Watch Out for Costly Claims from Poor Floor Upkeep

06/28/2013 | By Christopher Curtland

Develop a floor safety program to prevent slips, trips, and falls

When it comes to floor safety standards, fall in line or risk falling from grace. Prevention is essential with slips, trips, and falls. Having protocol and products in compliance will safeguard against costly claims.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) appointed the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) to author floor safety standards in 2006, and although they are technically voluntary, many consultants and expert witnesses rely on them as a key resource in court claims.

“We’re not really talking about suggestions,” says Russell Kendzior, president of NFSI, adding that the ANSI/NFSI standards may become mandated by the Occupational Healthy and Safety Administration (OSHA) in the August revision of its regulations. “If you don’t comply and you happen to get sued, then your goose is cooked.”

Kendzior has acted as an expert witness for some 500 slip, trip, and fall cases. In one Dallas case the plaintiff was awarded over $4 million by the defendant, Minyard Food Stores Inc., which was not in compliance and subsequently went bankrupt. Here’s how you can avoid a horror story like that one.

Start with Standards
Beware of eco-friendly labels and focus on performance, says Claudia Lezell, hard surface division chair of the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification, a non-profit organization that has developed standards in conjunction with ANSI and NFSI.

“With green and LEED certification, there’s been some debasing of standards, unfortunately. Not all of the products that earn points give the best results,” Lezell says. “There’s just not a one size fits all. You’re usually not slipping because of the floor, but a coating or cleaner on it.”

The ANSI/NFSI standards cover everything from flooring materials and auto-scrubbers to cleaning chemicals and mats. NFSI also certifies independent auditors and technicians. Using approved products and procedures will protect you (see sidebar for more details).

“Owners have an obligation to safeguard their environment, and these standards cover you in the event of an accident,” says Kendzior. “Slips and falls aren’t scams – the issue is real. You have to comply.”

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