painful as a break. I think of the classic Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon. He was known for dislocating his shoulder and painfully re-locating it with violent force against a wall or similar structure. However, nothing is entertaining about real-life dislocations, so it’s best to avoid them for obvious reasons.

Contusions And Abrasions

Contusions and abrasions are quite common in workplaces. Even office staff get paper cuts – no one is safe! However, in your business, it’s no laughing matter. A simple paper cut can lead to an infection that can lead to any number of complications. That’s why it’s critical to document everything, even a cut. 

At a former job I managed, we had a simple first-aid use form to complete any time a first-aid kit was opened. It was a simple way to document simple injuries like cuts and scrapes that did not require medical attention beyond the first aid kit.

Concussions And Head Injuries

Concussions and head injuries are the most serious concern for anyone in a slip-and-fall event. The healthiest of people can fall the wrong way, hit their head, and end their day (or life). 

According to the Washington Post, a study showed that the human skull can withstand 6.5 GPa of pressure. That’s compared to oak (wood) at 11, concrete at 30, aluminum at 69, and steel at 200. Therefore, I wouldn’t put my head in a fight against anything harder than my pillow.

Regulatory Requirements

Workplace regulations to prevent slip, trip and fall incidents are there for good reason. Learn about your requirements at

It’s time to get into regulations. You are responsible for those under your charge as a manager or employer. Let’s see what OSHA has to say about the matter.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards

Navigating the landscape of safety protocols and OSHA standards can be overwhelming, but we’re here to break it down for you. The core standards you need to be aware of when it comes to preventing slips, trips, and falls in the workplace are these:

General Requirements (29 CFR 1910 Subpart D): It’s all about ensuring safe walking-working surfaces for your team. Make it a priority to keep these surfaces free from hazards like sharp objects, loose boards, leaks, or spills. Let’s not forget about seasonal hazards like snow and ice too!

Stairways and Ladders (29 CFR 1926.1052 and 1926.1053): These rules are a must-know if you’re in the construction industry. The focus here is on providing safe stairways and ladders to help prevent falls.

Fall Protection (29 CFR 1926.501): Another one for the construction folks out there. This standard mandates that employers provide fall protection systems when workers operate at heights of 6 feet or above a lower level.

Walking-Working Surfaces (29 CFR 1910.22): This one circles back to the general requirements but emphasizes cleanliness and orderliness. You must ensure that all walking and working surfaces are sanitary and well-maintained.

Personal Protective Equipment (29 CFR 1910 Subpart I): Here’s where the right gear comes in. OSHA requires employers to provide employees with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensure its proper use. This could include non-slip footwear to help prevent slips and falls.

Remember, it’s not just about ticking boxes and meeting legal requirements. It’s about creating a safe working environment where your team members can perform their duties without fear of slips, trips, and falls. 

International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Guidelines

ISO has a specific standard that addresses occupational health and safety: ISO 45001. These standard guides organizations in creating robust health and safety management systems, which inherently involve the prevention of slips, trips, and falls. However, the standard doesn’t go into specific details about these incidents. Instead, it focuses on risk management and hazard identification that would help anticipate and prevent such accidents.

Industry-Specific Regulations

All industries must follow a basic duty standard to provide safe working conditions. However, some industries have specific regulations, which I will review a sample cross-section of below.

Construction Industry

OSHA’s construction safety standards (29 CFR 1926) include detailed requirements for fall protection (29 CFR 1926.501), stairways and ladders (29 CFR 1926.1052 and 1926.1053), and scaffolding (29 CFR 1926.451). These standards mandate using guardrails, safety nets, or personal fall arrest systems when workers are working at heights of 6 feet or above a lower level.

General Industry

OSHA’s walking-working surfaces standards (29 CFR 1910 Subpart D) apply to all general industry workplaces. They require employers to provide safe walking-working surfaces and keep them free from hazards such as sharp or protruding objects, loose boards, corrosion, leaks, spills, snow, and ice.

Healthcare Industry

While there’s no specific OSHA standard for slip, trip, and fall hazards in the healthcare industry, these workplaces must comply with the general industry standards, including the walking-working surfaces standards. OSHA’s guidelines for nursing homes recommend implementing a comprehensive safety and health program that includes an analysis of fall hazards and a plan to control these hazards.

Maritime Industry

For shipyards (29 CFR Part 1915), long shoring (29 CFR Part 1918), and marine terminals (29 CFR Part 1917), OSHA has specific regulations that include requirements for working surfaces, guarding floor and wall openings, and maintaining ladders, stairways, and scaffolds.

Company Policies And Procedures

We have covered what the regulations say, and now it’s time to put that information into action. Creating a health and safety manual is a requirement for most businesses. Although the regulations may vary from state to state or province to province, the concept remains the same: If you operate a business with employees, you should have a health and safety manual.

Along with your health and safety manual, it’s advisable to have job hazard analysis a part of every role within your company or organization. Furthermore, it’s easy to include standards to maintain by providing your team with instructions and procedures to follow within each role. For example, you could include in your housekeeping role manual to utilize wet floor signs and keep pace with any spills to ensure fast clean-up and reduced chances of incidents.

That’s it for part one of our Slips, Trips, and Falls guide for the proactive manager. Check out Part Two for even more about the processes you can implement to take control of slips, trips, and fall incidents at your place of business.

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