Many factors contribute to slip, trips, and falls within a commercial facility. For the most part, the primary cause of these incidents is mostly attributed to the walking surfaces. According to governing bodies, a clean dry floor must have a coefficient of friction (COF) of 0.50. For areas used by people with disabilities, this number is higher with 0.6 for level surfaces and an even higher 0.8 for ramps. The coefficient of friction quantifies the necessary level of traction on walking surfaces for ergonomic and safety purposes.
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 70 fatalities and over 15% of OSHA reported incidents are attributed to same-level falls each year. With over billions of dollars lost to medical bills and compensation, it is necessary for commercial facilities to promote a safe, clean, and dry floor to avoid injury and liability lawsuits resulting from accidents.
Factors that can cause Slips, Trips, and Falls
There are many factors that determine the risk of incidence for slips, trips, and falls. The type of shoes, a person’s natural gait, their weight and body mass index, their general health and well-being, the floor’s coefficient of friction all contribute in determining the probability of an accident occurring.
Outside of maintenance and manufacturing, it is difficult for employers to enforce strict shoe policies. Shoe selection is predominantly a fashion choice, completely unmotivated by slip and fall hazard prevention. According to NSFI same-level fall statistics, women are more likely to slip, trip, and fall in the workplace, than their male counterparts. While these falls are non-fatal, it seems that they might stem from the female inclination to wear high heels in the work place. The statistics for male slip and fall accidents are skewed towards manufacturing and maintenance employees, in comparison to the population statistical spread for females, which also included office workers in its tally.
Similar to shoe selection, the probability of slipping on floors are of a personal and difficult to monitor nature. Regardless of other factors, the liability for slip and fall accidents remain the responsibility of commercial facilities. Businesses need to prioritize to create a safe and clean environment by taking precautionary measures to reduce and hopefully eliminate the risks of slips, trips, and falls in their buildings.
Avoiding slips, trips, and falls at entrances and exits
Even in dry weather, entrance ways contribute to slips and falls in buildings. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, about 70 to 80 percent of the dirt inside a commercial facility is brought in by people entering. Further statistics shows that every pound of dirt that needs to be cleaned costs more $750. Moreover, as debris accumulates indoors, it makes entrances and other floors slippery, despite their dry appearance.
During the winter season, rain and snow pose more traditional entrance and exit problems. Ceramic tile, vinyl, and hardwood floor are known to be very slick when wet. Even concrete and epoxy-coated surfaces, known to be textured for the purpose of traction, can be just as slick as the other more finished types of flooring.
What can management do?
One way to promote safety in the work place is through selecting high traction flooring materials and applying anti-slip flooring treatments. In addition to these preventative methods, entrance mats should be securely installed in all entryways to trap dirt and other contaminants before they enter the building because accumulation of moisture and debris can cause loss of walking surface traction by lowering the coefficient of friction drastically.
Properly placed and secured floor mat, fitted for the specific industry need of the facility, are highly effective in trapping dirt and debris. The Green Building Council advises that entrance mats must be at least 10-15 feet at all times. This length is considered sufficient enough to dry shoes in wet weather. During warmer seasons, entrance mats this size is long enough to trap over 90% of dirt from the outdoors. Rain or shine, entrance mats are effective in maintaining sanitation and safety of any building.
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
Fraley, Michael. Be Proactive In Slip and Fall Prevention. Cleaning & Maintenance Management. September 19, 2010. Accessed December 13, 2012.
Garner, Bryan A. Black’s Law Dictionary. St. Paul, MN: Thomson/ West, 8th ed. 2004.
Grainger, W.W. 6 guidelines to prevent workplace slips, trips, and falls. Reliable Plant. . Accessed December 17, 2012.
Hamel, Karen. Six steps to help prevent slips and falls. The Bulletin, Vol. 77 Issue 3. May 2009
WISQARSTM (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) Centers for Disease Control and Preventions, National Center for Injury Prevention and Contro. URL: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html
Fall Prevention Facts. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. URL: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00101
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