Safety tips when working on stairs and slopes

Posted on 11th Mar, 2016 | By Lorretta Tatham

There are lots of professions and jobs that, from time to time, require work or tasks that are unfavorably positioned on staircases, slopes, and uneven surfaces. While the job may seem simple enough, environments like these can cause difficulties. In fact, slips, trips and falls, caused by this type of environment, are one of the biggest causes of injury in the workplace today. The HSE estimates that slips, trips and falls result in an annual 1.5 million working days lost and cause approximately 11,000 major injuries per year.

Over half of the major injuries that occur in the workplace arise from slips and trips on surfaces such as uneven floors, steps and stairs. Knowing how to tackle these difficult tasks safely can mean the difference between safe work and a serious incident happening.

Who faces these risks?


Almost any tradesperson, at some point in their career, will face these challenging circumstances. Trades that are faced with stairs and slopes on a regular basis include:

  • Electricians
  • Alarm fitters
  • Carpenters
  • Joiners
  • Technicians
  • Building contractors

What are the dangers?


The dangers vary, but 80% of all accidents that occur as a result of slips, trips, and falls result in fracture – according to RIDDOR.

Dangers include:

  • Slippery surfaces
  • Clutter on stairs
  • Poorly lit areas
  • Falls from unsecured or unsafe equipment
  • Faulty platforms or ladder grips
  • Losing footing or balance on slopes
  • Unsafe working practices

Minimising dangers


Before working on any stairs, slopes, or on uneven ground, it is important to undertake a risk assessment. This will help you to identify, assess and control the chances of slips and trips.

It’s important to:

  • Avoid using ladders on slippery surfaces unless secured. Slip-resistant feet will also be an essential feature of your access equipment
  • Maintain a clean and clutter-free working environment
  • Keep stairs and slopes free of ice and snow
  • Work carefully and slowly
  • Use handrails at all times to ensure stability
  • Remain cautious when carrying materials- making sure you can see over the top of anything you are carrying
  • Remove obstructions
  • Wear the appropriate footwear
  • Ensure adequate lighting
  • Report any potential issues as well as accidents

Employers have as much responsibility as an employee. They must train all employees to recognise all the hazards described above and how to use access equipment in these conditions. All employees must be aware of fall hazards, how to use PPE and fall protection, and the risks of working on stairs and slopes. 

It might also be a good idea to book on to one of our safety training courses. Our Working at Height Training Courses and Ladders & Steps Training Course cover all aspects of safety when it comes to working with access equipment. If you’re not quite sure which of our courses is best for you, you can also call our Course Enquiries team on 01282 615517.

Do you have any other safety tips you’d like to add? If so, tell us in the comments below or tweet us @BrownsLadders

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