Keeping patients, visitors and staff on their feet is a top priority in any healthcare environment. From outpatient clinics to inpatient hospitals as well as transitional care and long-term care facilities, slip-and-fall accidents caused by wet or poorly maintained floors are a major hazard.

Many times employee slip-and-fall accidents result in serious injuries that affect healthcare workers’ ability to perform. This results in lost workdays, reduced productivity, workers’ compensation claims, and most important of all, a reduced ability to care for patients. Regrettably, many patient falls result in permanent disability and even death.

Patient falls have become even more of a concern in the past few years because of the policy that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has adopted towards slip and fall injuries. Medicare now considers a patient fall and its results a preventable event. Unfortunately, many healthcare facilities neglect to consider the environmental component of patient falls and only consider patient physiological factors. This attitude ignores the one environmental component that all employees, patients and visitors alike come into contact with: the floor.

According to a study conducted by the Liberty Mutual Research Institute, contaminants on the floor are the leading cause of slip, trip and fall accidents in healthcare facilities. The National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) documents that 55 percent of all slip and fall incidents are caused in some way by the floor, versus footwear, fraud and lack of safety signage.

In its 2009 report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the rate of lost workday injuries from slip-and-fall incidents was 38.2 incidents per every 10,000 healthcare employees. This puts slips and falls for the healthcare industry at a 90 percent greater rate than for all other private industries combined, and when taken as a whole, slip-and-fall incidents are the second most common cause of lost days for healthcare employees.

These statistics tell an alarming story, not only for the employees, patients and visitors, but for healthcare employers themselves. With this epidemic of slip-and-fall incidents and the tremendous expense that is associated with them, jan/san distributors can create a comprehensive cleaning program for their healthcare customers designed to lower the potential of slip-and-fall accidents. Distributors who provide hands-on training to their customers will be invaluable resources to clients. Training should be ongoing and everyone responsible for cleaning should receive continuous training on these protocols at least annually. 

All cleaning personnel should be familiar with the cleaning products and equipment that are used throughout the facility. Cleaning chemicals and equipment certified as “High Traction” by NFSI are independently tested to keep walkways above the high traction threshold outlined in the ANSI B101.1-2009 national standard and as such, should be used in healthcare facilities whenever possible.

Untrained workers are more apt to make mistakes in equipment usage and chemical dilution, thereby exposing facilities to increased risk. Many janitors make the mistake of thinking if a little cleaner works well, a lot must work even better. This is a false assumption. Even with the best high-traction cleaning chemicals, manufacturers’ dilution instructions must be strictly adhered to or a slip-and-fall disaster may strike.

Whether contaminated by spills, rain, IV fluid or an abundance of chemical residue, properly trained cleaning personnel are a key to keeping flooring surfaces safe for all pedestrians within a facility.

Brent Johnson is the chief auditor for Traction Auditing LLC, the chairman of the ANSI B101.0 Walkway Surface Auditing Procedure for the Measurement of Walkway Slip Resistance subcommittee, and an instructor for the National Floor Safety Institute.

next page of this article:
Prevent Slips, Trips and Falls With Matting