Preventing Slips & Trips


This is the second post in a series of 25. Each post will be dealing with a shipboard work related issue and how to cope with it. The first post was about safe manual handling.



The term “slip & trips” relates to the danger of loosing balance and can result in falls, possibly disability or death.


What is the problem?

Slips and trips are one of the most common cause of injuries at work, and account for over a third of all major work injuries.

The design of a vessel includes a number of trip hazards, but also slip hazards depending on surface treatment or cleanliness. The goal of every seafarer is to always be able to return home in the same shape as when they joined the vessel.

Every injury is a negative happening that in one way or another affects the company and/or the employee. Below are some examples of effects from slips & trips.

Effects on the employer:

  1. Loss of productivity and business
  2. Increased industrial insurance premiums
  3. Costs associated with training replacement worker

Effects on the employee:

  1. Lost wages and out-of pocket expenses
  2. Pain
  3. Temporary or permanent disability
  4. Reduced quality of life
  5. Depression
  6. Death


How can slips & trips be prevented?

All employees must at all time be aware of potential hazards and dangers, and the same must be communicated with workmates. In short terms, the following applies:

  • Look out for yourself
  • Be part of the company safety observation program, note and report all unsafe conditions and unsafe behaviors
  • If you see something, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Get rid of the little things and remember that all slips and trips are possible to prevent.


Specific hazards and suggested actions

Hazard Suggested Action
Spillage of wet or dry substance Clean spills immediately. Ensure that a suitable cleaning agent is used – refer to relevant chemical datasheets.
Slippery surfaces If the floor is slippery (or, after cleaning, is likely to be wet for some time), provide signs warning people of the hazard or redirect passage via alternative routes.
Change from wet to dry floor surfaces Warn of hazard by using signs. Place doormats next to wet area on dry side to reduce incidence of leaving wet footmarks.
Rugs and mats Ensure that mats are securely fixed and do not have curling edges. Replace mats if significantly contaminated by oil or grease.
Steps or changes of level Ensure good levels of lighting to ensure steps or changes in level are not in shadow. Fit highly visible edge markings.
Trailing cables Position cables such that they avoid crossing walkways if possible. Where they do, use, for example, trip prevention ramps around the cables. Use signs to warn people of loose cables. Restrict access to minimise traffic over them.
Stairways Ensure good levels of step visibility. Use tread markings at start point as a minimum. Remind people to use the handrails at all times when ascending or descending stairs. Consistent good practice in tread/riser ratio in stairway design is beneficial.
Lighting levels Ensure that lighting levels are adequate in walkways and working areas, so that potential trip hazards are not in shadow.
Protrusions Remove or clearly identify protrusions on deck or in walkways by highlighting them in bright yellow paint.
Miscellaneous rubbish Remove rubbish. Put it in designated waste containers and prevent any build-up within normal working areas.