Occupational Safety

How to prevent slips, trips, and falls in the workplace

Identify risks, take action, and train employees

6 Minutes07.08.2023

by Stefan Ganzke

Trips, slips, and falls are an often underestimated but very common type of occupational accident. Using Germany as an example, in 2021 there were more than 172,000 reportable occupational accidents due to slips, trips, and falls, i.e., accidents that result in more than three days of absence. Not only were there seven fatalities as a result of these accidents, but nearly 2,700 people became partially or completely unable to work. 

How to prevent slips, trips, and falls in the workplace? – A major problem with slips, trips, and falls is that there is often a lack of awareness of the risk. For example, if an extruder’s feed points are freely accessible, a furnace in the steel industry is running at high temperatures, or if a forklift driver in logistics is driving through a warehouse, the risk is immediately apparent. On slippery floors or on stairs, however, it is more difficult for most people to recognize an acute risk to themselves or others. This makes it all the more important for companies to focus not only on regulatory compliance, but also on the safe behavior of managers and employees. 

Identify risks, assess them, and take action

As a company, you are responsible for conducting a risk assessment in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This means that you must examine and evaluate the risks that exist at the workplace and in adjacent areas, and derive appropriate protective measures. To prevent slips, trips, and falls in the workplace, you can take action such as levelling uneven floors or increasing the cleaning frequency of slippery floors caused by production. Ideally, not only safety engineers and occupational safety specialists, but also managers or safety officers are involved in the risk assessment. If available, it may also be useful to involve the company medical staff and the works council.

Train employees

Training employees about existing hazards is a legal requirement for companies. In order to make employees more aware of slips, trips, and falls, you should avoid presentations, monologues, and frontal lectures. It is difficult to reach employees with these methods. In addition, this approach can lead to a negative attitude towards occupational safety and health. It is much more useful and effective to go to on site for trips, slips, and fall prevention: In production or logistics, for example, you can work on site in small groups to identify potential hazards from objects in path of traffic or slippery floors and then develop safety measures. If you involve employees directly, they can come up with their own ideas for improvement.

Responding to change on the job

Unfortunately, even the best risk assessment cannot guarantee one hundred percent safety. This makes it all the more important for managers and employees to be aware of and eliminate risks as they go about their work. Tripping hazards can quickly arise, for example, if the carpet in the office is curled up, an oil stain has spread on the floor in the locksmith's shop, or the fork of the forklift truck protrudes into the traffic lane.

Employees with purely extrinsic motivation for occupational safety and health will rarely react, but will simply step over the obstacle and move on. This makes it all the more important for companies to create intrinsic motivation for occupational safety so that employees will respond to risks in these situations and take action to prevent slips, trips, and falls in the workplace: For example, the employee who notices the oil spill will properly clean it. And someone else will talk to the forklift driver about the situation.

Give positive feedback

When employees look out for their own safety, clean up or report hazards, positive feedback helps to increase the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated. For this reason, management, supervisors, and OSH professionals themselves should always give feedback, such as a thumbs-up, pat on the back, or even a thank you. Positive feedback on safe behavior ensures that the change process continues in the desired direction.

Managers must be role models

Managers, up to shift supervisor level, should be role models for employees. If a manager walks past tripping hazards or slippery floors, or fails to address unsafe behavior, it is a sign that the safety culture in that company is not shared by everyone.

It is not always easy for managers to perform their duties: Although they have heard at least once about their legal responsibilities and liabilities, they have heard little about how to fulfil their responsibilities in the simplest and most sustainable way. A manager wants to prevent employees from being injured by slips, trips, and falls, and perhaps even missing days or weeks of work. However, experience shows that some managers find it difficult to deal with and address risks. To change this for the better and strengthen the safety culture, good OSH onboarding is needed to prepare managers for these situations.


A company can be at the top of its game in terms of design, technology, and organization – but if managers and employees have the feeling that occupational safety and health is a “necessary evil” or that accidents “just happen”, occupational accidents will continue to occur despite the best initial conditions, and employees may even seriously injure themselves and others in the worst case. In addition, under these circumstances, it is difficult to assign a local focus to occupational accidents.

To prevent slips, trips, and falls in your company, managers and employees must look out for themselves and the safety and health of their co-workers. The basis for this is an appropriate safety mindset: It is important to work on internal motivation so that both employees and managers internalize the importance of paying attention to safety, order, and cleanliness.

The approach described here can help to change the attitudes of managers and employees in a positive way. The goal is to work together to ensure safe behavior that benefits everyone. EHSQ software can help you coordinate this change process in a systematic, time-saving way that is accessible to all employees and sustainably strengthens the safety culture in your company.

Stefan Ganzke is the Managing Director of WandelWerker Consulting GmbH. Together with his team, he has made it his mission to improve the attitude of managers and employees towards occupational safety in the company. To this end, WandelWerker Consulting GmbH works with companies to develop strategies for systematically improving the safety culture.

Quentic Author Stefan Ganzke
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