What is the Difference Between a Slip, Trip and Fall?

What is the Difference Between a Slip Trip and Fall?

The difference between a slip trip and fall is:

  • A slip is a loss of traction because of loose or uncertain footing on the ground, leading to a loss of balance e.g. a slippery floor
  • A trip is when you come into contact with an object that causes you to lose your balance e.g. you trip over a cardboard box
  • A fall is a result of a slip and trip, when there is no support below you, and you fall for a certain distance e.g. you fall off a ladder

These things also differ in the types of injuries they cause. Whereas slips are more likely to cause neck and back problems, trips can impact your hands, knees and elbows.[1] All three hazards can cause fractures if the impact is heavy enough.

It may seem arduous to point out the differences between these three things, but it is important legally. If you were injured because of a slip trip or fall at work, then you could gain compensation if there is evidence that your employer was at fault.

It also of course depends on the severity of your injury. Falls usually result in the most serious injuries, whereas trips and slips can be relatively minor. In 2014 alone, there were a total of 798 fatalities resulting from falls,[2] so it’s a really important issue. Slips and trips are also common things, so you should know how to prevent them at work.

Preventing Slips and Trips at Work

Slips trips and falls all have different causes, so you need to know about them in order to prevent them.


For slips, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) uses a specific model that lays out all the causes. They include environmental issues, cleaning, footwear, flooring, people and contamination.[3]

Contamination occurs when a surface becomes wet or slippery because of a spill, leakage or other event. In addition, the use of cleaning products also counts as contamination. HSE states that in the event of contamination, you should use lids, drip trays and matting to prevent a spillage.[4] However, if the problem is unstoppable, then you should look at controlling other things like worker footwear.[5]

Environmental issues that could cause slips include the weather creating slippery work conditions. This can happen when “rainwater gets onto a smooth surface inside or outside of a building”.[6] This is important if you work outside every day. To mitigate this issue, choose sturdy footwear and use coverings like a tarpaulin canopy where possible.


Furthermore, HSE uses a ‘trip potential triangle’[7] to identify where trips could occur.

The triangle talks about walkways, housekeeping and design/maintenance. They are all interconnected, but you can prevent trips best by keeping walking surfaces clear.

Above all else, pathways at work need to be clear of hazards. Especially in an office, there are a whole range of things that could trip you up, including computer wires or boxes with files in them. It also needs to be kept in good condition, as torn sections of carpet are really easy to trip over.

Both employees and employers need to be attentive in the workplace. If they spot things in the middle of walkways, then they should sort it then and there. If this isn’t possible, then report it to someone who can carry out the action.

For more information, you can view our range of health and safety courses. It includes a slips and trips course as approved by RoSPA and CPD. It will raise awareness in your organisation and prepare your workforce for slip and trip hazards.

You can view our online slips and trips course here.

[1] https://www.hupy.com/library/what-s-the-difference-between-trips-slips-and-falls-.cfm

[2] https://www.ehstoday.com/safety/5-tips-prevent-slips-trips-and-falls-infographic

[3] http://www.hse.gov.uk/slips/preventing.htm

[4] http://www.hse.gov.uk/slips/cleancampaign.htm

[5] http://www.hse.gov.uk/slips/cleancampaign.htm

[6] http://www.hse.gov.uk/slips/environment.htm

[7] http://www.hse.gov.uk/slips/preventing.htm