Slip–and–fall accidents are a growing problem. The total cost of these accidents now approaches $80 billion each year across North America, and that number is expected to double within the next decade.
In an effort to curb slip and fall injuries and increase the safety of your residents and the public, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has published through the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) standards to help property managers and business owners improve their programs governing floor safety.
These standards have implications for building owners who don’t have safe floor programs in place. Plaintiff attorneys representing slip and fall victims can allege negligence if there’s no documentation to demonstrate due diligence in implementing a safe floor program to protect workers, residents and visitors from slip and fall accidents.
Because they document compliance, independent floor audits are a critical component of any clean and safe floor program and an easy way for building owners and managers to protect themselves in a slip and fall lawsuit. By using scientific data to establish a benchmark for floor safety initiatives, independent floor audits help identify high risk areas and walkway surfaces that may require additional maintenance or restoration. The resulting decrease in slip and fall accidents can directly improve the bottom line.
New OSHA Walkway Requirements
With a new OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) ruling pertaining to walkways on the horizon, those in charge will need to do far more. They will need to keep accurate records of their cleaning practises and periodically test these floors for their slip-resistance and maintain certain levels of COF(Coefficient of Friction).
It is anticipated that OSHA’s new walkway ruling will require employers to oversee floor safety. The “qualified person” designated to oversee floor safety will be responsible to measure the slip resistance of floors and determine what steps may be needed to improve its traction.
How Traction Audits Work
Audits should be conducted using an NFSI approved tribometer, a device that measures the coefficient of friction of the floor surface. In simple terms, it is the amount of friction that occurs between two surfaces when rubbed together. A complete audit should document both the “static” and “dynamic” coefficient of friction.
The static test measures the slip potential of a surface. For example, if an individual is walking, this determines how likely they will be to slip at the moment their heel strikes the floor. The dynamic test identifies how far the individual is likely to slide after the point of the initial slip.
In the comprehensive audit, the auditor is required to test a variety of locations, including entryways and exits, high traffic pathways and restroom entrances.
An independent traction audit is one of the initial steps in the development of any safe floor program. It establishes the baseline for safe floor initiatives by providing operators with an accurate assessment of the current condition of floor surfaces.
Floor safety experts recommend conducting ongoing traction audits throughout the life of the safe floor program – at least twice a year. From there, audit frequency is determined by risk tolerance, so locations with higher traffic or floor surface substrates prone to slips and falls should conduct audits more often. This provides data to support the effectiveness of the safe floor program.
Selecting the Right Auditor
Before hiring an auditor, building operators should look for the following qualifications:
- Have they received formalized traction audit training? Individuals should have attended walkway certification training and received certification from the NFSI or another well recognized floor safety organization.
- Can they identify the correct operating procedures for conducting walkway audits? ANSI has established the correct protocol with its B101 standards. Auditors should be able to review and identify the necessary steps for conducting a walkway audit before hire.
- Do they use an NFSI approved tribometer? NFSI outlines four criteria governing tribometer selection in order to ensure the integrity of the traction data gathered. Ensure the tribometer used by the auditor meets these criteria.
- What experience do they have conducting traction audits and/or using a tribometer? Has the individual performed traction audits in various environments?
- How will they report their findings?
Developing a Safe Floor Program
Upon completion of the initial audit, operators need to review floor maintenance programs currently set in place, as this is often an area for floor safety improvement. A floor safety program includes three fundamental components to maintain floor surfaces. These steps include:
- Deep clean. Daily vacuuming and mopping reduces dirt and various particles in the floor, but they fail to capture and remove all contaminants. Floors become worn out over time, and grout lines that were once grey become black from dirt build-up. Periodic deep cleanings revive floors to enhance the image of the building and protect all people walking across the area. By combining temperature, agitation, chemicals, time and extraction, deep cleaning removes all dry dirt and residue left behind by conventional cleaning methods. With restored floors, operators promote a positive image for everyone who enters the building and demonstrate a commitment to cleanliness and safety.
A traction treatment program enhances the finish of the floor, such as natural stone and man-made tiles, commonly found in commercial properties to improve slip resistance providing high traction. With this service, trained professionals apply a specialized cleaning chemical across the floor to loosen the dirt and contaminants. They then agitate the surface using a soft to medium hardness brush resulting in a floor that is in good condition.
- The first line of defense for most building owners is the use of entrance carpet matting. Although entranceway matting plays a significant role in preventing accidental slips by removing moisture from footwear, they often contribute to trips and falls when buckled, curled or flipped over.
In 2012, ANSI released the latest in its line of walkway safety standards, the ANSI/NFSI B101.6-2012 “Standard Guide for Commercial Entrance Matting in Reducing Slips, Trips and Falls”. This standard provides criteria for the selection, installation, inspection, care and maintenance of entrance mats and runners in commercial facilities in reducing slips, trips and falls and is directed to eliminating slip, trip and fall hazards such as soil, moisture, contaminants, and edge treatments as well as the improper use of floor mats and runners.
Strategically place mats to capture dirt and water and reduce slips and falls. Mats that do not have a “high-traction” backing are more prone to movement which in turn can increase the risk of migration, buckling, and curling which can contribute to a slip, trip and fall. A growing number of entrance mat manufacturers have submitted their products to the NFSI for certification.
- Daily floor maintenance is essential to a clean and safe environment. Provide ongoing training so employees know how to properly clean floors and reinforce cleaning frequencies with checklists so other team members know exactly when and where the floors were last cleaned.
Measuring the COF takes away all subjectivity from floor cleanliness and safety. It gives property owners a scientific measurement to determine whether their cleaning products and procedures are increasing or decreasing the likelihood of slip – and- fall accidents. The biggest mistakes made with regard to floor care are using improper products and employing the wrong techniques.