Slips, Trips and Falls in the Retail Sector: Reducing the Risk

It may be no surprise to many that slips, trips and falls count towards 50% of all claims made against retailers, as well as being the second highest single cause of workplace injuries, writes Gary Trotter. As a business, the provision of a safe environment for customers and employees alike needs to be the priority, otherwise if a slip and fall accident occurs, it can be difficult to defend operations if due diligence hasn’t been carried out.

In order to effectively protect employees, customers and the business, slip and fall prevention must be viewed holistically and a full risk assessment carried out. There are six steps to assessing the risks and processes around slips caused by liquid spills:

Identify risks

Begin the assessment by analysing previous slips to identify any common issues. This involves identifying areas where slips, trips and falls have happened and where they are more likely to happen. Talk to staff to find out if they are aware of any problems or if they’ve slipped in the past.

Then it’s a case of identifying all sources of liquid, for example equipment using water/liquid, cleaning stores, toilets, loose fruit and vegetables, flowers and plants. Identify if the liquid used is viscous, as that can make the circumstance highly hazardous.


As part of a risk management strategy, there are several steps to consider in order to prevent slips, trips and falls caused by spills:

*Use floor mats near liquid containers

*Provide containers for customers to carry their goods

*Maintain equipment and pipework in good working order with proper seals and valves

*Dispose of packing material and other wrappings carefully. Merchandising material and paper or magazine inserts can be dangerous

*Display any liquids so they’re not likely to spill on walkways. Don’t put containers of liquid too close to the front of shelves

*Invest in technology that automatically detects hazardous liquid on the floor. Alerts can be set up to automatically send a notification as soon as the hazard appears


Containing spills when they occur is important. In 2012, 35% of workplace visits conducted by the Health and Safety Authority found that the employer didn’t have a procedure in place for the use of floor mats to contain spills and reduce the risk of slips and falls. Some ways to contain a spill or hazardous liquid include:

*Using floor mats where appropriate

*Provide drains in areas where spills and liquid on the floor are a frequent occurrence

*Hang mops and other wet equipment over buckets

*Make sure caution is taken at entrances and exits


There should be regular monitoring of spill detection with frequent planned checks. Using a checklist is an easy way to ensure this monitoring is being carried out.

It can be difficult to detect liquid as it’s not often very visible. However, there are ways in which to increase the visibility of liquid on a surface:

*Increase ambient lighting, especially around entrances and exits

*Cordon off or place markers at the edges of a wet area

*Ensure the colours of the floor and liquid (like cleaning products) are different

*Use Artificial Intelligence technology to identify hazardous spills as soon as they occur


Gary Trotter

Gary Trotter

Ideally spills would be immediately dealt with using absorbent materials, but in some cases, it may not be possible to remove the liquid right away. This may be because of large spills. The liquid may be viscous or hazardous and so cordoning off the spill using signs or markers will be needed.


Being proactive and making sure cleaning materials are within easy reach in high risk areas will help deal with spills immediately. It’s important to ensure spills are thoroughly cleaned and dried, as it’s often the case that inefficient cleaning and drying can cause a greater risk of a slip and fall.

There is emerging technology that can detect hazards such as liquid spills as soon as they occur. This would significantly reduce the risk of slips and falls, improve retail operations and save money in claims and management.

Gary Trotter is Co-Founder of Ocucon

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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