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


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Slips, trips and falls can have significant ramifications, particularly within the healthcare sector. Finding ways to prevent and mitigate against them should be a priority for any business within the sector.

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 healthcare employers and employees, understanding causes, preventative measures and wider implications is essential to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff and patients.

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 healthcare settings, where patients, often already grappling with physical and/or mental challenges, visit practices, clinics or other medical and care outlets with the expectation of being looked after.

A slip or fall can lead to severe repercussions, particularly among elderly or vulnerable patients, potentially resulting in complications such as thromboses or embolisms.

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.


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; everyone 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.


Mitigation and protection

Central to risk mitigation are thorough risk assessments. Organisations such as AHR Consultants[3] offer tailored support, including risk assessment templates and access to health and safety experts.

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

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


Insurance implications

From an insurance perspective, the financial toll of slips, trips and falls is significant, with claims totalling millions of pounds annually. While the average claim may amount to £5000, certain cases within the healthcare sector have resulted in settlements as high as £600,000[2]. Such substantial costs emphasise the urgency for preventative measures and robust risk management protocols.

Public and Employers’ Liability insurance protects against claims from others for injuries or damage to their property. Anything from a worn-out doormat to mistakes on a website can lead to someone getting hurt – but slips and falls are especially significant, making up nearly half of all reported injuries in the healthcare sector[4].

Working with a knowledgeable broker who understands your business can help you get comprehensive coverage tailored to your specific risks. A policy typically covers bodily injury, personal injury, property damage and legal expenses.