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Education Article

Keys to a Sound Slip and Fall Prevention Program

Every individual entering a building comes in contact with one major building component – the floor. Properly maintaining building resources requires diligence, especially if the Building Service Contractor (BSC) is committed to a comprehensive slip and fall prevention program. Preventing slips and falls and their potential liability issues should be a key focus for every business owner and/or their BSC. Establishing a sound prevention program is not overwhelming, but it does require a commitment to standards, documentation and training.

 

Keys to Safer Floors

Three main components are involved with providing safer floors for users:

  • Measure and record floor conditions.
  • Improve and maintain floor conditions to an established level through effective treatment and routine care.
  • Regularly evaluate the condition of all floors to establish that floors are being cared for according to approved guidelines.

Initial and on-going measurements must be an integral part of every program. The wet Coefficient of Friction (COF) of the floor's surface must first be benchmarked. This test measures how slip-resistant the floor is when wet or contaminated, and the measurement should be completed by a trained operator.

It is vital that the measuring mechanism be reputable and in compliance with an acceptable industry standard. One testing option is the Binary Output Tribometer or BOT-3000, which complies with ASTM's rigorous precision and bias recommendations. The equipment enables the user to test both the static and dynamic COF – an important consideration.

Document, Document

A written and enforced floor safety policy and procedures guide improves floor safety and demonstrates management's commitment to prevention. This detailed material should address common causes for slips and falls, contingency planning, and proper floor cleaning.

The results of the initial COF test begin the documentation process regarding floor maintenance, and form the basis for all future recordkeeping. This information should ideally be available both electronically and in hardcopy formats and should be readily available. The results of all future slips tests should be added to the existing file the day the tests are performed or shortly thereafter.

Documentation should also include all standard cleaning procedures; the cleaning materials and equipment that are used; and recording of any fall incidents that occur in the building.

 

Setting the Course and Keeping It

The saying goes that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," and this is certainly true when it comes to slips and falls. Prevention in a new facility begins when specifying flooring. Avoid inappropriate types of flooring and establish traffic controls before the facility opens.

The requirements for cleaning all flooring must be documented and understood by all cleaning personnel. Use floor care products (e.g., finishes) from a reputable manufacturer that offers slip-resistant products. The selected manufacturer(s) should back their products with sufficient liability insurance, and should offer training regarding their product's use.

All facility and BSC personnel should understand the common conditions that can lead to slips and falls and their associated prevention measures. These include:

  • Inclement weather – workers should strategically place absorbent walk-off mats at all building entrances. Wet areas should be cleaned immediately.
  • Inconsistent hazard identification – caution or wet floor signs in areas that are hazardous or being cleaned must be used.
  • Obstructions – extension cords or other items that might cause an obstruction and thus a fall should not be used during times of high-traffic volumes unless absolutely necessary. Work to minimize the interaction of individuals with the obstruction to the greatest extent possible.
  • Spills – any spills or wet surfaces must be cleaned immediately by using a fast-acting dry absorbent or other method.

Employees are Critical

All employees who are responsible for floor care must be properly trained regarding the slip/fall program, which includes establishing safety standards and cleaning procedures. New employees must be adequately trained rather than receiving a cursory primer on floor care. Employees should be familiar with all cleaning products and equipment that are used, and should also understand proper storage of these items.

Employee cleaning regimes should include vacuuming or dust mopping floors according to the established schedule. Mops that are treated with ingredients that could contribute to a slick surface, such as an oil-treated dust mop, should not be used, and employees must understand the importance of minimizing floor contaminants. Cleaning procedures and components of the slip/fall prevention program should be reviewed with employees at least on an annual basis.

BSC employees must understand the important role they play in properly maintaining a building's floors, just as they should appreciate the importance of all work they perform. Employees can and should play an active role in identifying hazardous conditions such as a loose tile that is discovered during cleaning. They must be knowledgeable regarding both cleaning protocols and the mechanism for reporting hazards. Acknowledge employees for their proper cleaning efforts as well as their reporting of hazards and incidents. Individuals who believe they are an integral part of the team will provide a higher level of service and typically have greater job satisfaction – a win for both the BSC and the individual.

 

Learn from Incidents

Learn from the incident when a slip or fall occurs. Document the conditions at the time of the event – the floor's condition, whether an obstruction was present, and the type of footwear that was worn by the individual involved in the incident. Work to determine if the fall could have been prevented through any effort on the part of the owner or the BSC. Share the information that is compiled regarding the incident with appropriate employees so that everyone can learn from the event.

A comprehensive slip and fall prevention program does require work, but the benefits are well worth the effort. Proper documentation, following established cleaning protocols, and heading off potential negative situations will lead to floors that are well maintained and safer for all users.