Slips, Trips and Falls Prevention and Safety

Keeping customers and employees safe from accidents at your place of business, and what to do if a slip and fall occurs.

Slip and fall accidents are a leading cause of injuries in the U.S., and these kinds of incidents can spell financial trouble for property owners, businesses, and employers:

  • According to the National Floor Safety Institute, slip and falls account for more than one million emergency room visits each year, and roughly 16 percent of all workers' compensation claims involve someone falling on the job.
  • The National Safety Council reports that in 2020, more than 800 workers died in falls with at least 211,000 workers getting hurt badly enough from a fall to miss time at work.
  • If you're an employer or business owner, it's important to understand how to prevent slip and fall injuries—to protect customers and employees, and to avoid financial and legal liability.

How Do Slip and Falls Happen?

When a customer or employee's foot loses traction on any kind of surface, such as a floor, stair, roof, or ladder rung, a slip and fall can occur. The loss of traction could have several potential causes. Water or another substance might be on the surface. Snow or ice might have accumulated. The surface might have been damaged or fallen into disrepair. Even improper footwear or running or walking too quickly can lead to a slip and fall.

What About Trip and Falls?

When someone's foot hits an obstacle with enough force or in such a way as to cause a loss of balance, a trip and fall can result.

Trips often take place when something unseen or unexpected is in a customer or employee's path. In many situations, someone's negligence created the obstacle—merchandise was left on the floor, or overhead lighting wasn't sufficient, for example.

What Happens Right After a Trip or Slip and Fall?

Get medical care. If someone slips or trips and falls at your place of business or worksite, your first priority is to determine if they need medical attention. Any minor injuries might be treatable on site or with the injured person seeking their own medical care. But if in doubt as to the seriousness of the injury, call 9-1-1.

Document what happened. Make note of who got hurt, the injuries sustained, how the injuries happened, medical treatment provided (and offered), and any statements from witnesses who might have seen the accident. If possible, try to remedy whatever caused the fall, or cordon off the area.

Report the fall. Depending on who got hurt (customer or employee), where the fall took place, and what caused the fall, you might need to report the accident to the appropriate state or federal agency. If the person who got hurt was an employee who might file a workers' compensation claim, you'll probably need to report the accident to your workers' compensation provider as soon as possible.

Who Pays for Injuries After a Slip and Fall?

The answer to this question depends on who got hurt. If it was a customer, there's a good chance you as the business owner will have to pay for the injuries sustained by your customer who tripped or slipped and fell. Ideally, you'll have general liability insurance coverage to pay these costs.

If the customer played a part in causing their own injuries, you may be able to avoid liability. But proving this could be difficult. Keep in mind that if the customer feels you are responsible for their injuries, you can reasonably expect them to take some kind of action. That could mean they file a claim with your liability insurer, or it could mean you get sued, and end up having to defend yourself in court. Even if you win the case, it could still be costly in terms of money, time, and bad press.

If an employee got hurt, your workers' compensation insurance policy will likely cover any medical treatment and/or lost wages, unless an exception to workers' compensation coverage applies.

Additional Costs or Consequences of a Slip and Fall

Besides a liability insurance claim or a workers' compensation claim (either of which might raise your premiums) or the possibility of facing a personal injury lawsuit, there might be additional consequences after a slip and fall. If the accident was the result of someone's failure to comply with health and safety regulations, you could face potential legal or administrative enforcement actions from a government agency, like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

How to Prevent a Slip or Trip and Fall

the best approach to preventing slip and fall accidents involves a multi-pronged set of strategies. The more preventative measures you take to keep someone from falling, the more that needs to go wrong for an accident to happen.

Tips for Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls

Train your employees. Make sure they understand the steps they can take to avoid these types of accidents. OSHA and your state's occupational or workplace safety agency will likely offer information on different ways to do this.

Equip your employees. Ensure your employees have the right equipment and tools to prevent situations that could lead to a slip or trip and fall.

Keep a safe environment. Inspect the business or workplace on a regular basis and make sure it's free of potential dangers—all equipment, merchandise, and anything else is properly stored, for example, and the floor is free of debris, spills, and other hazards. Set safety protocols and make sure they're being followed.

Still Concerned About Slip and Fall Injuries?

If you want to learn more about premises liability, slips and falls, and more, check out Nolo's Slip and Fall Claims and Premises Liability content center. If you're worried that you might face legal action in the wake of a slip and fall at your place of business, you might want to discuss your options with a legal professional. Learn more about finding the right personal injury lawyer.

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