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Wipe the floor with slips & falls

16 June 2017

Marc Fergusson, international business development manager for Kaivac, looks at the steps that can be taken to minimise slips and falls in your facility 

According to a case study reported by the Health Safety Executive (HSE), an inspector found slip and fall problems in an industrial bakery and concluded that “not enough was being done to prevent them". An “Improvement Notice” was filed, requiring the company to take steps to minimise slips and falls in the facility. 

The inspector noted the following problems: 

• Different floor finishes applied to different floor areas, with some offering more slip resistance than others

• Workers manoeuvering heavy carts, losing traction and their footing, causing a slip and fall accident

• Workers wearing improper footwear for this type of work environment

• Floors exposed to harsh treatment, with mixtures of water and food ingredients found in different areas

The report noted that surprisingly, in wash areas where there was considerable water spillage, few accidents occurred. This was attributed to the “micro-roughness” of the floor in these areas. However, in pastry preparation areas, the floor was much smoother, and where water often mixed with pastry ingredients, the floor became very slippery, increasing the likelihood of a slip.

To address the situation, the owners of the bakery installed drip trays around equipment to capture spillage before it hit the floor. Workers were required to wear “anti-slip” footwear, and an improved cleaning regimen with more frequent floor cleaning was implemented. 

But what was probably key to the programme was training in slip prevention provided to managers and staff. Slip prevention involves taking specific steps to address a problem quickly – for instance, spillage on the floor – to help prevent a slip and fall from happening.

Key steps to prevent slips 

All too often in facilities such as this bakery and most any other type of public facility, workers see a spill on the floor but do not know exactly what to do. Even cleaning workers may be uncertain. 

To end this uncertainty, here are steps that should be taken, which can also serve as the foundation of a slip prevention programme:

• Block the problem area until warning cones can be installed.

• Place warning cones several feet before the area as well as around the area; if possible, install them in such a way as to create a path for people to walk around the area.

• Sweep up and remove any debris.  

• Use a floor spill cleanup system specifically designed to address spillage, such as the OmniFlex SUV from Kaivac.

• Leave warning cones around the area for about 30 minutes but remove them as soon as the floor is dry.

For many cleaning workers, grabbing a mop to clean up a spill is automatic. But this “automatic reaction” may actually cause more problems. This is because in some commercial settings, mops are left soaking in water. They become a breeding ground for bacteria so that as the mop is used, bacteria is spread into the pores and grout of the floor. This often reduces the slip resistance of the floor, increasing the likelihood of a slip. 

Further, mopping may also spread the “spill” contents around the floor as mopping proceeds and leave the floor damp. This means the spill is being spread - not removed - from the floor and the damp floor can pose a significant slip-and-fall threat.

The SUV system mentioned earlier does not use mops. It can be used to first vacuum up the spill. Then, because it sits atop a trolley bucket, fresh cleaning solution can be applied to the floor, brushed if necessary to provided additional agitation, and vacuumed up. The process is quick, complete and very effective.

While the HSE inspector did not comment on what slip prevention cleaning steps should be taught to managers and staff, we do know that many retail facilities around North America and Europe are now using SUV-style cleaning systems. This is because they have found that these systems provide the thorough cleaning and spill removal necessary to prevent slips and falls.