Most recommendations for preventing slip-and-fall accidents begin with the advice, “Keep floors dry.” But in some industries – like car washes, breweries and meat packers – a wet floor is simply a fact of life. So how can employers keep their workers safe?
A real problem
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of workplace injuries. In 2013, falls on the same level cost employers nearly $8 billion. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that slips, trips and falls account for 12 to 15 percent of all workers’ compensation claims and cost employers an average of $40,000 per incident.
Giving falls the slip
How do you protect your staff from slipping when floors are routinely awash in soapy water, foaming yeast, and other slick substances?
• Start with the right flooring for wet areas. The more slippery the environment, the rougher your floor’s texture should be to provide grip. Different areas of the same facility may have different nonslip flooring needs; a semi-smooth R10 surface may be fine for the service drive of a car wash, for example, while the wash bay requires a deeper R11 or R12.
• Mark slippery areas. Use signage or other markings to make it clear a person is stepping from a dry zone to a wet area. Using slip-resistant floor tiles to create striping or contrasting color patterns is a great way to do this, as the color is a permanent part of the floor and will not wear off or peel away.
• Require proper footwear. Employees working in wet areas should be required to wear shoes with nonslip soles.
Reducing trip hazards
Preventing trips often comes down to making sure floors are level and clear of obstructions.
• Employ basic housekeeping to keep walkways clear of trip hazards such as pallets, cords and boxes.
• Remind employees to be responsible for themselves and their environment. Encourage them to clean up their work station and to be aware of their surroundings at all times.
• Repair cracked or uneven floors. Poured floors may develop cracks and holes, particularly in areas with heavy traffic or high point loads. These uneven spots are prime real estate for tripping.
It pays off in the long term to choose your flooring right the first time. Invest in a strong, crack-resistant material and have it laid by a high-quality professional installer. For example, vitrified tiles set in a mortar bed and mechanically grouted create a perfectly level surface that can withstand years of traffic and high point loads without cracking. The higher initial cost will pay off over time as you save on repairs and perhaps even workplace injuries.
When selecting nonslip flooring for wet areas, don’t forget to take cleanability into account. The more grip a surface has, the more effort it will take to clean it. Nonslip floor tile is often easier to clean than coatings with the same slip resistance because nonslip coatings rely on abrasive material mixed into the veneer, resulting in a gritty texture that holds on to dirt. The slip resistance of dry-pressed vitrified tile is the result of a raised texture pressed into the surface of the tile when it is manufactured, so while the floor provides enough grip for walking, the material is smooth enough to release soil.
Take care when cleaning floors not to introduce new slip hazards. One of the most common cleaning mistakes people make is using too much detergent or not rinsing floors properly after washing them. When soapy water evaporates, the soap residue left behind creates a film that may be slippery or may attract soil, making the floor harder to clean.