Slips, trips and falls

I would like to look at one of the problems many golf courses have - slips, trips and falls!!!

I walked a golf course this week and found that every hole had some areas of grassy slope which could if the circumstance were right (or wrong!!) would lead to greenkeepers or golfers coming a cropper. At St Andrews Links, we addressed the self same problem several years ago and on the Links the land only rises and falls only 25 feet from top to bottom!!

Have you done a risk assessment on your golf course for slips, trips and falls?

In agriculture it is recognised that the most dangerous situation for a tractor to be in is wet grass, on slopes, with bald tyres. This describes a good proportion of every golf course I know. All greenkeepers go out in the early morning, when the dew is on the ground, with grass or slick tyres, on varying slopes, and grass of varying heights.

Around five tractor drivers a year are killed in UK from their tractors overturning, mostly on slopes. The HSE say over 33% of accidents to pedestrian workers are slips, trips or falls!!

Mower on slopeThe Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HASAWA) requires employers to ensure the health and safety of all employees and anyone who may be affected by their work. This includes taking steps to control slip and trip risks. Employees must not endanger themselves or others and must use any safety equipment provided. Manufacturers and suppliers have a duty to ensure that their products are safe. Adequate information about appropriate use must also be provided.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 build on the HSWA and include duties on employers to assess risks (including slip and trip risks) and where necessary take action to safeguard health and safety.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require floors to be suitable, in good condition and free from obstructions. People must be able to move around safely.

So what problems are there?

Where is it likely to happen?

Firstly get a map of your course, at least A4 size. I like to use a stroke saver with each hole expanded to A5. Mark on it the areas you would expect to have problems and the areas where accidents have happened in the past.

Each of these areas must be considered to see if the area could be improved by laying paths, re-routing paths, changing aspects of the course, flattening of slopes, etc.

One check you must make is to list the slipping and tripping accidents which have happened on the golf course over the years and where.

Who is affected?

What equipment is being used?

List all your equipment and look at the manufacturers recommendations for use on slopes. If the manufacturer says the equipment should only be used on slopes up to 20º·, and your slopes are 25º·, then you may have to consider alternative equipment or alternative work practices. This also applies to golf buggies. Your buying policy should be looked at - 4 wheel drive tractors are inherently safer on slopes, wider wheel base equipment is inherently safer on slopes.

You must also look at visibility, both in terms of the structure obscuring your view or the windscreen being dirty or steamed up.

Training & Competence

Look at your staff - are they trained and competent to tackle the problem areas.

Many golf courses are now asking that their greenkeepers are trained and examined to the IOG standard for Tractor Operations 1, Ride on mowers and small Engine powered machines. If you need information on these courses, contact IOG at Milton Keynes.

Personal Protective Equipment

Are the Greenkeepers wearing boots with a good grip? Are the golfers wearing shoes with adequate spikes?

Safe Working Practice

And lastly you must look at the Safe Working Practice for the use of equipment. I have explained this on many occasions on this page and make no apology for doing it again. It is essential you have a safe working practice showing who can use, PPE required, what to do before use, during use and after use.


If you can control the hazard in no other way, then you must put up signs. However, this is a mixed blessing as long term use of signs could be construed as unwillingness to carry out reasonable improvements - laying of paths, rerouting of paths, laying of steps, etc. Failure to act reasonably is the basis for negligence claims!

What happens if …..?

Lastly it is now encouraged that you look at the worst case scenario - what accidents could happen and what arrangements have you in hand to tackle the problem? How does the victim get help? What are the emergency services in your area? Can the ambulance reach all parts of the course? Do you have trained first aiders?


Every so often, at least once every six months, sit down and consider your risk assessment. Has anything changed which alters your conclusions? Can things be improved? If an accident occurs, it should be automatic that a review of the risk assessment is carried out.