Preventing slips and trips in the post-summer rush

With the relative quiet of August trading behind us, it’s time to prepare for the post-summer rush. As customers return in their droves after the summer holidays, there’s extra pressure to keep your yard clean, tidy and safe.

Slips and trips are the top cause of accidents in builders merchants year on year. Whether it’s a customer taking a tumble over loose strapping or a staff member skidding on wet flooring, these incidents can lead to costly claims and financial penalties. Fortunately, the vast majority of slip sand trips are entirely preventable with basic hazard awareness and routine housekeeping.

A tidy branch is good for business

The Opus team have visited thousands of builders merchants over the years – as both health and safety consultants and customers stocking up on our own DIY supplies. A clear, uncluttered environment not only boosts sales by placing stock within easy reach, but also cuts the risk of accidents and legal action.

Stay on top of slip and trip hazards with a simple programme of monitoring and maintenance.

Conduct a thorough risk assessment  

A risk assessment highlights key slip and trip hazards within your branch and identifies the most effective controls to manage them. Clear, unobstructed fire exit routes and walkways are the main focus, but the assessment also covers the overall running, upkeep and condition of your yard and retail space. The HSE outlines three core areas that contribute to slips and trips:

  • Walkways – Walkways should be suitable, accessible and well-positioned for use. Employees and customers should always have a clear view of where they’re going.
  • Housekeeping – Walkways must be kept clear, with wires, stock and other obstructions kept safely out of the area. You should provide enough bins and storage facilities to ensure this is possible.
  • Design and maintenance – Floors should be suitable for the environment, fitted correctly and properly maintained. Walkways need to be wide enough and level. Lighting should also be bright enough to ensure customers and staff can spot hazards.

Once you’ve pinpointed your risks, you can implement a system of checks and safety measures to address them.

Recognise common slip and trip risks  

Every builders merchant is different and will present unique slip and trip hazards – but there are recurring risks that appear in almost every branch. Make sure your spot checks and clean-up routine tackle these common dangers:

  • Poorly installed and uneven flooring, including loose tiles or sudden changes in height
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Loose cables, wires and strapping
  • Stock, supplies and boxes positioned in walkways
  • Protruding machinery footings and display units
  • Spills and wet surfaces  

Create a clean-as-you-go culture  

Give staff the required tools, training and time to keep your branch clear of trip and slip hazards. This includes supplying a sufficient number of bins and skips and encouraging your team to clean as they go.

Adopting a disciplined ‘see it, sort it’ approach to incident prevention may add a few extra minutes to each task, but investigating an accident, supporting the employee or customer and potentially dealing with HSE inspectors will be a more significant draw on your time.

To encourage ownership and accountability, assign staff particular areas to look after. You can even fuel friendly rivalry with a monthly or quarterly clean-up competition, rewarding the winning team with free breakfast or lunch.

Stay on top of seasonal risks   

Slip and trip risks change with the seasons, so regularly revisit safety measures to prevent accidents year round. Autumn and winter are particularly hazardous, with rain, snow and ice making surfaces slippery underfoot. 

Be ready with a well-communicated plan for clearing snow and ice across your yard, gritting walkways and keeping interior floors safe and dry. Join us for our October webinar for specialist guidance on dealing with H&S hazards through the colder months.

Get personalised safety advice for your branch

If you’re looking to prevent slips and trips in your builders merchants, talk to us. We’ll chat through your current H&S programme and provide custom advice, answers and action plans to keep every branch compliant.

Schedule some time in the diary or get in touch on or 0330 043 4015.