Man falls onto hard to the ground after slipping on wet floor

Slick floors can be a slippery slope for building service contractors. In retail stores, office buildings, schools and restaurants, slick floors can lead to slip-and-fall injuries, and janitorial workers are often held accountable.

Without adequate floor cleaning protocols, training and documentation, contract cleaners could find their reputation at stake — and their business the target of a lawsuit.

“Building service contractors get blamed every time there’s a slip and fall, and they get dragged into a lot of lawsuits,” says Russ Kendzior, founder and president of the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) in Southlake, Texas. “So it’s beneficial for them to perform periodic testing of the floors they’re cleaning to make sure they’re safe.”

Some BSCs hire a third-party walkway traction auditor to test the floor’s coefficient of friction — the ratio of the force needed to move one surface horizontally over another and the pressure between the two surfaces. This measurement can be used to express the degree of slip resistance of a floor surface.

Alternatively, BSCs can test the floor themselves using a tribometer, an instrument that measures the coefficient of friction between two surfaces. The NFSI offers training courses — including a class called Tribometery 101 — that teach BSCs how to use various testing devices, says Kendzior.

Slip-Proof Products
Testing floors before and after cleaning can help BSCs identify issues and determine whether or not their services are a contributing factor to slick floors.

According to Brent Johnson, chief auditor for Traction Auditing in Southlake, the biggest problem is not the cleaning products, but the floor itself.

“Usually floors are slippery because the wrong type of floor has been installed for the situation; some floors are appropriate to get wet and others are not,” he says. “After the fact, the question becomes, ‘Are you using the right cleaning chemicals?’”

More often than not the answer is no. First and foremost, BSCs should educate themselves about the type of floor they’re cleaning. For instance, is it regular vinyl tile that requires floor finish? Or is it a newer resilient flooring tile with a urethane coating that does not require finish? BSCs also need to educate staff so that they use the right products on the right floors.

“Using the wrong product may leave a residue that becomes slippery on certain types of floors,” says Johnson. “For example, a lot of kitchens try to use dishwashing liquid on the floor, but when a surfactant gets wet and mixes with grease, it becomes slippery.”

Johnson recommends facilities use products tested and certified “high traction” by the NFSI. These products maintain walkways in the high-traction range of ANSI/NFSI B101.1 national standard requirements.

In addition to using third-party certified products, consultants emphasize the importance of proper dilution ratios.

“First, make sure you use the right product for the type of floor and soil; and second, make sure you use the right dilution,” says Mike Sawchuk, president of Sawchuk Consulting in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. “If it’s not the right product or dilution it’s not going to remove the soil, and over time soils, greases and cleaning residues combine, creating a slip-and-fall hazard when they get wet.”

BSCs should also exercise caution any time they purchasing floor chemicals that contain fragrance, says Steve Spencer, a consultant and former facility specialist for State Farm Insurance, Bloomington, Indiana.

“If (the chemical) has a lemon-fresh scent, look at the label and see if it contains a petroleum distillate,” he says. “If it does, it’s probably something you don’t want to use on the floor. Other products, like degreasers, also have petroleum distillates, and petroleum or oil is going to be more slippery or low traction.”

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