Slippery floors are dangerous – but that danger can be avoided.
Every year businesses and public bodies leave themselves open to the possibility that employees, customers or members of the public will slip and fall due to floors that are hazardous – i.e. slippery. Slips, trips and falls are the largest cause of accidents across all commercial sectors from heavy manufacturing through to office work.
Within the EU Member States slips, trips and falls have been identified as the main causes of accidents that result in more than three days absence from work. Accident risks are higher for those employed in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), particularly those in enterprises with less than 50 employees. Use of simple control measures can help prevent slips and trips and reduce the risk of injury from slips and trips. See the HSE Information Sheet for details.
Section 2 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 requires employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the design, provision and maintenance of a workplace and its means of access, in a condition that is safe and without risk to health. Duties in respect of hazard identification, risk assessment and safety statements are set out in sections 19 and 20. Section 17 places a duty on those who design buildings or structures to ensure that they are safe and without risk to health.
The Safety, Health and Welfare (General Application) Regulations require that floors of rooms shall not have dangerous bumps, holes or slopes and that they be fixed, stable and not slippery.
Below are some examples that have made the public domain. Many others go unreported or are settled out of court.
Examples of the financial cost of not addressing slippery floors
Travelodge Hotels Ltd, the multi-national hotel company has been fined £20,000 with £50,000 costs for breaches of Health and Safety regulations after the company placed its customers at risk of serious injury.
Mid Beds District Council took them to court after an Environmental Health Officer’s routine inspection in October 2005 found that Travelodge had failed to report at least two serious accidents in their bathrooms. In one of these a member of the public fell after using the shower in the bath and was taken to hospital.
Further investigation led to Travelodge being charged with five offences contrary to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which carry an unlimited fine in the Crown Court. These included endangering public safety, failure to report accidents and not taking action to prevent these accidents occurring again.
Whilst there is no British Standard for bathroom safety Travelodge does have a duty of care and a duty to report all accidents for investigation. Mid Beds asked Travelodge to comply with their own risk assessment which identified the risk of slipping in the bath but they continued to fail to take adequate action to eliminate or minimise slipping dangers for a period of two years after the initial accident.
Mid Beds feels that Travelodge could have easily taken action to reduce safety risks in their bathrooms by carrying out the routine safety checks required by law. Each bath with defective slip resistant surface could have had this surface renewed for as little as £35.00 and the bath would have been out of use for only six hours with a minimal loss of income. For a reasonably priced additional cost another option could be to replace the bath with one where the anti-slip lasts for at least 30 years.
Travelodge initially pleaded guilty at Bedford Magistrates Court to two counts of failing to report accidents in line with the Reporting of Injuries and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) but pleaded not guilty to failing to ensure customer safety. Recently they have pleaded guilty to all charges.
Following the guilty plea, Mid Beds DC is in talks with Travelodge over making their entire bathrooms safe as quickly as possible.
Councilor Budge Wells (Woburn, Conservative), Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services said: “People should feel as safe in their hotel room as they would in their home. I am pleased with the outcome of this case and feel there should be a British Standard for preventing slipping in baths. Customers were exposed to the risk of serious injury, disability or death and no company, however large, should take risks with their customers’ health and safety. Now Travelodge will have to take Health and Safety legislation seriously across the country to avoid further court actions."
It was the commitment of Richard Johns, our case officer, which brought this case to its successful conclusion. He persisted in tackling Travelodge when they acted like they were above the law and continued to ignore Health and Safety regulations. I’d like to congratulate him on his tenacity.”