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Reducing the risk and cost of floorcare accidents

12 August 2021

Floorcare accidents can come at a high price for both the liable business and the injured party yet so many people view them as inevitable, failing to put preventative measures in place. James White shares his top tips for reducing the risk and cost of floorcare mishaps through robust cleaning practices. 

POORLY MAINTAINED floors are the source of so many accidents in both public venues and the workplace. From a wet entrance to a shopping centre, a spillage in a supermarket aisle, or a build-up of grease or oil in a factory, poorly maintained floors are the cause of thousands of injuries every year. 

In fact, according to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), UK workers suffer around 11,000 major injuries caused by slips every year, with almost 90% involving broken bones. 

The liable business is often hit the hardest financially, shelling out over £500 million per year in fines, healthcare, damage and production delay due to staff absence. 

The NHS also has to stump up a significant amount, with the cost due to slips and falls estimated to be about £115 million each year, according to the HSE

And then of course there is the injured individual, to which the cost is incalculable. Aside from the obvious loss of income, there is the pain, worry and stress, which can significantly reduce their quality of life. 

These accidents have a significant impact on so many parties yet most businesses view workplace mishaps as inevitable. They often put them down to the injured individual’s human error or claim they are unavoidable in certain circumstances, such as adverse weather conditions. 

However, in reality, most accidents of this nature are completely avoidable if proper floorcare is practiced. 

Legal responsibilities
According to UK health and safety laws, health and safety responsibilities lie with the employer. 

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that employers are responsible for protecting the safety of their employees, including employed and self-employed contractors, at work. This includes making sure that workers are protected from risks that may cause harm or injury in the workplace. 

This legislation also states that an employer must do everything reasonably practicable to provide a safe and healthy workplace. Put simply, business owners have a legal and moral responsibility to create and environment and culture where slips and falls are preventable.

Dual approach to floorcare
When it comes to floorcare, a dual approach to cleaning can help minimise the risks:

A robust daily floorcare schedule should be adopted to remove the day’s contaminants. However, a sweep and a mop will not suffice. Daily soils need to be lifted away from the surface to enable a thorough clean. If this standard of clean is carried out every day, there is little need for more intensive methods, like scrubbing and deep cleans, which are labour-intensive and costly. 
A robust spill response can keep risk and down-time to a minimum. This means having a system in place that can quickly remove the spillage, and clean and dry the area, with minimum disruption. 

To achieve the highest levels of cleanliness, we need to embrace new technologies and invest in innovation. Here are a few reasons why:

Chop the mop
How many times have you seen the cleaner wheel out the old mop and bucket when a spillage occurs? From a broken bottle on a supermarket shop floor, to a rain-flooded entrance way, the same tired and ineffective methods are adopted in an attempt to clean up. But all a string mop is good for is spreading the dirt around. It doesn’t actually remove the soil and leaves another, usually larger wet surface in its wake. It is a short-sighted response to a serious hazard. 

It is also pretty unhygienic. After all, the water in the bucket that is used to clean the mop after use, is the very same water that is returned to the floor to clean with. So, the problem is very much still there. 

In fact, scientific research has shown that mopped areas are instantly re-infected as the mop-head picks up soils in the bucket’s contaminated water and circulates them across floor. Even microfibre mopping only cut bacteria levels by 51% at best, before dragging bacteria back into clean areas, resulting in an overall effectiveness of 24%.

High-flow fluid extraction
The best way to treat a spillage is through high-flow fluid extraction. This process uses fresh water and cleaning chemicals, uncontaminated by previous use, dispensed on the surface. It is then agitated if necessary to loosen soils, and suctioned away to leave a clean, dry floor in a matter of seconds. 

Crucially, this process ensures that the soils, and any liquids, are removed from the surface, rather than spread around the floor. This method can be used in a range of settings, from shopping malls and stations to stadiums and factories. In fact, it’s highly effective on almost all hard surfaces. 

Machines like the Kaivac Stretch SUV are ideal for rapid response cleaning. Combining high speed push-behind cleaning for large areas, with a precision vacuum wand for smaller or grouted areas, this model can tackle any hard flooring challenge, as well as daily cleaning. 

Thanks to its cordless battery capability, the Stretch SUV can address unexpected challenges, such as weather-related issues or spillages, quickly and safely, leaving a dry floor that is ready for immediate use. 

The Kaivac Stretch SUV also offers far superior results than mopping, delivering a scrubber-drier performance, without the hassle. This machine is chosen time and time again to address rapid spill response due to its extreme soil removal technology. 

Prevention is key
An unclean, contaminated floor is far more likely to cause an accident. This is why a regular floorcare programme is vital. It can help maintain safety standards and prevent accidents from occurring.

Having a daily cleaning plan in place will ensure that only the day’s dirt, and any ad-hoc spillages, require attention, removing the need for deep cleans. Using a method like high-flow fluid extraction eliminates the opportunity for soils and bacteria to build up on a surface. And if it is adopted in response to a spillage, there is very minimal disruption to the affected area, and nearby staff or customers. 

Data-backed cleaning 
The effectiveness your floorcare process can be tested through adenosine triphosphate (ATP) measurements, taken before and after cleaning. This will highlight any problem areas that need extra attention. Cleaning plans can then be updated and hygiene levels will continue to improve each time the method is employed. 

We recently tested out the ‘remove’ process at a chain of fast food restaurants and the results were undeniable. We took ATP measurements before and after the restaurant’s regular cleaning process, and again after our own cleaning method. After our cleaning process, the readings where classed as clinically clean, even the floors. What’s more, the problem of grease on the floors had been completely eliminated.

By testing your cleanliness levels, and making improvements to your processes based on this data, you can be certain that your cleaning efforts are effective, reducing the health and safety risk for all. 

Safeguarding health and safety 
All business owners have a responsibility to keep their employees and visitors safe when on their premises. It is time that they gave floorcare the same attention as they would any other health and safety risk. This means investing in the right floorcare equipment and processes. 

We need to move away from traditional, ineffective practices like mopping, and commit to a robust strategy that not only removes the immediate risks of spillage, but also does a far better job of daily cleaning. 

Being proactive when it comes to floorcare can dramatically reduce the risk of accidents. In turn, this will not only protect your colleagues, customers and visitors, but will also safeguard your bottom line. 

James White is managing director of Denis Rawlins.