Slips and trips are the most common cause of injury at work, averaging around 40% of all reported major occupational injuries. In 2012-2013, 646,000 non-fatal injuries occurred due to slips, trips and falls alone.
Occurring four times more often than the industrial average, this is the largest cause of serious injury in the food industry. Its importance is further emphasized by the £22 million annual costs to employers in food, drink and tobacco businesses; this is due to loss of key staff, liability, individual suffering and disability.
Accidents: what are the risks in the food industry?
The majority of slip and trip accidents in the catering industry are caused by wet surfaces, food products dropped on the floor or obstructions. Inadequate floor cleaning, the condition of the floor and adverse conditions (such as poor lighting, which may hide floor conditions), are all environmental factors that may increase the risk of injury.
Additional factors, such as the nature of the task, inadequate footwear, or unsafe actions by staff or public, will also increase the likelihood of these accidents.
A 16 year old girl was employed at a fast food outlet to cook fries at a frying range. She slipped on water leaking from an ice machine and instinctively put out her hand to break her fall. Unfortunately her hand went into the deep fat fryer containing oil at a temperature of 360°F and she sustained severe burns to her left hand and forearm.
Although the company policy was to mop up spillages it was common practice to leave spillages at busy times and cover them with a sheet of cardboard, which itself can create a tripping hazard. At busy times it was usual to give greater priority to serving customers than to cleaning spillages.
The ice machine had been leaking for several days and various attempts had been made by different contractors to cure the leak. No-one was responsible for coordinating the repair of faulty equipment and a lack of communication between different shift managers left the ice machine leaking over a long period of time.
Following the accident, the company did a complete review of its management of wet floors:
–Slip control was given priority over serving customers
-Systems were put in place to ensure maintenance of faulty equipment
-Managers were identified as having responsibility to ensure slips procedures were implemented and followed
-Employees empowered to deal with slips as a priority and given backing by company
-Extra training on slips procedures was given to all staff
The local authority prosecuted the company and on successful conviction the magistrates imposed a total fine of £15,000. The investigating Environmental Health Officer believed that the accident was completely avoidable as the company had failed to maintain a safe system of work or to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks associated with slipping within the kitchen.
What does the law say?
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSW Act) requires employers to ensure the health and safety of all employees and anyone who may be affected by their work. This includes taking steps to control slip and trip risks.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 includes duties on employers to assess risks (including slip and trip risks) and take action to control these risks.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 requires floors to be suitable, in good condition and free from obstruction, allowing people to move around safely. If you need other information about injuries at the work place, please our our article about slip, trip and falls.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have developed a free on-line training package available here:
Please contact Food Alert on 020 7244 1900 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any enquiries about this topic.