Even high traction-certified products can contribute to unsafe floors when used incorrectly or in conjunction with the wrong equipment. As a result, training is imperative to ensure staff implement procedures and equipment that reduce the risk of slips and falls. Workers who are strapped for time may also find themselves cutting corners or dry times, both of which can up the slip factor of floors.

“Custodians often leave a lot of water on the floor because they don’t change out the squeegee, or they’re using an autoscrubber and they’re in a rush, so they leave water behind,” says Johnson. “Also, if a greasy mop is taken from the back to the front of the house [in a restaurant] it becomes a nice, big paintbrush to spread soil around. So maintenance of equipment and proper use is important.”

Spencer also cautions BSCs against using a mop and bucket, especially on grouted tile in kitchens, entryways and restrooms — the three hotspots for slip-and-fall incidents. 

“A lot of contractors use mops, but when the mop glides across the floor it acts like a squeegee and releases not only water, but dirt and detergent into the grout lines,” says Spencer. “After it dries, it leaves a residue, which could spread over the top of the tile again when loosened by water and foot traffic.”

Instead, Spencer recommends using an autoscrubber that releases just enough water to emulsify the solution and scrub the floor. The machine then vacuums up the dirty water, leaving the floor dry and eliminating the need for wet floor signs.

Consultants also urge BSCs to make sure that chemicals and machinery work in tandem to enhance slip resistance.

“The key is to have a comprehensive, integrated program between the floor care chemicals and equipment,” says Sawchuk. “For example, if it’s a supermarket that wants a super-wet look, it is okay to use a propane burnisher. Just make sure the floor finish is compatible with the machine.”

An Ounce Of Prevention
One of the biggest culprits contributing to unsafe floors is excess water — whether it’s due to improper procedures, insufficient dry times or inclement weather. To address the latter, Sawchuk advises BSCs to incorporate good matting practices into their floor care regimen.

“Matting is very cost effective and there’s a high return on investment when done correctly because it traps soil and moisture in a controllable area,” he says. “If you have a successful cleaning system and matting program — typically 20 feet at every entrance — you can affect slips and falls as well as the level of cleanliness in the building.”

Although the majority of BSCs do not supply matting, they are expected to maintain it and clean the floor beneath it.

“First and foremost, the floor mat needs to be on dry floors,” says Kendzior. “We’ve seen BSCs mop the floor and put the mat back before the floor is dry. When this happens the moisture beneath the mat won’t evaporate, and if someone steps on the mat they’ll slide on it like a surfboard.”

In addition to cleaning mats, experts advise BSCs to monitor them for fraying or curling that could result in a trip hazard. Contractors should also pay close attention to parking lots — a source of contaminants such as oil, grease and ice melt that could get tracked into the building and compound slip-and-fall issues.

As always, prevention is better than cure: Spencer recommends establishing a spill hotline to deal with mishaps in a timely manner.
“A lot of times people try to take care of spills themselves, but if it’s something sticky or oily they may not be able to remove it properly,” he says. “So promote a hotline and encourage them to call in immediately if they have a spill. A hotline will prevent a lot of slips and falls.”

According to the NFSI, falls account for more than 8 million hospital emergency room visits a year, representing the leading cause of visits — 21 percent. Slips and falls account for 12 percent of total falls.

“It’s a real issue and a growing issue — but it doesn’t have to be,” says Sawchuk. “Ensure that you have the right products, procedures and slip co-efficiency measurements. If a lawyer contacts you regarding a slip-and-fall incident and you provide them with the necessary documentation, chances are that lawyer’s going to disappear.”

Kassandra Kania is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a frequent contributor to Contracting Profits.

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