New Flooring Standard Gets Traction

Jan. 1, 2010
A new floor safety standard stresses proper floor maintenance and employee training.

A new floor safety standard is certain to change the way industrial property owners and facility managers look at the growing problem of slip-and-fall accidents.

ANSI B101.1, “Test Method for Measuring Wet SCOF of Common Hard-Surface Floor Materials,” takes a unified approach to measuring the risks associated with slippery walking surfaces. Rather than looking at floors as being “safe” or “unsafe,” the new standard defines three risk categories by which floors can be evaluated.

Flooring that has a wet static coefficient of friction (SCOF) of 0.6 or greater is defined by the standard as “high traction” and presents the least amount of risk for slips and falls. Walkways with a wet SCOF below 0.6 but greater than 0.4 are defined as “moderate traction,” and finally, walkways with a wet SCOF of less than 0.4 are considered “low traction” and require immediate corrective action to raise the measured SCOF.

Simply put, high-traction floors present the lowest risk of slip-and-fall claims, while low-traction floors present the highest risk.

However, regardless of a floor’s traction level, there is no such thing as a slip-proof floor. As long as there is gravity, people will fall.

Material handling managers should have all walkways independently tested to benchmark wet SCOF performance. Regular walkway audits will objectively quantify results, thereby establishing a baseline SCOF against which improvements can be made and follow-up measurements compared.

Benchmark measurements enable facility managers to collect data and set the foundation for remedial and preventive actions, both of which can lead to reduced injuries and operational costs.

Proper Maintenance
While supervisors cannot control how people walk, and few have control over employee footwear, they can control the SCOF of their walkways to reduce slip-and-fall claims.

They should select floor cleaning and maintenance products with documented slip-resistance characteristics and make sure these products are compatible with the particular flooring surfaces in the facility.

The National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) independently certifies floor-cleaning chemicals as “high-traction,” thus offering an easy and cost-effective way to comply with the risk categories established in the ANSI B101.1 standard. Years of clinical studies conducted by NFSI revealed floors with wet SCOFs of 0.6 or greater reduce slip-and-fall claims by as much as 90%. Therefore, all floor-cleaning chemicals certified as “high traction” by the NFSI have been tested in real-world situations and documented to maintain a 0.6 SCOF when used as directed. A list of these certified products can be found on the NFSI Web site.

Employee Training
In addition to using high-traction floor-cleaning products, establishing and enforcing a written floor safety policy can help improve safety while demonstrating management’s commitment to prevention. A policy and procedure guide, posted in conspicuous areas throughout the facility, should address common causes of slips and falls, including poor worker training, inconsistent hazard identification and inadequate or improper floor cleaning, among other factors. The guide should detail procedures for performing and documenting employee training on the maintenance of floor surfaces.

It should also ensure all employees understand spill prevention and response programs. Employees need to know where spill abatement materials are located and how to use them in the event of a spill.

In addition, all records of employee training, including individuals trained, subject matter covered, training materials used and date of training, should be documented and kept for at least seven years. New hires should be tested and current employees evaluated every six to 12 months.

Facilities that have outsourced cleaning and maintenance should be certain that the floor-care service provider has trained its employees on slip-and-fall safety. Regular walkway auditing can also help ensure proper training and processes are in place.

Justifying Floor Safety
Statistics from the National Safety Council reveal that slip-and-fall accidents are the number-one cause of employee injuries behind motor-vehicle accidents.

On-the-job injuries are extremely costly for both employers and employees. For employees, costs include pain, lost wages, disability, reduced quality of life and depression. For employers, costs include loss of productivity and business, increased workers’ compensation premiums, the need to train replacement workers and medical expenses. Direct costs of a slip-and-fall injury, on average, top $21,000, exceeding all other claims by a whopping 14%.

In addition, there is a clear connection to safety, quality, production and profitability. A disciplined approach to safety benefits all aspects of a material handling operation, leading to better employee productivity, lower costs, better reliability and higher facility utilization, all of which contribute to the bottom line.

Nevertheless, all program expenditures must still be evaluated and justified on the basis of return on investment. According to Liberty Mutual Insurance, for every dollar invested in safety, the company realizes a $3 to $6 dollar return. Less tangible benefits of a strict safety policy include employees who feel valued and motivated to produce a quality product, increase productivity and make customers happy.

Finally, implementing an effective slip-and-fall prevention program is the best defense against high workers’ compensation and liability costs, OSHA fines or Americans with Disabilitiesrelated lawsuits.

Measuring the coefficient of friction of walkways and keeping a record of the readings not only provides a measuring stick to help gauge the success of a slip-and-fall prevention program, it also provides up-to-date, accurate data on the condition of floors and documents an operation’s efforts to comply with recognized ANSI minimum slip-resistance requirements. Safety should be a focus of every floor-care program.

Preventing slips and falls is no accident. Understanding causes and following a documented slip-and-fall prevention program can reduce the physical and financial costs of injuries.

Brent Johnson is chief auditor at Traction Auditing and certified XL tribometrist, a professional who measures pedestrian traction on walking surfaces. Johnson is an instructor for the National Floor Safety Institute, a member of the ANSI B101 main committee, chairman of the ANSI B101.0 walkway auditing procedure sub-committee and voting member of the ASTM. He is a nationally known speaker on slip-and-fall prevention and walkway auditing.

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