Water and moisture are not the only threat to floor safety. Tools that are used to prevent slips can also be the cause of trips and falls.

“Floor mats are the No. 2 cause of injury after slippery floors,” says Kendzior. “You see it all the time. Property owners will put down a mat to remove soil, dirt, or moisture to prevent a slip and fall and end up causing a trip and fall.”

When working with floor mats, especially at entry points, it’s imperative that the proper type of matting is put down and remains down. Floor matting that’s rippled, buckled or curled upward has the potential to trip someone.

“Any good matting manufacturer or distributor can tell you what’s appropriate for an area,” says Johnson. “If there’s no ‘wet problem,’ you don’t need to have a mat that exists to take moisture out — you need the scraper mat to scrape off large, dry materials. Most of the time, mats are only needed when moisture is an issue.”

Even if the correct floor matting is being used, janitorial staff must be sure that it’s well cared for. For example, floor matting that’s totally soaked through isn’t an asset and needs to be changed out.

“Mats need to have the proper backing and elevation, and they must be secure,” says Sawchuk. “Furthermore, to work most effectively, they need to be a part of a system (scraper, scraper/wiper, wiper) and of proper length.”

Most floor mats are certified, but some are not. In Kendzior’s opinion, spending a little more on a certified mat is worth the investment.

“Some mats may be a bit more expensive than a ‘low bidder’ product, but that’s the trade off,” he says. “A few more dollars on a certified product per year will be less than a legal claim for a slip or trip-and-fall injury.”

Another contributing factor to safer flooring is lighting. Too much or too little can cause problems that lead to slips, trips or falls. Building occupants may judge the cleanliness of a facility by how shiny the floors are, but a combination of bright lighting and light-colored, shiny flooring can create glare and a “wet look” that can make it difficult to see actual water or other contaminants on the floor.

Low lighting, too, can increase risk. Perhaps used for ambience in a restaurant, theater or auditorium, low lighting can mask water and contaminants on the floor, as well as making ramps, steps, or transitions in materials (from hard surface to carpet, etc.) difficult to see.

“Lighting should be used to identify steps, ramps and transitions,” says Sawchuk. “Keeping this lighting functioning with regular inspections and replacement of any components that are no longer working should be part of a comprehensive risk assessment and maintenance plan.”

Trip hazards also include cords and cables that are not appropriately covered, obstructed views, open drawers, out-of-place furniture, displays, signage, tools, and other clutter that gets placed on floors and in walkways. Custodial staff should be trained to look for and resolve these situations, as well.

Frontline workers have a very important job. Facility cleaning managers can make it easier by giving them the training, tools and information they need to do it correctly, which further ensures the safety of occupants.

“Use certified products, have checklists and procedures, and train your staff to follow them,” says Kendzior. “Finally, test your floors at a minimum of once a year.”

Shannon O’Connor is a freelance writer from Mason, Ohio.

previous page of this article:
Risk Assessment Plans, Signage Improve Safety