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Education Article

Measurement, Treatment and Care of Floors - A Scientific Approach to Preventing Slip Fall

The human and financial impacts of slips and falls are well known, so this article will not discuss injury rates, court cases, direct and indirect costs, and other statistics associated with slips and falls. Instead, the focus of this text will be to outline for management a measurable, preventive, scientific program delivering tangible loss-control benefits.


Three Steps to Safer Floors

Measurement enables collecting data, laying the basis for appropriate action. There are three steps to slip/fall prevention involving data collection: 1) measuring and recording the condition of floors, 2) improving then maintaining that condition to a desired benchmark level through effective treatments and routine care, and 3) regularly evaluating / documenting the state of floors to help ensure (and demonstrate) the proper degree of due diligence and care (the opposite of negligence) and compliance with safety norms.

 

Mastering Measurement

It is important to first benchmark the wet Coefficient of Friction (COF) of the floor surface. The wet COF is basically a measurement that records how slippery the floor surface is when it is wet or contaminated. This should be done by a trained operator to ensure the test measurement is reliable.

Several organizations use a device called the BOT-3000, or Binary Output Tribometer (www.regansci.com). This unit complies with ASTM's rigorous precision and bias recommendations, and is capable of measuring both the static and dynamic COF.

Once a baseline COF has been established, and corrections have been made to bring the floor up to the safety compliance benchmark, regular evaluations should be performed to help ensure the floor is being maintained properly or to prompt corrective adjustments as needed.

 

Learning from Incidents

If you have already experienced slips and falls at your facility, examining the qualitative and quantitative loss data will help identify how, where and under what conditions incidents have occurred so remedial efforts can be properly planned and directed. Performing physical inspections of incident areas may offer insight on causes, enabling a more focused and effective loss control process. Qualitative analysis examines conditions, frequency, severity and other patterns. What type of footwear was being worn? Was there a contaminant on the floor? Were wet floor signs in place? Was there a floor mat? Could this have been a trip fall, instead of a slip fall? What time of day did the event occur?

Quantitative analysis determines the value or amount of the losses, projected direct losses based on past losses, and estimates of the overall future cost of risk. This enables projecting ROI based on the cost of loss control measures versus projected costs of "business as usual."

 

Prevention

In a newly planned facility, carefully review the specification of floor surfaces. Eliminate inappropriate types of flooring in the design stage of floor selection and, as needed, establish traffic controls or restricted areas in facilities.

If an existing floor's COF demonstrates that it is slippery when wet, consider applying a specialized treatment or product to the surface that increases wet slip resistance.

A written and enforced floor safety policy and procedures guide will improve floor safety, while demonstrating management commitment to prevention. The policy/guide should address common causes of slips and falls such as poor worker training, lack of weather contingency planning, inconsistent hazard identification, inappropriate footwear, and improper cleaning of floors, among other factors. It should thoroughly detail how to perform - and document - measurement, improvement and maintenance of floors.

 

Conclusion

By implementing a scientific, measurable, evaluated and documented program that identifies and prevents the causes of slips and falls you will reduce injuries, premium dollars and out of pocket costs. Moreover you will be protecting your employees, customers, and future profits.

Sidebar

Reducing Insurance Exposure

How can you avoid exposure to costly insurance premiums? One option is to take a large deductible and avoid trading dollars with an insurance company by assuming a portion of the risk that you can financially manage. Then, by focusing on a measurable loss control program, you will reduce your cost of risk. Effectively transferring the risk of loss involves determining how much of the cost your organization is willing to absorb when setting up a deductible level with your underwriter. The cost of a slip and fall claim (demand for payment) is a Risk and Exposure that we generally do not wish to totally self-insure. Many take a deductible approach based on the historical number and cost of claims they have experienced.

When evaluating a loss control strategy, understand that previous losses and forecast losses are factored into premium calculations. By implementing a focused and measurable loss control strategy to reduce your incidence and cost of risk for slips and falls you will see direct savings on future premiums. If you already have a large deductible, you are benefited directly because the dollars saved drop immediately to your bottom line and will not be calculated into future premiums.

Lastly, remember, when you fail to implement a measurement-based loss control program that will mitigate or reduce your chance of loss, should incidents occur, you have less of a defensible position and your insurance company may not want to continue to insure the risk.