Managing legal compliance

Whether you are a building owner/manager, employer (PCBU) you have a duty of care to those who work for you and those who visit your building.

As the owner manager or employer, it is your responsibility to ensure your building/premises is safe, fit-for-purpose, and does not pose any foreseeable risk to those using the building, premises, public space etc.

Unfortunately, people do slip and fall, and people do sustain injures slipping on floors. Some of those people will seek legal advice and damages for their injuries.

As a defendant you will be asked to demonstrate how you managed risks and hazards in the workplace/premises including managing risks associates with slip and falls. Evidence of managing risks could include minutes to meetings, toolbox talks, staff training files, processes and procedures specifically related to managing spills and foreign materials on flooring surfaces. In particular, evidence of acting on previous incidents or accidents can be used to demonstrate rigorous risk management principles were in place at the premises. Such action could include but are not limited to, changes in processes and procedures, additional staff training, actions to modify or replace surfaces, fixtures or fittings.

For more information on legal compliance please contact Daniels Associates.

Why people fall over – contributing factors

Slips, trips and falls (STF) are the most common cause of serious injuries at work after hazardous manual tasks, with both contributing to musculoskeletal disorder (MSD).

Slips occur when there is too little friction or traction between footwear and the walking surface.

Trips occur when the foot collides with an obstruction or there is foot contact with a highly tactile surface, resulting in the loss of balance and a likely fall.

Falls occur because of either a slip, trip, loss of balance or where the surface a person is standing on / stepping onto, collapses or moves from underneath their footing them causing the person to rapidly descend from a height or on the same level, to the ground or lower level without control.

Factors influencing the risk of slipping

Slip hazards are affected by a large number of factors including:

  • the slip resistance of the pedestrian material (flooring surface)
  • The flooring surface wear characteristics – for example some tiles with a grit in the surface may wear quickly as the grit breaks from the surface
  • Presence of water or other liquids on a floor
  • Presence of foreign materials on a floor
  • Nature of pedestrian traffic (including age, gait, crowding, rushing (particularly when raining)
  • Pooling of water
  • Water running down a slip – causing further contamination
  • Cleaning specification

Environmental factors

Other common sources of risk may include:

  • Poor lighting when exiting and entering vehicles
  • Weather
  • Footwear is inappropriate for environmental conditions
  • Uneven ground surfaces, holes and cracks
  • Uneven or various step height and width
  • Plant growth or other contaminants (grass, moss, lichen)
  • Pets and other animals
  • Obstructed view or other distractions (mobile phones/displays).

Physical factors​

Common sources of risk within internal environments include:

  • Uneven flooring
  • Changes to flooring/traction types (concrete to carpet)
  • Sloping surfaces
  • Poorly maintained floor surfaces
  • Slippery floor surfaces, resulting from cleaning products/methods
  • Contaminants or spills (liquids, water, grease, oil, dust or paper)
  • Cluttered or inadequate space to perform tasks
  • Poorly lit areas
  • Lack of appropriately marked walkways, edges or steps
  • Loose or unanchored rugs/mats
  • Loose cords and cables
  • Lack of or inappropriate use of aids/equipment to reach items or products stored at a height
  • Transition from high slip resistance to low slip resistance flooring

Psychosocial factors

Psychosocial factors, which may contribute and increase the likelihood of a slip, trip or fall incident occurring, these may include factors such as:

  • Rushing around
  • Distractions
  • Policy, procedures, workplace support and leadership
  • fatigue
  • stress
  • People with special needs or disability including impaired eyesight

Managing risks posed by flooring surfaces

When managing risks for slips and falls you should consider:

  • Identify potential risks which may contribute to a slip, trip and fall
  • Assess the risks, what is the likelihood and consequence of the slip, trip and fall occurring.
  • Implement control measures to eliminate, or if unable, then reduce the risk/s as much as reasonably practicable
  • Implement a review or evaluation schedule to ensure the current control measures remain effective and have not introduced any new hazards to the workplace/work area.

Managers of commercial buildings should understand the risk posed by various flooring surfaces inside and outside a building.

You should consider testing include all public areas which are readily accessible, including:

  • Internal and external entrances
  • Internal and external stairs
  • Internal dry public areas
  • External paths and metal grates
  • Car parks and line marking
  • Food courts, kitchen and food service areas
  • Amenities, bathrooms, change rooms
  • Ramps and other access points
  • Swimming pools and surrounds
  • Note this list in NOT inclusive of all flooring surfaces

Floors, ground surfaces and lighting

Pedestrian surfaces should:

  • Be appropriate for the type of work or activity being carried out
  • Where appropriate, floor surfaces are consistent (slip resistant/friction level) when people are moving between different areas
  • Stairs and steps or changes to surface heights are clearly identifiable
  • Stair nosing’s and change to surfaces are identifiable for people with impaired eyesight
  • Stairs are constructed with adequate and consistent depth, height and edges
  • Appropriate type and amount of lighting is installed to ensure safe entrance/egress in and around work areas and is appropriate for the task to be performed
  • There is a sufficient number of power outlets installed or suspended to eliminate cords on floors.
  • Adequate exhaust and drainage is installed to prevent the build-up of dust, vapours and other contaminants.


Hazards and risk controls

When considering possible solutions, you must consult with your workers. You can use the Hierarchy of Controls as a guide. Listen to their views about the working environment and draw on their experiences and ideas to make the most appropriate changes to suit your workplace.

Hierarchy of Controls


Eliminating the hazard creating the risk

Remove slip, trip or fall on the same level hazards at the planning and design stage or when renovating a facility. Install more power outlets and eliminate split level flooring.  

Substituting the hazard creating the risk with a hazard that gives rise to a lesser risk

Resurface floors. Replace substances or equipment currently being used.

Isolating the hazard from the person put at risk

Limit access to high-risk areas.

Minimising the risk by engineering means

Apply floor treatments. Contain spills. Improve lighting. Install handrails.  

Minimising the risk by administrative means

Adopting safe working practices.
Providing appropriate training, instruction or information.  
Regular environmental workplace inspections. 
Monitoring of tasks undertaken. 
Regular monitoring of relevant records, data and statistics. 
Housekeeping and cleaning. 

Using personal protective equipment

Wearing appropriate footwear.

Sample hazard checklist

Checklist for the prevention of slips, trips and falls on the same level


Can water be walked onto smooth floors (eg foyers) on rainy days?

Are there any hard, smooth floors in wet or oily areas?

Are there any leaks of fluids onto the floor from processes or machines?

Is poor drainage causing pooling of fluids?

Are there any floor surface transitions not easily noticed (any ridge that is as high as a footwear sole or higher?)

Is there any ice or water on cold room floors?

Is the floor slippery when wet?

Is there poor drainage causing pooling of fluids?

Is there poor drainage causing pooling of fluids?

Are there any isolated low steps (commonly at doorways)?

Are there any trip hazards due to equipment and other objects left on the floor?

Are there any raised carpet edges or holes worn in carpets?

Are there any tiles becoming unstuck or curling at the edges?

Are there any holes or unevenness in the floor surface?

Stairs and ramps

Is the lighting insufficient for ramps or steps to be seen clearly and without glare?

Do any steps have too small a rise or tread or an excessive nosing?

Are any step edges (nosing’s) slippery or hard to see?

Are the steps uneven or are there excessive variations in step dimensions?

Are handrails inadequate on stairs?

Are ramps too steep or too slippery?


Is there sufficient lighting in passageways and at flooring transitions, ramps or stairs?

Does the lighting throw distracting shadows or produce excessive glare?

Outdoor areas

Outdoor areas
Is there a build up of moss or other vegetation on pathways?

Are there any surface transitions not easily noticed (any ridge that is as high as a footwear sole or higher)? 

Are there potholes in footpaths or walkways?


Is there a build-up of polish on floors?

Is there an excessive residue of detergent?

Do employees have to walk on floors wet from washing?

Are wet floor signs not available or not used correctly?

Do you need to provide information / training / advice to contractors regarding cleaning procedures?

Are paper, rubbish, dirt, spills etc. left on the floor?

Are aisles poorly marked and cluttered?

Are any anti-slip paint and coating profiles or tapes worn smooth or damaged?

Are there any trip hazards due to equipment and other movable objects left lying on the ground?

Do spills (wet or dry) occur regularly during work processes?


Do employees have to talk or work on greasy, oily or wet floors that are not adequately slip resistant?

Do loads that are carried or pushed interfere with forward vision?

Are the loads to be carried excessive or likely to upset a person's balance?

Do heavy trolleys have to be pushed up ramps?

Are employees hurried due to time constraints?


Do the employees' safety shoes lack grip?

Are the tread patterns on safety footwear too worn?

Are the tread patterns clogged with dirt?

Common floor types and characteristics

The table below provide information on the physical characteristics for different types of flooring and pedestrian surfaces.

Floor type




Rounded aggregate can be slippery when concrete wears. Interior surface is often sealed to prevent dusting and absorption of liquids - this can increase slipperiness.


Gives good appearance and wears well but can be slippery when wet, when excess polish used or when dusty.

Quarry tiles, ceramic tiles

Low water absorption and good resistance to chemicals. Slippery in wet conditions if smooth but can be moulded with aggregate or profiles to improve slip resistance - special cleaning equipment may then be required.

Glazed ceramic tiles

Slippery when wet, particularly with soapy water. Some slip resistance treatments available, but preferable not to install these products on floors.

Vinyl tiles and sheet

Easy to clean. Use sheet form where frequent washing is required to avoid water getting under tiles. Slippery when wet, particularly if polished, however slip resistant vinyls are available. These have aggregate moulded in. Thicker and softer vinyls are more slip resistant that hard ones.


Must be sealed to prevent absorption of oil and water but may then be slippery when wet.

Steel plate

Tends to be slippery when wet or oily, particularly when worn.


Less effective in wet conditions. Must be fixed down well at the edges and joints or will cause a trip hazard.

Plastic matting

Interlocking PVC extrusions give good drainage and slip resistance. Hose down or steam clean.


Carpet has a shorter life than hard floor surfaces but it can be a cost-effective solution. Installations should be wall-to-wall to avoid the hazard of a trip on edges. When use in small local areas, such as at entrances, it should be installed in a recess in the floor. Alternatively, it should be rubber-backed and with hardwearing tapered edges. Trolleys can be harder to push on carpet, but if larger wheels are fitted and the carpet does not have a deep pile, this is not a serious problem.

Fibreglass gratings

This product can have grit particles moulded into upper surface to provide very good slip resistance. Fluids are quickly drained away.


In order to reduce and eliminate the risks of slips, trips and falls PCBU’s should ensure:

  • Regular inspections are programmed for internal and external floor surfaces to detect early signs of damage or introduced risks
  • All incidents, near misses and other observed risks are appropriately reported and managed/controlled
  • Regular maintenance programs are scheduled for floors/ground surfaces that follow the manufacturer's instructions. Sometimes this may be as simple as a cleaning routine
  • Good housekeeping is maintained
  • Footwear and mats used are appropriate for the task and environment
  • Where required, regular inspections are completed on machinery and equipment to detect early signs of damage, spills or any other introduced risks, which may lead to slips, trips and falls.
  • Place internal matting at entrances when raining