People average taking 8,000 steps every day. Sadly, one slip is all it takes to destroy a person’s life.
Every year in the U.S. there are thousands of people who experience slip-and-fall accidents. The results are strains, sprains, fractures, contusions, bruises, lacerations, and abrasions. Slips and falls have been recorded as the leading cause of all workplace fatalities. They also cause over 20% of disabling injuries. The costs associated with these accidents through worker’s compensation and medical bills is an amazing $70 billion a year. This is according to the NSC (National Safety Council).
Russ Kendzior, the president of our NFSI (National Floor Safety Institute) in Southlake, Texas says, “Falls are the proven leading cause for emergency room visits within the U.S. and they total more than 8 million every year. More people are likely to visit the emergency room over an accidental fall than for any other from in injury, and that includes car crashes.”
The LMWSI (Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index) states in 2013 that falls ranked 2nd as the leading cause for all workplace injuries back in 2011. They accounted for 15.4% of all direct costs that were associated with injuries occurring in the workplace, and for more than $11 Billion. Those Safety Index reports falls that happen on the same level rank second among the most costly occupational injuries. They carry an estimated annual cost that hits around $8.6 Billion, just behind over-exertion ($14.2 Billion). Slipping and tripping without falling took 7th place at an estimated $2.6 Billion a year.
Damp or wet floors are not the sole cause of slip and fall accidents. Other factors like footwear, clutter, and improper cleaning also contribute to these injuries. The statistics show that nearly 50% of all facility accidents can be traced back to what type of flooring was used.
No matter the cause, slip and fall accidents are among the costliest in terms of liability. This is according to the president of Cleaning Consultants, Inc., Mr. Bill Griffin, in Seattle. The average cost for slip and falls turned out to be an estimated $22,800 per incident, with the average workers comp claim averaging out at $19,000. According to Griffin, custodial managers should understand more than just the main causes, but also understand more about following proper floor maintenance standards so they can better ensure floors are safe.
Slips occur whenever you have too little traction or friction taking place between the walking surface and the shoe. It causes people to fall backwards. Trips occur whenever people’s feet contacts some object that is in the way or suddenly drops down to a lower level, and causes them to lose their balance, forcing them forward. Falls occur once a person has gotten too far off balance.
The CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) states that flooring materials and floors directly contribute to over 2 million ‘fall injuries’ every year. The causes for the falls can be many, such as –
1. Un-anchored or Loose Rugs.
3. Wet Walkways.
4. Oily or Contaminated Walkways.
5. Surfaces in a State of Disrepair.
6. Weather Hazards (rain, snow, ice).
7. Inappropriate Footwear.
8. Lack of Proper Employee Training.
There are so many things that factor into slip and fall accidents. It is never just one factor you can zero in on that will stop them from happening. The list of variables is practically inexhaustible.
The NFSI states that 7% of all accidents can be traced back to poor cleaning training, like using cleaning chemicals and floor finishes improperly. An untrained worker is far more likely to make a mistake using equipment or improper chemical dilution than an employee who has been properly trained.
It is the untrained employee who makes the mistakes like using too much of a chemical on a floor, when actually, the manufacturer instructions are there and should be followed to the letter or a slip and fall disaster can happen.
Using chemicals improperly is another common cause of slip and fall accidents. They leave a residue or a film across the floor’s surface. One chemical manufacturer has stated that the film creates a barrier between the finish and someone’s shoe. People are walking on residue rather than on the finish. That is the definition of a slip hazard.
When a cleaning chemical and equipment have been certified as being ‘High Traction by the NFSI, they have been independently tested for keeping walkways above the already high traction threshold as laid out in the ANSI B 101.1-2009 (national standard). These are the ones that should be used whenever possible according to Kendzior.
Managers are also concerned about cross-contamination in floor care chemicals. When cleaning employees use the same mop and mop bucket for cleaning multiple areas contamination occurs. This kind of thing is especially important when it comes to food service areas. It is crucial that soil and bacteria do not get transferred from area to area.
Griffin says, “I have seen workers using a mop to clean the kitchen, and taking that same mop and cleaning the bathroom. From there they take it out into the dining room and continue to use it there and even in the entryway. You can literally see grease on the floors. There is absolutely no excuse for this type of negligence.”
Griffin recommends that all facilities color code their mops and mop buckets and designate them for specific areas only to help avoid cross-contamination.
Certain cleaning procedures that have nothing to do with actually cleaning the floor, like spraying airborne chemicals on walls, windows, or baseboards, need to also be given consideration as being potential slip hazards.
Personnel need to be properly trained in using chemicals. Managers have a lot of influence in this area. They DO NOT, however, have control over the environmental factors like people tracking in water, dust, soil, dirt, and snow. That is why prevention is so important. The cleaning crews need to be prepared to handle all weather conditions and stand ready to address these concerns before they reach hazardous potential.
Most slip and fall accidents happen on a wet surface. Managers need to stress the importance of proper matting inside and outside of the entryways to attack the problem of unwanted elements being tracked inside their facilities.