Even with preventative maintenance programs in place, thorough documentation of cleaning procedures, protocols and employee training, custodial departments can still have a slippery floor problem. How? By using the wrong coatings and cleaners on the floors.

The use of improper coatings on floors is a major contributor to slip-and-fall events. Even worse, using the wrong type floor cleaner, or not following manufacturer's instructions for use, can increase the likelihood of a slip and fall.

According to Steve Spencer, head of facilities maintenance for State Farm Insurance, Bloomington, Ill., managers need to know, "What products are they using and what does it do to the safety of the floor? Does it increase the traction, does it decrease the traction, or does it just clean and leave the traction where it needs to be?"

It is extremely important to use cleaning chemicals properly. The overuse of a cleaning chemical can leave a residue and chemical underuse does not clean the floor. Both situations can reduce the traction level.

One easy way managers can ensure they are using products that do not negatively affect traction is to look for those that carry the NFSI logo. The National Floor Safety Institute has a two-stage certification test for products that is performed in real-world applications. Products that pass this certification are labeled "High Traction." A list of these products can be found at www.nfsi.org.

A Test Above The Rest

By monitoring traction levels on floors and implementing preventative maintenance tasks, custodial managers have eliminated the opportunity for fraud, set in place proper cleaning procedures, sweep logs, matting programs and chemical use training in an effort to reduce or eliminate slips and falls in the facility. But lacking is one key component that ties all of these together and documents the department's efforts to keep the floors and facility as safe a possible.

How does one know that the floors are still not slippery? The answer is to have the floors independently tested to the ANSI B101.1-2009 national standard.

This standard is all about pedestrian safety and the prevention of slips and falls. It explains the test method for measuring traction on common hard floor surfaces such as wood, vinyl, ceramic tile, laminate and concrete. This standardized method can be used both in the laboratory or the field to determine the wet static coefficient of friction (SCOF) of a flooring material or surface. In other words, measure the "slip potential" or risk of slipping on a wet floor.

The ANSI B101.1 standard divides floors into three risk ranges: high traction, moderate traction and low traction. According to clinical studies performed by the NFSI, the high traction level found in floors that measure a wet static coefficient of friction at 0.6 or greater can reduce slip-and-fall claims by up to 90 percent.

Therefore, it is imperative that custodial management insist that facility walkways be tested to document compliance with national standards. To do anything less would be to guess if all the other efforts were truly effective in reducing slips and falls. This single step could change the character of a slip and fall negligence claim against a facility or deter a fraudulent claim from even being filed.

The keys to preventing slip-and-fall events and defending against possible litigation, should one occur, are proper maintenance procedures and the documentation of results. By establishing an effective maintenance program, training employees in the proper cleaning methodology, using proper matting, selecting cleaning products with a documented track record of slip resistance, and regularly and routinely testing the floors to the national standard, custodial managers can document a trail of due diligence to help protect themselves and their employers from slip-and-fall accidents and the litigation that often follows.  

Brent Johnson is the chief auditor for Traction Auditing, LLC, the chairman of the ANSI B101.0 Walkway Surface Auditing Procedure for the Measurement of Walkway Slip Resistance subcommittee and an instructor for the National Floor Safety Institute.