How to Eliminate Slips, Trips and Falls in Your Facility

June 19, 2019

Slips, trips and falls can turn into costly claims. Get ahead by employing these best practices—such as using proper floor cleaners, watching for weather events and mapping out previous accidents.

Slips, trips and falls are a common injury in commercial facilities, as well as in healthcare facilities and in schools, because they tend to happen in high-traffic areas. They are easily preventable, though, especially when a tight floor maintenance program is in place.

According to the National Safety Council, falls from the same level are the second most costly workplace injury. And that’s not the only eye-raising statistic on slips, trips and falls. According to the National Floor Safety Institute:

  • Slips, trips and falls are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims
  • They represent the primary cause of lost days from work due to an accident
  • Floors and flooring materials contribute directly to more than 2 million fall injuries each year

Unless mobility issues are involved, occupants are usually not falling on dry surfaces. When floor contamination from spills, leaks, snow, mud, wet leaves and other risks is added to the equation, the potential for an injury increases.

“You can’t change the weather or how people walk, for the most part, but there are things you can do to identify [problem] areas and minimize the chance of slips, trips and falls because of them,” says Karen Hamel, regulatory compliance professional, trainer and technical writer for New Pig, which specializes in workplace safety and spill containment products.

4 Places Slips, Trips and Falls are Likely to Happen

They can happen anywhere in your facility, but slips, trips and falls are more likely to happen in certain areas over others.

1. Lobbies

Shiny can sometimes be dangerous. Lobbies are often buffed and waxed for optimal appeal for those who are visiting or entering each day for work. But the preparation for that appeal can cause slippery floors. It’s also where occupants and staff track in snow, mud, rainwater from shoes and umbrellas, and other debris.

“The first step can be the most dangerous [inside an office building],” says Heidi Shetler, director of new market development for New Pig.

2. Breakrooms/cafeterias

Because occupants are consuming food and beverages in these areas, spills are likely, especially if the floor is vinyl or another smooth surface. Extra care should be taken when cleaning and disposing of floor contaminants in breakrooms and cafeterias.

[On topic: Break Room Ideas that Won’t Break the Bank]

More specifically, Hamel says, “coffee islands” are an area to keep an eye on, where occupants serve themselves coffee. Occupants are often in that area with uncovered mugs, increasing the chance for drips and spills.

3. Piping

Make sure you’re performing preventive maintenance on any piping in your facility, especially if it’s in close quarters with where occupants are. Corrosion and wear can cause them to leak.

4. Roof Leaks:

Roof leaks are common during or after bad weather rolls in, as well as in cold weather. Check for any vulnerable spots and where a leak might likely occur. Also be aware of where you put any bucket to collect the liquid from the leak—a distracted occupant might trip and fall over it.

Causes of Slips, Trips and Falls

Human factors can increase the risk of slips, trips and falls, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These factors include age, failing eyesight and other mobility impairments, such as using a cane.

[Related: Eliminate Fall Claims By 90% with this Mat]

Those causes are things that facilities managers are unable to change. But they can do something about these main causes of slips, trips and falls to help reduce and eliminate them.

  • Wet or dry debris on the floor (e.g. leaves, rainwater, mud, grease)
  • Slippery surfaces/shiny floors
  • Loose, unanchored rugs or mats
  • Transitioning from one surface to another (e.g. carpet to tile)
  • Poor maintenance of floors

Even the shoes an occupant wears can affect their risk of slipping or falling, says Marcelo Rodriguez, director of technical services for Daltile. “Commercial buildings always have heavy foot traffic,” he adds. With these causes in mind, consider the tips below to keep staff and occupants safe from slips, trips and falls.

5 Tips to Avoid These Accidents

1. Watch for weather events.

Be prepared for storms, snow and any other weather event that might affect the cleanliness of your facilities’ floors. Have floor blowers ready to dry up the rainwater and floor signs handy to make occupants aware of any potential hazards.

2. Use matting to absorb any liquids.

Matting can be a double-edged sword, though. You want to avoid matting that wrinkles, gaps or moves around easily because that only creates more chances for slips, trips and falls. “Matting can be a solution as well as a problem,” Shetler says. That’s why New Pig developed an adhesive-backed mat, the Grippy Mat. Its adhesive backing keeps the mat flat and in place.

3. Perform a root cause analysis.

Look back on any previous slip or fall claims and map them. That can help you identify any high-risk zones in your facility, or determine the primary areas where the activity is happening. That way, you can correct what you need to and prevent more slips, trips and falls from happening in the future.

4. Make sure you’re using the proper cleaning chemicals.

“You don’t want to go down to the local dollar store for a cleaner that smells good,” Shetler says. “There’s a science behind buying the right cleaner for the right contaminant and floor surface,” such as tile vs. wood vs. concrete. Your cleaning or janitorial supply company can work with you to determine which chemicals are best to use. Be sure to use the cleaner correctly, as well. It might call for cold or hot water or a certain dilution ratio.

[Related: Dwell Time: Are Your Disinfectants Actually Working?]

5. Have a floor maintenance management program in place.

A program might include:

  • Ways to properly store cleaning products and equipment
  • Training staff
  • Regular floor inspections that are shared with supervisors
  • Certain procedures and protocols (i.e. are you vacuuming or sweeping first?)

How the Industry is Responding

New Pig developed the Grippy Mat because the company’s commercial end users were complaining of mats that didn’t stay in place—causing them to tape them down themselves.

“In the hundreds of thousands of facilities we saw, we found that taping process [being used],” Shetler says.

The company expanded on that temporary solution, and devised a mat with an adhesive backing. The Grippy Mat can be deployed in a variety of areas, from entryways to restrooms to operating rooms.

In the world of tile, Daltile has responded to slips, trips and fall claims with StepWise, a patented slip-resistant technology made for tile. “Tile is common in commercial facilities because it lasts forever, essentially,” Rodriguez says. Using StepWise can increase slip resistance by 50%, according to Daltile’s website.

Clean Floors, Happy Occupants

Slips, trips and falls can turn into costly claims for your facility, while also making it unsafe for occupants. That’s why it’s important to get ahead of them—and eliminate the risk in the process.

A clean floor clear of debris and obstructions does that best. Consider drawing up a floor maintenance management program if you don’t already have one. It will get you thinking about any high-risk areas—it might even be a parking lot or storage area—in your facility, while also laying down proper protocols and procedures for your staff.

“Spills can happen anywhere, to anyone,” Hamel says.

But they don’t have to.

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About the Author

Sarah Kloepple | Associate Editor

Sarah joined the BUILDINGS team as an associate editor in August 2018. She is a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, where her focus was magazine writing. She's written and edited for numerous publications in her hometown of St. Louis.

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