Over-used Signs for Slips (Trips and Falls)

  • Slips account for the vast majority of sign-present slips, trips and falls
  • The majority of sign-present slip, trip and fall victims are females
  • The majority of incidents with signs involve wet floors
  • The majority of sign-present accidents involve cleaning

Signs should only be used where hazards cannot be avoided or reduced. Provide a physical barrier to keep people away from a wet floor rather than just putting up a sign. A review of slip, trip and fall accidents where the floor was being wet cleaned showed that the presence of signs was mentioned in over half of the accident reports. This indicates that floor signs were ineffective in preventing slips, trips and falls on wet floors.

cleaning STF signs stats

HSE UK’s publication Research into the behavioural aspects of slips and trip accidents and incidents - Part 1: Literature review (40 pages) provides useful information. It says

  • For programmed/ routine floor cleaning, use a system that keeps pedestrians away from wet/ moist floors, e.g. physical barriers. Segregation of wet floors must not prevent emergency access or egress.
  • Warning signs alone may not be adequate for many circumstances

Signs used instead of proper safeguards

  • Signs should only be used where hazards cannot be avoided or adequately reduced
  • Cordon off a dry pedestrian walkway during routine floor wet-cleaning. Segregation of wet floors must not prevent emergency access or egress.
    • Signs may be used as a part of the cordon system

Corridor blocked off

  • Remove spills as quickly as possible. There may be no need for signage
    • Cordon off larger spills, if necessary. Use signage if needed, until spills can be safely and fully removed

The video 8 minutes of people falling over the same patch of ice with two warning cones in place gives an idea of the effectiveness of warning signs.

The Napo animated video "One small step" (1 minute, 30 seconds) shows the hazards from a step, the use of safety signs and resolving the problem

"Physiotherapist awarded €1m after slip on icy steps" (January 2014) - "Three yellow 'wet floor' caution signs were also placed on one side of the steps"


Signs used after danger has passed