“Slip/ Trip-Fall on Level” is the top incident leading to liability claims with over $54.9 billion total cost due to injuries. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2.2 millions of Americans rushed to emergency rooms to be treated for accidental falls in 2007 alone.
It is the utmost importance for any business, small or large, to examine the causes of these accidents and as much as possible prevent them from happening. Liability claims aside, accident prevention protects employees, visitors, and customers from terror and injury of an unstable floor.
Probable causes for slips and falls on the same level
According to research conducted by the CNA Risk Control team, these incidents can be caused by several factors such as:
- Lack of slip resistance on walking surfaces
- Improper floor maintenance procedures
- Poor walking surface conditions
- Poor visibility
- Lack or poor condition of handrails and guardrails
- Poor stairway design
- Improper walkway transitions
- Distractions, such as displays and advertisements
- Poor housekeeping, such as cluttered walkways and poor material storage
Inherently, slipping is made possible when the coefficient of friction between a person’s shoes and the floor is insufficient to support their dynamic movement such as walking. Incidents are caused primarily by environmental causes such as smooth shoe soles, poorly maintained floor mats, moisture, ice, new wax, and so forth (Bakken, et al. 2nd ed. 2002). These conditions facilitate a low coefficient of friction, which increases the risk of slipping and falling.
The coefficient of friction (COF) is the ratio of the normal force between the surfaces of two objects and the perpendicular lateral force necessary for one object to pass along the other. When the COF is low, the risk of slipping on surfaces is high. Creating an environment that guarantees ultimate traction between shoes and floor, especially hard surfaces, is necessary in an efficient facility. A High-Traction floor with the least risk of slip and fall accidents can only be achieved by proper maintenance management that observes the safety standards presented by the ANSI/NFSI and OSHA.
Slip and fall accidents are preventable!
According to the CNA study, building managers and owners can apply preventative measures to limit the risk of slip and fall accidents in their facilities. While these methods will not eradicate the risk of accidents completely in all occasions, they provide a standard of measurement in maintaining facilities, and as much as possible, prevent inflicting more harm to employees, visitors, and customers, which could lead to liability lawsuits due to negligence.
Tips for a safe and slip-free floor
- As much as possible, choose high-traction, slip-resistant flooring materials for facilities. It is ideal that the floor material does not become slippery when wet from the very beginning. Selecting textured slip-resistant materials for floors minimizes the risk of accidents from the very beginning.
- Properly instruct maintenance crews to observe optimal cleaning practices. One of the causes of slip-and-fall accidents are the debris dragged in by shoes throughout the facility. Dirt, moisture, mud, etc. reduce the coefficient of friction between the two surfaces, which leads to people falling. It is important that floors are always clean to decrease the risk of accidents.
- Practice a good floor mat program. An excellent floor mat program can minimize the amount of debris tracked in from the outside and maintains cleanliness and safety of a building. Investing in commercial floor mats at entrances and other heavily trafficked areas not only removes dirt from shoes but they also increase traction on surfaces, minimizing the risk of slipping.
- Research optimal commercial mats for specific use. Each building serves a different purpose, as do floor mats. Research the best commercial mat suited for specific needs of each area for the best conditions.
- Inspect and properly maintain permanently installed features, such as: floor mats and carpet runners. Because these items trap dirt and contaminants, constant inspection and maintenance is necessary to monitor wear and tear and overall sanitation of these items. Constant vigilance can make all the difference against deteriorated commercial mats.
- All areas must be properly lit at all times. Accidental slips, trips, and falls are avoidable if potential hazards are visible. Make note that all areas in the facility including parking lots, loading docks, and stairwells are adequately lit throughout the day. Always replace bulbs as soon as they burnout.
Knowing about causes of slip-and-fall accidents and the methods to prevent them is wise business practice. Not only do attempts to provide a safe environment for visitors, employees, and customers reduce premises liability, they also promote a positive, professional company image at all times. Be it a small family-owned shop or a commercial high-rise, preventing accidents should be one of the top prerogatives.
Resources for this report include:
- Bakken, Gary M., Cohen, H. Harvey, Abele, Jon R., Hyde, Alvin S., LaRue, Cindy A. Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences. Tucson, AZ: Lawyers and Judges Publishing Company, Inc., 2nd ed. 2002
- Garner, Bryan A. Black’s Law Dictionary. St. Paul, MN: Thomson/ West, 8th ed. 2004.
- WISQARSTM (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html
- Fall accident prevention program. National Floor Safety Institute. Produced as part of the NFSI Best Practices Project, 2003.
- Kendzior, Russell J. Falls Aren’t Funny. Government Institutes, The Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010.
- New Techniques to Control Slips and Falls in Public Places. InControl/SLIPS, TRIPS, & FALLS for the Real Estate Industry. Courtesy of the National Floor Safety Institute. 2011
Helping to control Slips, Trips, and Falls is a properly written policy.