Over 50% of slip, trip and fall incidents are caused by problems with the walking surface, according to the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI). Sometimes, a floor is inherently slippery unless it is treated – like smooth marble or granite that is often used in building foyers. Other times something wet – like rain, melting snow or a spill is the culprit. Even dry contaminants like sawdust or sugar can cause floor safety problems.
Some problems may seem hard to avoid, but keeping floors as clean and dry as possible is one of the foremost ways to help avoid slip and fall incidents. It can also help prevent premature wear and costly floor replacement expenses.
Another way to help minimize the potential for slip and fall injuries and add longevity to walking surfaces is to evaluate each type of floor in the workplace and make sure that improper cleaning methods aren’t contributing to unsafe conditions. Three common floor cleaning problems that can contribute to unsafe walking surfaces are using the wrong:
- Cleaning product
- Cleaning method
- Frequency for cleaning
No single cleaning method or product will work on every surface. In fact, trying to consolidate the number of cleaning products or using the same cleaning method and frequency throughout the facility could be part of the problem if floors are slippery.
To get started, document the different types of walking surfaces at the facility. Carpet, wood, linoleum, tile and stone are all common in office and even production areas. Concrete is common in production, storage and distribution areas. When dealing with concrete, note whether it is sealed, epoxy coated, brushed or acid etched. Each of these variations can change cleaning and care methods.
Next, look at how each surface is currently being cleaned and maintained. At this point, there are no wrong answers. Which cleaner or cleaners are being used? How often is each area cleaned?
If walking surfaces have been evaluated with a tribometer to determine their coefficient of friction, what were the findings? If any areas had an especially low rating, what is causing it?
Sometimes, a floor is past its prime and just needs to be replaced. An area with crumbling concrete, or wooden areas with warped and uneven floorboards are two examples.
For floors that “look okay,” resurfacing them may help to eliminate or minimize slipperiness. Epoxy, non-slip or other floor preparations can add years to a walking surface, make it safer and improve the overall appearance of an area. Even something as simple and low-cost as stripping multiple layers of old wax and replacing it with a single, fresh coat can change the safety dynamics of a floor for the better.
Installing a new floor or investing in costly floor coatings aren’t things that most facilities want to do very often. That’s why it pays to care for them properly so that they remain safe and at their best.
In some cases – and more often than most people realize – using the wrong cleaner, the wrong amount of cleaner, or applying it the wrong way is the problem. When this is the case, solutions can be very inexpensive.
A mop bucket full of 3-day old, murky brown water spread around by a frayed, old string mop isn’t going to help any floor look better or improve safety. In fact, it could be what’s causing a floor that would otherwise be safe to be hazardous.
To help determine if improper cleaning is a problem, consider reviewing floor cleaning procedures with a professional cleaning contractor. If in-house employees do the cleaning, an outside contractor can help determine if the current cleaners, cleaning methods and frequencies are the best choices for the types of floors in your facility. If they aren’t, they may be able to recommend different cleaners or procedures for better results.
Choosing the right cleaner will put floor cleaning on the right path – but if too much or too little is used, it could take the process back to square one. Too much cleaner isn’t always better, because it can prematurely age a floor, or it can leave slippery residues. Too little cleaner may fail to cut through grease or grime and allow them to build up.
Using cleaners with the correct temperature of water and using the right tools to apply them to the floor are also important parts of the cleaning equation. They are like any tools: using the right ones makes the job easier and produces better results.
Evaluating cleaning methods and establishing procedures for floor cleaning in every area of the facility can take a bit of time and effort, but if it is incorporated into a floor safety program, and can prevent just one slip and fall accident, the time and any related costs will be well spent.