What can cepartments do to reduce slips, trips and falls within the facility? The following tips are real world examples that flooring experts consider effective methods for reducing the risk of slip-and-fall accidents:

• Get a walkway audit. Walkway audits are on-site, physical inspections of a facility’s walking surfaces. These audits should be conducted on an annual basis — more often if hazards are identified. They are conducted by a Walkway Audit Certificate Holder (WACH), who is certified by NSFI. WACHs evaluate the safety of walking surfaces, identify potential walkway hazards, report the results and make recommendations for improvements.

A walkway audit usually consists of an initial survey of the facility, COF testing with a certified tribometer, and a report to the commissioning party. During the initial survey, auditors often get a thorough history of the facility regarding slips, trips and falls so they can make recommendations on reducing any specific or known hazards.

(The Safer Walkways Association is a trade association for WACHs, and has a searchable directory. Departments that need a walkway audit can contact a local WACH at www.SaferWalkways.org)

• Install textile walk-off mats. Textile matting can significantly reduce the amount of exterior soil entering a facility. Industry studies show that placing 39 linear feet of textile walk-off matting at all exterior entrances can reduce the amount of soil tracked into a facility by about 99 percent. Walk-off mats also reduce the amount moisture and related contaminates, like ice melt or rock salt, from entering the building, which also reduce COF.

Soils are abrasive in nature and act like sandpaper on floors when tracked into facilities, scratching finishes and floor coverings alike. That, in turn, increases the amount of soil that must be physically removed from a facility, requires increased cleaning and reduces the lifespan of the floor coverings.

• Develop and implement a solid cleaning program. This should include each of the four main phases of cleaning: preventative maintenance; daily maintenance; interim maintenance; and restorative maintenance. A walkway auditor can help departments develop an effective floor safety and cleaning plan.

• Transition from string mops. String mops only move dirt around. They don’t remove it. A more effective alternative is microfiber. Although the initial outlay for microfiber is higher, the microfiber does a much better job at cleaning than string mops do.

• Eliminate single-sided mop buckets. These buckets just move dirty water from one area to another. Cleaning crews should use a double-sided bucket and change the water as soon as it looks dirty.

• Choose the correct cleaning chemical for the floor surface. Different floor materials have unique qualities and cleaning needs. An all-purpose floor cleaner may not be the best choice if the workplace has different floor coverings throughout the facility. Check manufacturer recommendations and cleaning chemical labels to choose the right cleaner for each surface.

• When available, use pre-measured, single-use packets of cleaning chemicals. This minimizes the chance of improper dilution. This is important because properly diluted cleaning chemicals have less chance of leaving residue on the floor.

• If in use, verify that any cleaning chemical dispensing equipment is properly calibrated on a regular basis; at least annually. Improperly calibrated dispensing equipment can often result in too much cleaning chemical used to do the job. When too much product is used, excess cleaning chemical residues can be left on the floor, contributing to buildup.

• Select cleaning times and schedules based on peak traffic and use. Wet floors have reduced traction, so when possible, clean during off hours so the floor surfaces can dry thoroughly. Also, have a system in place so all spills or tracked-in moisture are promptly dealt with in-between scheduled cleaning times.

• Repair damaged floor coverings promptly. There are times when damage to floor coverings or substrates will cause walkway hazards. Impacts from heavy objects can chip, split, gouge or dislodge floor coverings, creating slip-and-trip hazards.

Chemical spills can also damage or reduce the COF of floor coverings. It is important to inspect floor coverings after such events, and make repairs promptly.

Improper maintenance and poor cleaning methods are the leading cause of reduced COF on floor coverings, which lead to increased rates of slips and falls. The good news is that maintenance and cleaning methods are controllable variables.

Facility cleaning managers can improve floor care procedures and implement walkway safety programs — all to dramatically improve the safety of a facility. A comprehensive program will benefit the company because the facilities will be cleaner, and the cost of cleaning products and maintenance goes down. Of course, the risk of slips, trips and falls will be lowered, as well.

When it comes right down to it, all facility cleaning managers need to remember is that cleaner floors really are safer floors. 

ROB McNEALY, MBA, WACH, is a Certified Walkway Audit Certificate Holder and Certified Floor Inspector. With more than 12 years of experience in the flooring industry, Rob has extensive knowledge as an expert witness in slips, trips and falls cases, as well as floor covering construction defect cases. Rob is the president of Flooristics, a forensic floor consulting company based in Salt Lake City. He is also the current president of the National Safer Walkways Association. Recently, he became involved in the development of ANSI standards for the Simon Institute, as well as the National Floor Safety Institute.

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Evaluating Floor Safety Programs