Health & safety 11 September 2019

A Fresh Approach: Reducing Slips, Trips and Falls

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of injury at work in the UK. On average, they cause 40 per cent of all reported major injuries and can also lead to other types of serious accidents, for example falls from height. When the IPEM safety team started to look at a campaign to reduce slips, trips and falls it wanted to create a memorable site briefing that would make an impact, leave a lasting impression and help to make Network Rail’s safety vision – Everyone Home Safe Every Day – a reality.

Benefits at a Glance:

  • 33% reduction in slip, trips and falls following the briefing – for example, over 20,000 person hours were worked at Wellingborough North Junction with no reported slips, trips or falls
  • By creating a working group of our intended audience of site operatives, the team created an engaging and credible briefing that resonated with this group
  • High audience reach and positive engagement

Five years of slips, trips and falls data, together with insight from the working group, led to the creation of a safety awareness campaign: Why Are We Tripping and Falling? This was briefed out on sites across the whole of the IP central region (geographically one third of the UK).

What is the most common cause of slips, trips and falls on site?

Feedback from the working group revealed that a commonly held belief about slips, trips and falls on site was incorrect. While many felt that site hazards were the main cause, the data clearly showed just 42% were caused in this way; other reasons – including operative actions – were responsible for the majority (58%) of this type of incident.

This led to a discussion about perception and how two operatives may view the same hazard very differently. It was agreed that this would be the best way to open the briefing, an ice-breaker exercise that challenges the idea that we all see things in the same way.

This exercise helped to make the point that we don’t judge risk in the same way and therefore there can’t be a one size fits all approach to safety.

The briefing then tackled the idea that slips, trips and falls aren’t serious. We showed a video of people rolling down a hill at the Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling

What is the impact of slips, trips and falls?

Feedback from the working group showed that this type of injury is not seen as serious. Yet the team knew from HSE research that slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of injury at work in the UK. On average, they cause 40 per cent of all reported major injuries and can also lead to other types of serious accidents, for example falls from height.

The team decided to tackle this head on by showing a short video excerpt of the Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling Festival – with entrants falling down a hill, with the heading “Falling Can Just Be So Funny!”. This was very well received in the briefing and the mood was quite jovial. This was then juxtaposed with images of the injuries received by IPEM operatives with the heading “But the Impact Is Far from Funny.”

The briefer then posed the question, “What Is the Cost?” and facilitated a discussion on how we can measure the cost. It included time, money, health and life outside work.

Is anyone to blame?

Data showed that 42% of slips, trips and falls had been caused by site hazards. Therefore, the briefer led a discussion about what can be done about site hazards:

  • Pre-site walk out
  • Point of work risk assessment/task brief sheet
  • Raise a close call
  • Inform site or office management
  • Recognise and be aware of inappropriate site conditions.

The audience was then set into small groups with a map of a site and asked to find the hazards it contained. After 20 minutes, the briefer then reviewed all hazards. But would operatives be able to find the hazards ‘in real life’? There was only one way to find out. The operatives were then invited to leave the briefing room to find site hazards and raise a Close Call. The safety team was then able to track these Close Calls.

One example of an on site hazard

But what of the other 58% of slips, trips and falls? What causes them?

Operative behaviour is a key factor. Perception had been tackled earlier in the briefing and the briefer then led a discussion about the types of behaviour that can cause this type of accident. Feedback from the working group had shown a key set of causes behind slips, trips and falls:

  • Not concentrating on the task at hand
  • Being time pressured
  • Being distracted
  • Being messy (and causing hazards as a result)
  • Feeling invincible as they’ve not had an accident so far
  • Breaking the rules

We used this insight to create a set of characters that was shown in the briefings.

Feedback from briefers showed that these characters were well received and recognised. Following the briefing these posters were put in sites and offices as a visual reminder of the briefing, and to take greater care of slip, trip and fall hazards.

 

Results

  • 8 companies held briefings in the IP Central region: Amco, Amey, EastWest Rail, Murphy, Network Rail, SPL, Story and VolkerRail
  • Just under 600 site operatives were briefed
  • 83% of attendees gave positive feedback about the briefing content and the follow up posters
  • 86% of briefers gave feedback about the content, and reported how well it was received.