Slips and trips at historic properties

06 August 2019

Historic properties can present different slip and trip hazards to modern buildings and can challenge standard preventative methods, often due to the fabric of the building or design constraints.

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Slips and trips hazards

Slips and trips cause many injuries, mostly minor but they can be severe and disabling. They are the most common cause of injury in Irish  workplaces, and they account for over half of liability claims notified to Ecclesiastical Ireland. Hazards can be present inside a property and outside of it, in car parks, grounds and access roads, and temporary structures such as marquees.

Slips and trip risks can develop over time

In comparison with today, historic properties were most likely built to different standards (if any at all) and for very different purposes. Over time, buildings change becoming worn or damaged and whilst this is part of their story, hazards develop. 

Most slips occur when smooth flooring such as stone becomes wet or contaminated as a result of weather conditions, cleaning or a spillage. Commonly, trips are caused by broken or uneven flooring, hidden steps or worn floor coverings and where power cables trail across the floor. Poorly lit areas and tight spiral staircases can also cause a slip or trip.

Guidance for slips and trips in historic properties

Following a unique project by Ecclesiastical and leading researchers at the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) in the UK, we have produced a series of guides to help manage slips and trips at historic premises. 

The eight-part guide considers a 360o view from prevention to defensibility, and outlines cost-effective, yet sympathetic solutions to protect buildings as well as people. 

You can access the practical findings of this unique research by reading more about the different risk factors via the images below or going direct to the guidance documents listed at the bottom of this page. 

The problem and the solution

 

Building design

The fabric and design of a building can be something to celebrate but might also be a risk. 
 
How do we strike the balance between protecting people and preserving our history, all without breaking the bank?  
 
  • Hazard
    Dark stairs in the same wood as surroundings
  • Solution
    Varnish nosings a shade lighter or darker and add a handrail.

Cleaning

Proper cleaning and good housekeeping can help to eliminate many slip and trip hazards. 
 
It is easy to get this wrong or ignore it, introducing trip hazards or leaving smooth floors wet and slippery.
  
  • Hazard 
    A warning sign left in place after the floor has dried.
  • Solution 
    Ensure staff/volunteers know to remove the sign as soon as the floor is safe. 

Inspection and maintenance

It is important to have an effective approach to inspecting and maintaining floors, paths and other walkways in preventing slips and trips. 
 
It can also help in a defence case should a claim be made against you. 
 
  • Hazard 
    Broken paving
          Wet Floors
  
  • Solution 
    After inspection, fence it off. 
          Cleaning should be carried out when the premises is closed for business and there are no staff or customers/visitors on site 

People

Understanding how people access and use your property is an excellent way to identify slip and trip hazards. 
 
Consideration should be given to normal, day-to-day activities and the different behaviours displayed at events. 
 
How you share information with staff/volunteers and visitors about preventing slips and trips is also a key precaution. 
 
  • Hazard 
    A staircase that is difficult for someone with a physical disability to use
  • Solution 
    Present a short video about the spaces that cannot be accessed. 

The environment and contamination

People are more likely to slip if they don’t see the hazard or if something on the floor affects their grip. 
 
The most important risk factors are lighting levels; adverse weather conditions (affecting conditions underfoot); and contaminants (anything on a floor surface that can make it more slippery).  
  
  • Hazard
    Wet weather being walked inside
  • Solution
    Correct sized and positioned entrance meeting

Slips, trips and the law

Naturally, you will want to meet any legal responsibilities you may have. Understanding these will be important and should help you respond in a sensible and proportionate manner.