Contributed by Cintas, CU Quarterly, June 2012
A Texas woman was recently awarded $5.67 million by a U.S. District Court for injuries sustained in a slip and fall accident at a major fast food restaurant chain. Her attorney claims that the woman stood up from the table and slipped on a section of floor where something had previously spilled. During the trial, he argued that “the restaurant’s overall cleaning practice was not good.” The District Court awarded the woman $2.67 million for past and future medical expenses, lost wages and retirement benefits. It also awarded her $3 million for suffering and a decreased quality of life.
Unclean and unsafe floors are the cause of approximately 50 percent of slip and fall accidents in businesses today, followed by: inappropriate footwear, fraudulent claims, inadequate hazard identification and insufficient employee training. In addition to causing injury, slip and fall accidents can cost business owners millions of dollars in legal fees and settlements. They can also result in a public relations nightmare that can cast a lasting shadow over an organization for years.
To help prevent slip and fall accidents, businesses have long been encouraged to implement a program that addresses spills immediately and removes other potential hazards. However, many initiatives don’t go far enough, and as a result, standards organizations and legislative authorities are looking to improve regulations to reduce incidents. To mitigate risk from injuries and lawsuits, organizations need to implement a comprehensive program that takes into account floor type, traction treatment, cleaning methods and maintenance frequency.
Hoping to reduce slip and fall incidents and injury rates, occupational safety groups and standards organizations are looking to enhance floor safety regulations. OSHA is targeting slips and falls, and The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is in the process of releasing a set of standards to help improve the guidelines governing slips and falls. The updated ANSI standards identify the floor cleaners and treatments or specify the installation, inspection, care and maintenance of entrance mats and runner.
While the design and workflow of an operation plays a critical part in the safety of a floor, ongoing maintenance procedures are equally important. A safe floor program involves three essential steps:
1. Protect. Mats act as the first line of defense in buildings by capturing dirt and water before it enters the facility. Strategically place mats to capture dirt and water and reduce slips and falls. At entrances, combine rubber scraper mats outside of the building with carpet mats inside to reduce contaminants tracked into the facility. Identify the additional floor zones where mats are beneficial; high-risk, high-traffic and productivity zones.
2. Maintain. Daily floor maintenance is essential to a clean and safe operation. Dedicate one mop and bucket to each area within the facility to reduce the chance for cross contamination. Before cleaning, make sure the tools are clean; a dirty mop fails to remove dirt and increases the risk of cross contamination. Damp or wet mopping by itself doesn’t clean a floor. Agitation is important to keep surfactants and soils from building up on the floor. In addition, proper dilution is essential to ensuring floor care chemicals work properly. Provide ongoing training so employees know how to properly clean floors and reinforce cleaning frequencies with checklists. Hazard communication standard, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200).
3. Deep Clean. Daily vacuuming and mopping reduces particulates in flooring, 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 buildup. Periodic deep cleanings revive floors to enhance the image of the business and protect staff and patrons. By combining temperature, agitation, chemicals, time and extraction, deep cleaning removes all dry particulate soil and residue left behind by conventional methods. With restored floors, you promote a positive image for everyone who enters the building and demonstrate a commitment to cleanliness and safety.
A slip and fall accident can happen instantly and without warning, yet it will likely leave an indelible mark on the business for years down the road. Injury, lawsuits, negative publicity and a tarnished reputation are just a fewof the implications that come along with a slip and fall accident.
To mitigate these risks, organizations are looking to protect their business, staff, and patrons with a safe floor program. By understanding new standards and establishing protocol to protect, maintain and deep clean floors, you can reduce the risk of a slip and fall accident – and its long-term impact.
David Collette is Director of Marketing and Strategy for Cintas Foodservice.