In an ideal world, a caution sign warning against a slippery floor would light up like a beacon. But the reality is, most people ignore such signs.

While that may be counterintuitive, the problem boils down to this simple fact: Very often, custodians leave the signs up long after the area has dried, inadvertently desensitizing the public.
“Signs are the most misused safety product out there,” says Kendzior.

But used correctly, Spencer comments that floor signs can be very effective. He suggests these ground rules when using signage:
• The sign should be placed right on top of the wet area.
• It should be stable so it doesn’t fall over.
• The sign should be at least 28 to 39 inches tall and visible from 360-degrees.
• It should be yellow, with black letters.
• The sign should clearly read “Caution: Wet Floor.”
• The sign should be removed immediately after the area is dried.

It is also a good idea to put signs around a wet area in advance of the hazard, whenever possible. Ideally, the sign should be illuminated or otherwise clearly visible.

At times, barricades are appropriate to use rather than, or in addition to floor signs. For example, if the custodial staff happens to be applying finish to a floor during the day, putting up a temporary barricade is a good idea. A barricade is a better option than a sign anytime an area is going to be wet for a long period of time or includes a larger area of the floor.

Money Talks

Even with the best program in place, the most graceful among us has slipped, tripped and fallen at some point in our lives. If we’re lucky, we can get up with nothing more painful than a dent in our dignity. But for many others, slipping, tripping or falling can lead to significant injuries, resulting in lost time from work, expensive lawsuits, hospitalization or even death.

In our litigious society, slips and falls is the number one area of tort litigation.

“It draws phenomenally huge numbers of lawsuits,” says Kendzior. Part of the problem, he says, is that many American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards have yet to be adopted by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“Anyone can claim anything is slippery,” says Kendzior. “There never were any standards, no slip resistant requirements, or defining what constitutes a slip-resistant floor.”

The result is that slips and falls have become an astronomical, multi-billion dollar industry — approximately 80 billion dollars last year and it is going up annually, says Spencer.

“The average cost of a slip and fall accident is about $7,000,” he says.

And, rather than follow safety procedures, many companies are quick to settle because the cost of slip and fall claims are often built right into their budgets. Unfortunately, the cost of these claims also results in raised insurance premiums for the company.

Despite these figures, though, fraudulent claims are uncommon.

“Fraud is a very small percentage of slips and falls,” says Kendzior. “For floor slips and falls alone, it’s 10 percent.”

However, some fraudulent claims fall under the “soft fraud” definition. For example, someone fell, but they are not as hurt as they claim to be.

“Soft fraud is popular, especially for workers who do not have access to health care; this is how they get their medical bills paid,” says Kendzior.

What will help eliminate fraud, suggests Spencer, is installing cameras.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, false claims and legitimate accidents do happen. But facility cleaning managers can be proactive by eliminating the possibility of slips and falls. Implementing and executing an appropriate floor care program, in conjunction with documented statistics of the maintenance, will protect building occupants and departments from slip and fall accidents. 

HILARY DANINHIRSCH is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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Identifying Slip, Trip And Fall Hazards