Occup Environ Med 70:35-40 doi:10.1136/oemed-2012-100831
  • Original articles
    • Workplace

Perception of slipperiness and prospective risk of slipping at work

Open Access
  1. Melissa J Perry2,6
  1. 1Center for Injury Epidemiology, Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Environmental and Occupational Medicine and Epidemiology Program, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
  4. 4Center for Physical Ergonomics, Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, USA
  5. 5Center for Behavioral Sciences, Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, USA
  6. 6Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, The George Washington University, Washington DC, USA
  1. Correspondence to Theodore K Courtney, Center for Injury Epidemiology, Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, 71 Frankland Rd., Hopkinton, MA 01748, USA; theodore.courtney{at}
  • Received 6 April 2012
  • Revised 4 July 2012
  • Accepted 30 July 2012
  • Published Online First 30 August 2012


Objectives Falls are a leading cause of injury at work, and slipping is the predominant cause of falling. Prior research has suggested a modest correlation between objective measures (such as coefficient of friction, COF) and subjective measures of slipperiness (such as worker perceptions) in the workplace. However, the degree of association between subjective measures and the actual risk of slipping at the workplace is unknown. This study examined the association between perception of slipperiness and the risk of slipping.

Methods 475 workers from 36 limited-service restaurants participated in a 12-week prospective cohort study. At baseline, demographic information was collected, participants rated floor slipperiness in eight areas of the restaurant, and work environment factors, such as COF, were measured. Restaurant-level and area-level mean perceptions of slipperiness were calculated. Participants then reported their slip experience at work on a weekly basis for the next 12 weeks. The associations between perception of slipperiness and the rate of slipping were assessed.

Results Adjusting for age, gender, body mass index, education, primary language, mean COF, use of slip-resistant shoes, and restaurant chain, each 1-point increase in mean restaurant-level perception of slipperiness (4-point scale) was associated with a 2.71 times increase in the rate of slipping (95% CI 1.25 to 5.87). Results were similar for area-level perception within the restaurant (rate ratios (RR) 2.92, 95% CI 2.41 to 3.54).

Conclusions Perceptions of slipperiness and the subsequent rate of slipping were strongly associated. These findings suggest that safety professionals, risk managers and employers could use aggregated worker perceptions of slipperiness to identify slipping hazards and, potentially, to assess intervention effectiveness.

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