In today’s buildings, employee and occupant wellness are always top of mind. As we continue to think of new and exciting ways to improve building wellness and health, there are some old classic challenges that will always continue to be of the utmost importance. Take slip-and-fall accidents, for example. Falls on the same level were the second leading cause of all workplace injuries in 2013. In Canada, over 42,000 injuries occur annually due to slip & falls, according to Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. About 40 % of these occur in educational facilities. Sixty-six percent occur on the same level, with just a bit over one third being falls from a height. A huge percentage of all slip-and-fall incidents are completely preventable.
For the majority of slip-and-falls that happen at the same level, there are still many ways to prevent them from ever occurring. Contamination is implicated in almost all same-floor slip-and-fall accidents. Regular and effective cleaning to remove contamination is the first line of defense in a safer, healthier workplace. Incorporating a well-documented, comprehensive floor care plan is the single most effective thing you can do to enhance the wellness of your employees and protect the safety of all who enter your buildings.
Expert Tips for Slip & Fall Prevention
By maintaining your floor according to the five critical elements of floor care, you will be able to prevent the majority of slip and fall accidents at your facility. These elements are: Pre-routine, Routine Maintenance, Interim Maintenance, Partial Restorative and Complete Restorative (see sidebar for details).
In addition, a rapid response to spills and the use of appropriate fall prevention warning items are absolutely necessary to ensure your building is operating safely. Spills should be cleaned immediately, and signs put up to warn building occupants about wet floor surfaces. Make sure you use a color-coded mop system and immediately clean and hang dry your mops after cleaning spills to prevent cross-contamination. These are the most common sense approaches to reducing slip-and-fall accidents. However, there are a few additional tips that bear mentioning, which can do even more to ensure safety.
- Use the right cleaning product at the correct dilution. If you are using the wrong product for your flooring surface, you can leave behind a residue that compromises traction. If the dilution is not correct, you run the risk of leaving your floors slippery. All dilution ratios should be clearly stated and training should be conducted to make sure that everyone responsible for cleaning floors is well aware of what to use to clean and how much solution to use.
- Allow detergents enough time to work. After applying your floor cleaner, you’ll want to wait the amount of time listed on the product to allow that cleaner to do its job, especially if you are disinfecting the area. Only after observing the dwell time will you then want to come back through to dry the area.
- Use a dry mop or squeegee on wet floors to reduce floor drying time. A color-coded microfiber mop system will help workers identify which mops to use to clean up spills, which for routine maintenance, and which to use for dry mopping.
- Use fans to help dry floor surfaces more quickly. While your fans are doing their jobs, make sure all proper “Caution” signs are placed in visible areas surrounding the wet area.
- Maintain cleaning equipment so it remains effective. If you invest in an expensive piece of equipment like an auto scrubber, you’ll want to make sure it’s doing its job to the best of its ability. Proper, periodic maintenance will ensure that your machines are working for you, picking up debris and optimizing traction to keep your buildings safe.
- Never assume visitors will not be in the building. If you are cleaning a floor at night or in off hours, make sure your workers are still following all proper warning sign procedures. You never know who will be walking down a hallway, and it’s always safest to assume the building is full than to believe it is empty.
By following these little-known tips along with a comprehensive floor care plan that includes the Five Critical Elements, you will have a healthier, safer building. It’s important to document your floor care procedures, and re-visit them often to ensure that your floor care evolves as the building, foot traffic patterns and occupant concerns continue to evolve. Floor care is not just a way to keep your floors shiny, it’s a significant element of a comprehensive building wellness initiative.
Pre-routine: Keep dirt out of the building, where it belongs. Use a proper matting system at all exits and entrances and regularly sweep close proximity sidewalks and parking lots. This step alone will greatly reduce the amount of soil that could cause a slip-and-fall accident, by up to 85% in some cases. In winter months, you’ll need to make sure you have the appropriate types of matting including more aggressive wiper mats to keep your floors dry. Melted snow and ice can be very dangerous when they pool on indoor tile flooring, causing slips and falls needlessly when a simple matting system could have prevented the entire situation.
Routine Maintenance: Routine maintenance ensures the floor surface is free of soils and
debris, reducing potential slip and falls. Routine maintenance is the least costly and relatively quick to do, lowering labor costs. The key with regular maintenance in regards to slip-and-fall prevention is twofold: regular dust mopping and quick attention to spills, with proper signage. Dust mopping clears all particles from the floor which, if not removed, could damage the floor substrate’s integrity and weaken traction. Dust mopping is such a simple and cost-effective way to take care of your floors and keep your buildings safe!
Interim Maintenance: Interim maintenance is required when soils are embedded in the
floor surface, discoloration and scratches likely appear. Spray buffing and burnishing effectively repair the top layer, improving traction to prevent risk of slip and fall incidents.
Partial Restorative: By removing the top layers of the floor surface through spray buffing and burnishing only when interim maintenance and applying a few coats of finish, this extends the life of the coating and maintains a clean, shiny and safe floor.
Complete Restorative: Deep stripping, prepping and finishing are required at this level only when necessary, after interim and partial restorative elements are no longer effective. By recoating a polymer coating on floors and walking surfaces when necessary, you will ensure that your floors retain the traction needed to prevent slip and fall accidents.