women in office slip on wet floor in front of a caution wet floor sign

Due to the ambiguous nature of floor safety standards, Kendzior encourages cleaning and maintenance managers to educate themselves and make sure their voices are heard. One way they can take charge is by playing an active role in the selection of flooring for their facility.

According to Rob McNealy, president of the Safer Walkways Association, facility cleaning managers should have a say in the specification process for new builds and renovations.

“If you’re going to build a new building, you need to talk to the architects, because they’re concerned with aesthetics and not how easy the floors are to clean,” he says.

Bill Griffin, president of Cleaning Consultant Services in Seattle, concurs: “The person in charge of cleaning should be involved in the selection of surfaces that go into these buildings,” he says. “An interior designer or architect seldom knows about cleaning or maintaining the facility.”

And when it comes to floors that are already installed, facility managers need to test them before and after maintaining them.

“I recommend an annual walkway audit of your facility to find out what your COF is on your floor surfaces and assess the potential risk of slips and falls,” says McNealy. “A lot of people don’t know that there’s a connection between COF and maintenance. For larger facilities, it may be more cost-effective to take NFSI’s training program to become an in-house auditor.”

NFSI courses include Tribometery 101, a class that teaches facility managers how to use various testing devices, including a tribometer; an instrument that measures the coefficient of friction between two surfaces.

Geared For Safety

Facility cleaning managers may not always have a say in the type of floors installed in their buildings, but they do have a say in how those floors are cleaned. And according to consultants, the best defense against slips and falls is a properly maintained floor.

“Improper cleaning is the number one thing that can take a safe, high-traction floor and make it unsafe,” says McNealy. “Based on what I see in the field, that’s an epidemic, in my opinion.”

Griffin prescribes a regular mopping and scrubbing schedule, as well as a stripping and recoating process if needed.

“A clean floor is almost always less slippery than a dirty floor,” he says. “Contaminants, whether grease or soil, act like roller bearings under your feet.”

According to Joel Craddock, president of Doc’s Facilities Consulting, Rochester, New York, the biggest misconception in the industry is that shiny floors are slippery.

“It’s actually the opposite,” he says. “The shinier the floor, the higher the COF when you’re on a resilient floor that has floor finish. When the floors get dull, that’s when they’re more slippery.”

Housekeeping departments should stick to using cleaning products that are certified high-traction by the NFSI, and focus on training custodians to use the correct product for the type of soil being removed.

In addition to cleaning on a regular basis, custodians should pay close attention to dilution ratios, as improper mixing of chemicals is often a contributing factor to slick floors. Floor equipment should be kept clean, and dirty water should be discarded frequently.

“Dirty mop water should be changed often, otherwise you’re adding soil to the floor,” says Craddock. “You also need to train custodians to use proper mopping techniques. Mop the edges first, then the center, making a figure eight as you walk backwards.”

Craddock also stresses the importance of sweeping and dust mopping floors prior to cleaning them.

“Sweep and pick up pieces of debris that people can trip over,” he says. “Then remove any stickers or gum with a long-handled razor scrapper, and dust mop the floor with a treated or untreated dust mop, followed by proper mopping techniques. If you’re burnishing, re-dust mop the floor afterward because parts of that pad can break off and become like marbles under your feet.”

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Signs Stop Slips And Falls