Tips For Preventing Slip-And-Fall Accidents
- Risk Assessment Plans, Signage Improve Safety
- How To Select Floor Mats
They might be funny in a cartoon, but falls caused by slips and trips in a commercial, healthcare, school or office setting are no joke. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, floors and flooring materials contribute directly to more than 2 million fall injuries each year. Those injuries include sprains, torn tendons or ligaments, broken bones, dislocations, spinal injuries and traumatic brain injuries. A fall may even be fatal. In addition to the possible human damages, these events are expensive.
Businesses carry liability insurance to protect against costs resulting from slip, trip and fall injuries suffered by employees, visitors or customers using their properties, but those policies offer a false sense of security. Even one claim can result in increased costs in the form of higher insurance premiums for years to come.
When taking these facts and the resulting numbers into account, it becomes clear that spending the time and money to train and equip cleaning staff to mitigate the risk of slips, trips and falls is a worthwhile investment.
The first thing facility owners and managers must understand when examining the safety of floors is that there are never any guarantees.
“There is no such thing as a ‘safe floor’ or an ‘unsafe floor,’” says Russ Kendzior, founder of the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), Southlake, Texas, and the host of radio shows and podcasts devoted to safety. “There’s always a risk. There are risks that get minimized in the world of safety, specifically for slips, trips and falls.”
For example, any flooring surface — from tile to hardwood to terrazzo to carpet — can contribute to slip-and-fall incidents in the right conditions. Those include the presence of moisture, dirt, grit, oil or cleaning solution residue. Damaged or worn flooring also presents risk. It is also impossible to control the types of shoes that will come in contact with floors, from smooth-soled dress shoes to ill-fitting flip-flops, and no way to know if people are distracted, intoxicated, on medication or have balance or vision issues. With too many variables to monitor, building managers must proactively take steps to minimize slip, trip and fall risks.
First, experts recommend conducting walkway surface audits to determine the coefficient of friction (COF) of floors and walkways. Cleaning staff can be trained and provided with the equipment to conduct the audits, or a walkway auditor can be brought in to do the testing. Testing should take place regularly as floor surfaces can change from damage and wear.
Brent Johnson, chief auditor for Traction Auditing in Southlake, Texas, tests using NFSI standards in a variety of situations.
“Depending on the use of the walkway, anything from a moderate- to high-traction range would be appropriate [for testing],” says Johnson. “If we’re talking a normally wet floor, like around a pool, it needs to be a high-traction floor to prevent slips and falls. We always encourage business owners to have their floors tested so that they start from a position of knowledge.”
Risk Assessment Plans, Signage Improve Safety