Whether it's the floor of a hotel lobby, restaurant kitchen, hospital hallway or school classroom, good floor maintenance is extremely important to workers' and patrons' safety in any industry. Slips, trips and falls make up the majority of workplace accidents and result in costly employee compensation claims each year. While the threat of slips and falls is real, preventing them isn't as difficult as you might think. With the right nonslip shoes, employee training and floor maintenance procedures, slip and fall incidents can be greatly reduced. Here are several steps to keep your workplace's floors safe.
1. Consider the floor material
First and foremost, it's important to evaluate the type of flooring in your establishment – not just for worn areas that could use replacing, but for the floor's slip-resistance. According to SAIF Corporation, Oregon's nonprofit, state-chartered workers' compensation insurance company, not all surfaces were created equal as far as their properties. Of course, a carpeted floor has more traction than a polished marble floor, but there are more subtle differences between other types of flooring materials. Hard, shiny flooring is usually slippery when it's wet, but some materials may be more of a hazard than others. Consider the characteristics of your workplace's flooring, especially if you're planning to replace parts, build new structures or remodel. Ask your supplier about the pros and cons of each type before making a decision.
2. Take advantage of nonslip mats and runners
Mats and runners are your best bet if you don't have the option to update your floor material in a particular area or you want extra safety measures where puddles, spills and messes are likely to occur. The Reliable Plant and Lean Manufacturing Journal recommended using moisture-absorbent mats with beveled edges, which help prevent trips. These mats should be used in entryways when there's inclement weather, bathing facilities, food preparation areas and high-traffic areas that may become slippery when wet. Keep in mind that you'll need to evaluate the condition of the mats frequently and replace them if necessary. SAIF pointed out that as they wear, they may develop holes, tears or curled edges.
3. Develop a floor maintenance procedure
According to Stanford University, any floor that requires routine or occasional cleaning should have a proper floor maintenance procedure laid out. This involves consulting with a floor cleaner product manufacturer to find the best practices and most effective products for your workplace's floor material. You'll also have to train your employees to carry out the maintenance procedures and use the products correctly. You'll need to create a list of the proper floor cleaning materials, like strippers, degreasers and general cleaners. Then lay out the proper cleaning methods, like dilution instructions and time schedules, the university noted.
4. Train employees how to walk safely on slippery surfaces
While performing the floor maintenance procedures you outline, some of your employees will have to walk on the slippery surfaces they're maintaining. Help keep them safe by requiring them to wear safety shoes with slip-resistant soles, which can make a huge difference in the amount of traction between their feet and the floor. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee also suggested having them walk slowly with their feet pointed slightly outward.
5. Have a warning system in place
When floor maintenance procedures are being carried out, you should have a warning system in place to alert other people of the potential slip, trip or fall danger. Put up wet-floor signs or barriers with caution tape stretched between them to ensure that someone won't step on the spot not knowing it's wet. If a spill occurs, have one employee monitor the area and alert people of the danger while another employee retrieves cleaning supplies.
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