After the fall

  • 5th April 2024

Craig McLaughlin provides tips for preventing slips, trips and falls in and around your school


Spring is finally tiptoeing in, bringing sunshine and the promise of warmer days. However, this time of year can also unleash surprise ice patches and torrential downpours, turning a school’s paths, walkways, car parks and playgrounds into obstacle courses.

As temperatures can still be low, especially in early mornings, and rainfall is still often heavy, the safety and security of pupils, staff and visitors is as important as it is in the winter months.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 55% of all accidents in educational settings are caused by a slip or trip, with nearly 2,000 recorded last year. Slips and trips continue to be a risk in UK schools, as they are in any environment where people move around. While you may have made considerable risk management efforts to improve safety measures and reduce the occurrence of slips and trips, accidents can and will still happen. It is important for schools to remain vigilant and proactive in managing these risks to ensure the safety of pupils, staff and visitors.

During the colder and wetter months, the risk of accidents surges in education settings. Insurance company RSA data shows a 34% increase in personal injury claims related to slips, trips or falls during the autumn and winter months. These incidents can result in injury claims, resulting in time-consuming hassle and upset for schools.

RSA data also reveals that 10% of slip, trip and fall claims within schools result in civil and/or legal action. Moreover, there’s the additional threat of reputational harm for your school, along with the potential for fines and prosecution, which shouldn’t be underestimated. Accidents on a school’s premises can easily become topics of conversation at the school gate and parent WhatsApp groups.

Slips and trips related to the seasonal changes present a unique challenge, especially when it comes to the safety of pupils. The constant movement of children make them more prone to falls, even without the additional hazards of plant debris, water, ice or snow. Their tendency to fool around and pay scant attention to their surroundings increases the likelihood of accidents.

This heightened risk extends beyond children to include all visitors and vulnerable groups, such as grandparents and individuals with limited mobility. Similarly, those carrying younger children may find it more difficult to maintain balance. Therefore, addressing the safety concerns associated with seasonal-related slips and trips is crucial for ensuring the wellbeing of anyone who comes through the school gates.

Six things you should have on your to-do list:

  1. Flooring selections and maintenance: choose seasonal-appropriate flooring materials, regularly inspect and maintain them, and document this process as evidence of having done so.
  2. Use non-slip measures: place non-slip mats in high-risk areas and put in place regular cleaning schedules. Display warning signs throughout potentially slippery areas, including kitchens, canteen/refectory areas, lavatories, swimming pools and sports facilities, wooden or decked areas and areas of increased footfall for parents’ evenings and seasonal plays etc.

Outside the school building, address slip risks from fallen leaves that become wet or have started to decay. They can hide any hazard that may be on the path or they themselves create a slip risk.

  1. Walkway planning: well-conceived walkways play a crucial role in preventing accidents, especially during winter overcrowding. Encourage pupils to pay attention, minimise possible distractions (by appointing hall monitors or staff to watch) and clear routes and shortcuts of obstructions.

Outside, clear snow, ice and fallen leaves regularly to prevent slip hazards. Pay particular attention to drains and grates which become slippery when wet, especially when covered in moss or blocked with debris. These can be difficult to see in lower light conditions. Actively monitor the weather forecasts – if bad weather’s on the way, prepare for it.

  1. Clear signage and visibility: a lack of warning signs for wet floors or potential hazards significantly increases risk. Use clear signage and markings to indicate safe pathways both inside and outside the premises – and anticipate areas that could be a higher risk (such as slopes and grassy areas). Ensure outdoor areas are well-lit with clear signage to draw attention to potential dangers – inadequate lighting often creates shadows that allow potential hazards to lurk.
  2. Education and awareness: it’s important to build a positive risk culture in your school. Educate pupils about potential hazards and establish a culture of safety among faculty and staff. Conduct slip coefficient tests, external safety reviews, and use temporary walkways with handrails where necessary. Encourage all members of your community to look out for hazards – can anything be found on the paths or steps, including fire escapes that could cause an accident?
  3. Risk mapping: implement risk mapping for both internal and external areas using models from organisations like the HSE. Using a mapped-out diagram of your site, mark all slips and trips reported in the past 12 months (or relevant period) with crosses. Engage with staff, parents, visitors and pupils to identify any near misses, and incorporate them into the chart. Decide what action needs to be taken and implement that action. And, importantly, continue to monitor it to ensure control measures put in place are working.

For more guidance on spotting hazards, assessing flooring, mapping and assessment tools – visit:

How to document an incident as a result of a slip or trip in your school

It is important to gather accurate and detailed information to ensure proper record-keeping and potential future reference. Here are some steps to follow when documenting an accident in school:

  • Prompt response: respond to the accident promptly and ensure the safety and wellbeing of those involved. Provide any necessary first aid or medical assistance as required.
  • Incident report form: These are specifically designed for documenting accidents in schools. The form should include fields to capture essential information such as the date, time and location of the accident, details of the individuals involved (including names and contact information), a description of the incident, and any witnesses present.
  • Detailed description: provide a detailed description of the accident, including the sequence of events leading up to the incident, the specific location within the school where it occurred, and any contributing factors or hazards that may have played a role.
  • Witness statements: if there were witnesses to the accident, gather their statements. Record their names, contact information, and their account of what they observed. It is important to document their statements accurately and objectively.
  • Photographs or videos: take photographs or videos of the accident scene, focusing on any relevant factors such as the condition of the area, hazards or objects involved.
  • Medical treatment and records: document any medical treatment provided to the injured party, including the names of medical professionals involved, the nature of the injuries, and any recommended or administered treatments. Keep copies of medical records and reports related to the accident.
  • Communication log: maintain a log of all communications related to the accident, including any conversations with the injured party, witnesses, parents or guardians, school staff, or insurance providers. Note the date, time and a summary of the discussion.
  • Review and signature: review the incident report form for accuracy and completeness. Ensure that all necessary fields are filled out and that the information is clear and concise. Have the appropriate individuals, such as the injured party, witnesses and relevant staff members, sign and date the report to acknowledge its accuracy.
  • Storage and accessibility: digitally store the incident report form and any supporting documentation in a secure and accessible location. Ensure that authorised personnel, such as the school bursar or health and safety officers, can easily access the records when needed.
  • Follow-up actions: document any follow-up actions taken as a result of the accident, such as implementing safety measures, conducting further investigations, or providing additional training or support.

Remember, it’s crucial to handle accident documentation with sensitivity and confidentiality, ensuring compliance with data protection and privacy regulations.


Craig McLaughlin is the risk consulting casualty practice lead at RSA Insurance.

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