Slip/Fall Prevention Program

Dodging the Negligence Bullet

ADA (Americans With Disabilities) recommendations, OSHA regulations, and the current legal climate favor adopting a clear, documented floor safety strategy to prevent slip/fall incidents. Juries may determine “negligence” based simply on the absence of evidence of a floor safety program. Example: A facility in New Orleans paid $79,000 to a slip fall victim because it could not establish that it had a program inforce to prevent slip/fall accidents.

What constitutes a documented program? Though there are few absolutes, apply thefollowing criteria for maximum safety:

  • Consult with a reputable safety consultant for help in devising a sound program. Consultants experienced with different floor surfaces can point you to the appropriate floor safety methods to ensure OSHA, ADA, and local compliance.
  • Slip resistance is determined based on a surface’s Static Coefficient of Friction (SCOF or COF). OSHA recommends at least a .5 SCOF, while ADA recommends .6 for floors and .8 for ramps (see sidebar).
  • Devise a comprehensive floor safety strategy consisting of general safety measures (wet floor signs, walk-off mats, etc.), floor cleaning/treatment products, maintenance procedures, spill cleanup, testing, inspection, and ongoing education and training.
  • Post a written slip/fall prevention plan for employees. Review the program regularly with employees, and have each employee sign a frequently updated form indicating they understand and will comply with the safety provisions outlined therein.
  • Periodic testing with a portable slip meter, recording results, making improvements as needed, and documenting everything, demonstrates compliance and responsible concern.
  • Keep thorough records of all maintenance procedures, products used, names of workers performing tasks, and date and time when workers perform tasks. Also keep records of floor tests and inspections. The paper trail is vital, since it shows you are implementing a floor safety program.
  • Look into firms that provide turnkey floor safety programs-including treatments, training, monitoring, and inspection. Look for companies with safety “warranties” for the contract period. This can ease the burden of developing your own program, and establish compliance via documentation provided by the safety contractor.
  • Investigate new products that raise the slip resistance of existing floor surfaces. If your current floor surface is hazardous, retrofitting the surface to increase safety is often the simplest and least expensive method.

Retrofitting Painlessly

Two interesting new methods provide relief for facilities seeking to raise floor safety on existing floors without altering floor appearance.

  • Slip Resistant Treatment: The cleaning solution-applied by mop or autoscrubber-raises slip coefficients dramatically on most types of finished flooring. This is often a simple one -step treatment that doesn’t require rinsing. Advantages: A) Your maintenance staff can continue to use their existing floor finish. B) The slip resistant treatment can be safely used by custodial personnel. C) The surface remains buffable.
  • Surface Modifier: For marble, granite, terrazzo, ceramic tile, quarry tile, bath/shower floors, or any mineral-containing surface, this product acts chemically to create microscopic pores in the floor surface which are invisible to the eye, without compromising the floor surface. A penetrant is applied to seal the bottom half of the pores to prevent surface contamination and facilitate cleaning. This method is ideal for hard floors exposed to periodic wetness-such as in kitchen, entrance or public areas, etc. Treatment may last as long as five years with proper maintenance. Installation should be performed by professional contractors. Dramatic improvement in surface traction occurs with this technique.

(Author: Kenneth Fisher is a safety consultant with Nu-Safe Floor Solutions, Inc., and former chairperson of the National Safety Council’s C.H.A.P.S. committee dealing with slip/fall issues. He can be reached at 800-275-7771.)

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