Updates from the Leading Association for the Cleaning Industry Worldwide
Elevating Floor Care to Floor Safety
At some point in your life, you have probably slipped and fallen, only to receive a bump or bruise. However, if you are one of the 8 million Americans who seek emergency-room treatment for an accidental fall each year, the consequences are quite different. Falls are the leading cause of accidental death for the elderly and one of the leading causes of employee and guest injuries for many companies. According to the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), 55 percent of slips and falls are caused by a hazardous floor. Surprisingly, most of these accidents are preventable! Many property owners don't realize, however, that their floors are slippery until someone slips and falls. But that's about to change.
A new floor-safety standard has emerged. The ANSI/NFSI B101.1-2009 Test Method for Measuring Wet SCOF of Common Hard-Surface Floor Materials sets out to change the way property owners, floor-care manufacturers, and building service contractors address the growing problem of slip-and-fall accidents.
Slip Resistant vs. High Traction
For decades, manufacturers of floor finishes and polishes have relied upon the ASTM D-2047 (UL-410) standard to determine the slip-resistant properties of their products. This laboratory test method divided products into two categories: one for products that had a dry Static Coefficient of Friction (SCOF) that was equal to or greater than a 0.5 value and another for products with a SCOF below the 0.5 value. Products that met the 0.5 or greater value were classified as "Slip-Resistant" while products with a SCOF below the 0.5 value were simply not classified. For many, this pass-fail approach created the perception that products meeting the 0.5 value were "safe" while those that did not were deemed "unsafe."
In 2006, the NFSI was awarded the distinction of being accredited as a Standards Developing Organization by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Since that time, the ANSI B101 Committee on the Prevention of Slips, Trips, and Falls has been working on a number of floor-safety standards, including the newly released B101.1 standard. The NFSI believed that the first step in reducing the growing number of slip-and-fall accidents was to better understand the slip risks associated with walkways. The NFSI focused on developing a slip-resistance test method and correlating such data to that of accident claims. Intuition tells us that low-SCOF floors are more likely to induce a slip-and-fall accident, but exactly how much slip resistance is required to prevent a slip and fall?
Rather than looking at floors as being either "safe" or "unsafe," the ANSI B101.1 standard defines three risk categories—or traction levels—in which walkways can be evaluated for their ability to reduce the risk of a slip-and-fall event. Walkways that possess a wet SCOF of 0.6 or greater are defined by the B101.1 standard as "High Traction" and present the least amount of risk for a slip-and-fall claim. Walkways whose wet SCOF is below a 0.6 but greater than a 0.4 are defined as "Moderate Traction" while walkways that possess a wet SCOF of less than 0.4 are categorized as "Low Traction."
Clinical research has shown that the use of high-traction floor-care products can reduce slip-and-fall accident claims by up to 90 percent. However, it is important to remember that regardless of the traction level a floor possesses, there is no such thing as a slip-proof floor. As long as gravity exists, objects—including people—will fall!
How Will This Affect Me?
It is important for those who manufacture, distribute, or apply floor finishes, polishes, and cleaners to understand that the floor-care industry has evolved into the floor-safety industry. These organizations and individuals should pay particular attention to slip-and-fall litigation, as it is the area where they will be impacted most significantly.
In the past, when the victim of a slip-and-fall accident filed a lawsuit claiming that a floor was unreasonably dangerous, the property owner's defense would often focus on its use of a slip-resistant floor finish. However, because of the absence of a field-test method that could measure the real-world slip resistance of a particular floor, it was difficult for property owners to prove that their floors were, in fact, slip-resistant. Although many floor finishes are classified as slip-resistant, that does not mean that the floor as it existed in the real world met the same standard. After all, even the most slip-resistant floors can become hazardous if maintained improperly.
That all changes with the introduction of the ANSI B101.1 standard, which details the method by which floors can be tested for their slip risk both in the laboratory and in the field. The ability to accurately measure the real-world slip risk will serve as a valuable tool that property owners, floor-care manufacturers, and building service contractors can use to prevent slips and falls and demonstrate compliance with a nationally recognized floor-safety standard that will serve as the basis of their legal defense. On the other hand, if a property owner or building service contractor chooses not to voluntarily comply with the ANSI B101.1 standard, their defense in a slip-and-fall lawsuit is significantly weakened. Either way, the legal playing field has been leveled with regard to liability. In the past, slip-and-fall liability rested solely on the shoulders of the property owner and its insurance company, but it will now be shared between property owners, floor-care manufacturers, and building service contractors.
Since 2002, the NFSI has been testing flooring materials, floor-care products, and cleaning equipment from manufacturers who wish to have them certified as high-traction. With the introduction of the ANSI B101.1 standard, the demand for NFSI certification and high-traction products will likely increase.
In anticipation of the ANSI B101.1 standard's release, the NFSI offers a Walkway Auditor Certification training program. This three-day training class provides attendees with in-depth knowledge into the causes of slips and falls in addition to outlining the process to conduct a floor-safety audit. The program covers the various types of flooring materials, floor-care products, and procedures, and culminates with a day of hands-on use of various slip-resistance testing devices. A complete list of NFSI-certified products as well as walkway auditors can be found on the NFSI's Web site at www.nfsi.org.
Russell J. Kendzior is the president and CEO of Traction Experts, Inc. and founder of the National Floor Safety Institute. For more information, visit www.tractionexperts.com or contact Kendzior at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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