Proactive ways to deal with slips, trips and falls in social care settings


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Slips, trips and falls can have significant ramifications, particularly within the social care sector where there are often vulnerable or elderly service users. Finding ways to prevent and mitigate against them should be a priority for any care business.

In the UK, these incidents represent one of the most prevalent causes of cross-sector occupational injury, with over a third of all major cases reported annually attributed to them[1]. So, for social care employers and employees, understanding causes, preventative measures and wider implications is essential to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff and service users.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers are mandated to uphold the welfare of employees and individuals affected by their activities. This obligation is especially critical in care settings, where there is an obvious expectation that service users are being looked after, since they’re often already grappling with physical and/or mental challenges.

A slip or fall can lead to severe repercussions, particularly amongst the elderly, potentially resulting in complications such as thrombosis or embolism.

For staff members, everyday tasks – carrying, lifting, pushing, pulling – can lead to accidents, so comprehensive protocols need to be established and regular assessments carried out.

But the implications of slips, trips and falls extend beyond immediate injury, impacting the delivery of service user care and the financial viability of social care businesses.

Costs associated with medical treatment for injured patients, staff absenteeism or legal claims can strain resources and compromise quality of care. Plus, increased insurance premiums or the threat of criminal liability for example, further underscore the importance of proactive risk management.


Understanding root causes

The statistics paint a worrying picture. According to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), within the healthcare industry, trips alone account for almost 62% of major injuries to the public and contribute to 8%[2] of fatalities. Bear in mind, too, that slips, trips and falls can also serve as the catalyst for other types of incidents, including falls from height.

There are many factors that can contribute to the problem, including environmental conditions such as uneven floor surfaces or water and oil spillages. Organisational and individual behaviours, such as leaving clutter in corridors or wearing the wrong footwear, exacerbate the problem.

Being super-vigilant about housekeeping practices and maintenance of premises, as well as adherence to workwear and activity protocols, can significantly reduce the likelihood of similar accidents.

Measures that everyone can contribute to can make a big difference.

  • Health and safety experts always emphasise the importance of good housekeeping – keeping floors clear and promptly cleaning up spills, for instance. It shouldn’t be only the responsibility of cleaning staff; all staff should be encouraged to pitch in to maintain a tidy workplace.
  • Regular checks should be conducted to ensure floors, steps, stairs and pathways are in good condition. Any broken surfaces should be fixed promptly and worn flooring replaced, especially in high-traffic areas. And clearly signalling hazards is always a no-brainer.
  • It is also important to encourage staff to report any hazards they encounter. These reports should be addressed as part of a planned preventative maintenance programme, with high-risk issues prioritised.


Risk assessments

Central to risk mitigation are thorough risk assessments. Under the Management of Health & Safety Regulations 1999, Risk Assessments are required morally but also legally.

Organisations such as AHR Consultants[3] offer tailored support, including risk assessment templates and access to health and safety experts, providing help and advice for your specific tasks or hazards.

AHR consultants will help you carry out and document your risk assessment. They will discuss with you and offer samples of control measures that you may already be implementing or have not considered.

Once the risk assessment has been agreed and completed, AHR will provide a recorded number on the assessment, making it a legal document. The risk assessment(s) are then issued to that client and copies are stored on the AHR client portal for review/use later.

Risk assessments help care businesses to recognise risks and hazards, and reduce incidents from happening, as well as legal costs and insurance fees.


The broker perspective

In the realm of social care, where the safety and well-being of both staff and residents are paramount, a robust and meticulously documented risk management strategy is not just advisable, but imperative. The stakes are high, with slips and falls posing not only a risk to individuals' health but potentially grave consequences within this sensitive environment. They also make up nearly half of all reported injuries in the health and care sector[4].

Insurance providers are acutely aware of the impact of claims costs and incident trends, especially concerning slips and trips. For underwriters, these factors weigh heavily in their assessment, influencing the terms and costs of coverage offered. This could translate into higher excess or deductible requirements under the Public Liability component of insurance policies.

By prioritising a comprehensive approach to risk management, social care providers not only safeguard their residents and staff but also position themselves favourably in the eyes of insurers. Proactive measures not only mitigate risks but also demonstrate a commitment to safety that resonates with residents and their families, your staff and insurers alike.