The custodial staff plays a huge role in making sure that the buildings they service are safe from slip and fall hazards.

“If [janitors are cleaning] correctly, they lower the risk (of slips and falls). They can be using great products and great methodology, but if they don’t follow the directions, they can increase the risk,” says Brent Johnson, chief auditor with Traction Auditing, Southlake, Texas.

Some tips he suggest for janitors to help reduce the slip and fall risk:
• Use quality chemicals and mix them correctly
• Use proper methodology, including maintaining clean mop water and clean auto-scrubber brushes
• Training staff on safety measures

This last part is especially crucial.

“People who maintain the facility need to recognize what creates the hazards, and what are they going to do in order to avoid incidence or injuries,” says John Poole Jr., consultant with American Institute for Cleaning Sciences in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. “That comes from really training individuals to recognize these hazards.”

Russ Kendzior, founder of the Southlake, Texas-based National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) as well as Secretary of the ANSI B101 Committee, suggests that businesses, such as larger retail stores, for example, hire people specifically to be “on the front lines” as slip and fall prevention specialists.

“Janitorial people need to be trained to understand that they are safety people. Most have very little training in the area of safety,” he says.

No one can control the weather that is brought inside a building via footwear and umbrellas; that is where mats come in handy.

“You need a high quality scraper mat outside and a high quality walk off mat in the lobby,” says Johnson. “The more you keep outside, the less that you have to deal with it inside.”

Mats should be of high quality, kept clean and dry and should be changed out; spares can be kept in the closet, or rental mat companies can replace them.

Mats should be shampooed monthly and vacuumed three to four times per day, says Poole Jr.

Walk off mats should fit a particular purpose; for example, be designed to keep dry in wet conditions or to capture soil in a wet or dry condition.

The industry standard for matting is 10 feet, but between 20 and 30 feet is often recommended.

“The longer the mat, the more moisture or soil you’re removing,” says Kendzior.

Some companies are engineering the problem out by manufacturing carpet tile, which is easier to maintain and doesn’t pose a trip hazard.

Of course, appropriate signage or barricades warning people of a hazardous floor situation is crucial, but only if they’re removed as soon as the floor is back to baseline; a janitor should never leave the area unattended until the source of the potential slip and fall has dried.

Hilary Daninhirsch is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh.