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Slip and fall rates cut with non-slip shoes

Cutting the rate of workplace slips and falls by around 40%.
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Slip and fall rates cut with non-slip shoes

Slip and fall rates cut with non-slip shoes

28 January 2021

By Gaby Grammeno

A trial of high-grip footwear has been shown to cut the rate of workplace slips and falls by around 40 per cent. The study involved almost 5,000 healthcare workers in the UK, randomly assigned to an experimental group who were given special shoes and a ‘control’ group who wore their normal shoes. Those with the high-grip shoes had almost 1,500 fewer slips over a 14-week period than the control group.

Workplace slips and falls

Slips, trips and falls at work cause a high proportion of workplace injuries, year after year. Workers’ compensation claims show that more than 17,000 Australians are seriously injured every year through slips, trips and falls on the same level.

On average, more than six working weeks were lost as a result of this type of incident, with compensation costs of over $12,000 for each injury.

And this is just the up-front cost of the cases that are compensated. It doesn’t include the thousands more who are not covered by workers’ compensation policies because they’re sole traders or casuals, or the hidden costs for employers who need to organise replacement staff and spend time on injury-related paperwork.

It has long been recognised that footwear is a key risk factor for workplace slip and fall injuries.

The non-slip shoe trial

The trial* aimed to assess the effectiveness of five-star GRIP-rated slip-resistant footwear in preventing slips in the workplace compared to the usual footwear as worn by the control group.

Over the 14-week period of the study, the participants report a total of 6743 slips - 2633 in the experimental group and 4110 in the control group.

As well as recording the number of slips, the group wearing special shoes had a statistically significant reduction in the incidence of falls from a slip; the proportion of participants reporting a slip, fall or fracture; and the time (from the beginning of the study period) to the first slip and fall.

These results echo previous research findings. For example, a US study of hospital workers found that the use of slip-resistant shoes - together with other strategies - contributed to a 58 per cent reduction in workers' compensation claims. A similar study among food service workers found consistent results.

The grip rating system used to select shoes for the experimental group was developed by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive to allow footwear users to identify suitable slip resistant footwear as a control measure to reduce their risk of slipping accidents.

Footwear selection should be informed by a risk assessment. For low hazard environments one-star or two-star footwear is a sensible way to protect staff from slips. Where slips are known to occur, three-star or four-star footwear will reduce the occurrence of slipping. In the most challenging workplaces, five-star footwear may be necessary to adequately control slip risk.

The star-ratings are arrived at by human testers wearing the shoes under test conditions to understand the impact the human gait cycle has on grip. It is a deliberately challenging test to find out what happens when the limits of grip are really pushed.

The types of soles that achieve a five-star rating typically have a large surface area and many small cleats for water dispersal. While they perform very well on smooth indoor surfaces, they do not have the ruggedness required to grip onto rougher surfaces and natural loose terrain. In fact, when faced with a natural loose surface like mud, they would likely clog straight away, rendering their slip resistance useless.

This highlights the need to carry out workplace-specific risk assessments before selecting suitable footwear.

Employers’ responsibilities for footwear

Employers have a duty under WHS laws to manage the risk of slip and trip hazards as far as is reasonably practicable.

Most slip injuries occur on wet or slippery floors, so employers should have systems for keeping floors dry and cleaning up spills without delay. As well as requiring workers to wear suitable footwear, floor surfaces and steps need to have sufficient grip, and walkways should be well-lit.

Anti-trip measures include keeping floors free of obstructions including trailing cables, broken tiles and uneven surfaces.

*Slip-resistant footwear reduces slips among National Health Service workers in England: a randomised controlled trial.

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