Christian Harris appears on the Rebranding Safety Podcast

Christian was the first ever guest on James Macpherson’s Rebranding Safety Podcast in April 2019. Here is a transcript:

 

 

James M.:

What’s up people? Welcome back to Rebranding Safety. Today we’re talking all about slip safety, biggest cause of accidents per year. We’ve got a subject matter expert with us today from a business dealing with slip safety. So we’re going to delve right into the minutiae of slip safety. Let’s not beat around the bush, let’s get straight into the podcast.

James M.:

So we’ll get straight into it then. So today we’ve got Christian Harris, Managing Director of Slip Safety Services. Christian’s quite well-known in the field of slips, trips and falls. Author of a huge amount of educational content on the subject, both on his website and for third parties, such as law firms, magazines. Him and his company work with most of the leading insurers, floor suppliers, FM companies, other stakeholders. We all know, all of us know that slips is an issue but maybe don’t really know that much about it. So today we’re going to have a chat about that with a subject matter expert, and delve into the detail of it.

James M.:

So, Christian, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for coming on. Thanks for joining us. Why don’t you introduce yourself, give us a little bit of background, and we’ll get into it?

Christian H.:

Pleasure, James. Thanks for having me. I’d love to say I grew up always wanting to be a foremost expert on slips, trips and falls but I can’t say that that’s true. I’ve been working in this field for coming up for 10 years now. So I’ve got quite a lot of knowledge, both in terms of the theoretical stuff around it but also the practical, and that’s where I’ve spent most of my time, is actually out and about in the field, helping people with real life issues, whether that’s, as you said, an insurance company, a floor supplier, a cleaning company, or an end user, just getting to grips with the problem and trying to find some solutions to reduce their risk. So that’s really what I spend my time doing.

Christian H.:

So keen to have a bit of a chat about this and hopefully give some of your listeners a bit more understanding about a subject which everybody, as you say, knows about now, but probably glosses over a little bit and maybe doesn’t realize some of the things, the typical things that can be done to make quite a big impact.

James M.:

For sure. Definitely. Definitely. So I suppose we get straight into it then. So everyone knows about slips and trips. What’s the impact of not managing it? What’s the risk to the listeners and business owners of not managing it? How big is this problem actually? Is it a problem?

Christian H.:

Sure. Well, it’s definitely a problem, and I’ll give you some statistics in a sec, but the first thing to say I guess is, we often bunch, or end up bunching together slips, trips and falls into a single category. So the first thing that you really need to understand is whether you’re having issues with slips or trips or potentially more pure falls.

Christian H.:

So a fall is typically caused by a slip or a trip. If you look into it across most industries, slips tends to be about 85% of that kind of category of slips, trips and falls, but it does vary by sector.

Christian H.:

In terms of, obviously, why does a slip happen, the physical nature of a slip is effectively that someone’s heel strikes the floor and if there isn’t enough friction produced between the heel and the floor, then they might slip over, quite simply. So lubricants and water and things obviously then play a role in it. But that’s really a very simple explanation of what a slip is.

Christian H.:

In terms of the costs and the impacts, I suppose there’s three things we can talk about. The first is the human cost. So 1.5 million NHS bed days per year are caused by slips. So 1.5 million nights in hospital. Over 300,000 admissions into hospital, NHS, due to slips. 95% of serious slips result in broken bones. That tends to be the most common injury.

Christian H.:

If you look in terms of workplaces, there’s one serious slip every three minutes on average, in workplaces in the U.K. So there’s quite a lot of people getting hurt by these accidents.

Christian H.:

In terms of the cost side of it, the financial cost, there’s obviously the insurance element to this. So all the listeners I’m sure will have insurance in order to be operating their businesses, but, typically, the average cost for an insurance claim, a personal injury claim, as a result of a slip, is something like £10,000. That can vary quite significantly. So you see lots of very small claims, but a fair number of very large claims. I’m aware of at least a handful of claims of over £1 million due to someone slipping over.

Christian H.:

Then over and above the insurance costs, in terms of the financial cost, there’s the business costs, or the hidden costs. Again, listeners are probably familiar with this, but HSE has a kind of iceberg model that they use for what’s the true cost of an accident, and they would say that whatever the insurance cost is, you need to multiply that by something like eight to 36 times, was the HSE’s view, in terms of looking at the true business cost. So ranging from replacing staff temporarily, to administrative costs to look into what’s happened, to legal costs, to loss of reputation, loss of business, and all these other things.

Christian H.:

We’ve been doing some of our own research on that point, linked in to a very select number of health and safety professionals, and the number that they’re coming up with is a bit tighter [inaudible 00:06:34] fairly consistently, something like 10 to 12 X. So if you’ve got an insurance claim of £10,000, your actual cost to your business is more like £100,000 to £120,000. So add all those things together and it’s quite an expensive and a huge issue really.

Christian H.:

I think one of the big challenges is, and I’m sure we’ll talk about this, is that there’s a perception maybe that doesn’t quite match that reality. As I said in the intro, people kind of gloss over it a bit because they maybe see prat falls and lots of near misses but don’t really think about actually when you look at the cumulative effect of this type of accident what the real cost is.

James M.:

Yeah. That probably brings us quite nicely on to another question. I’ve said it in a recent podcast and I’m sure many of us have had conversations around it, and you make a good point about it being separated or being grouped up together, but slips and trips and things like that quite often are not considered as significant findings, or I’ve said, in the grand scheme of things, they’re probably not significant findings. But actually, what you’re saying, the figures are stating it is quite the opposite, that it is a significant finding. How do businesses deal with that? They do have some big, significant findings, but when looking at it, is that a significant finding? If it is, how do they deal with it? When does it become a significant finding, when is it not?

Christian H.:

I listened to that episode of yours and I have to say I don’t disagree with you at all because I think if you look at [inaudible 00:08:11] document for any sort of work for anybody who’s [inaudible 00:08:14] to do on someone’s site, they’re always going to mention slips, trips and falls in their risk assessment, and is that correct or not? You could certainly make a good argument that it probably isn’t because, as you say, is that a significant risk?

Christian H.:

Look, putting it into context a bit more, yes, there are some huge numbers but that doesn’t necessarily mean that… If you take 300,000 admissions to hospital every year, yes, that’s a lot of people, but if you divide that by the number of people in the U.K. and then divide it by the number of building and the number of days in a year, it’s not as if every building is having significant issues with this and it’s an endemic thing that every other person is slipping over, clearly.

Christian H.:

So I think it’s about putting it into context and thinking about things pragmatically. I guess, in simple terms, if you did some very basic maths, if you had one near miss or one accident, then actually, looking at it statistically, you’re probably above average and therefore maybe you need to look into it in a bit more detail. But I think, in terms of how I would suggest people do a risk assessment, is actually trying to understand the topic a little bit more and then figure out is that relevant to me or not.

Christian H.:

I wouldn’t advocate that every single building and every single person goes into this topic in as much depth as somebody who’s operating, I don’t know, a leisure center, let’s say, where you’ve clearly got floors that are foreseeably wet, and therefore slips is going to be a big issue. If you’re operating within a serviced office building and the threshold to your domain is on the fifth floor, how foreseeable is it that your floors are going to get wet, other than maybe your toilet? So I think pragmatism is always the way forward for this.

James M.:

So trips are quite often identified on risk assessments, be that right or wrong, that’s not for us to decide, I suppose. But I always find that the actions to mitigate, or the control measures to mitigate the risk of slips have maybe little to no effect or they’re a little bit reactive, so, say, get your wet floor signs out. So what do you think the problem is around that, around actually understanding how to manage that risk?

Christian H.:

That’s it really. I think if you’re going to identify it and say it is a risk that you want to do something about, that’s where actually having a deeper level of understanding comes into it because everything I see, people take quite a helicopter level view and, as you say, they’ll say, “Right. Well, we’ve got a spillage system and we’ll plonk our yellow floor signs out. What more could we do?” I’m often told things, “Well, the sign was out,” or, “The floor was wet therefore it’s bound to be slippery.” Both of those are not getting into the depths of understanding that you really need.

Christian H.:

So I think if you’re going to identify this as an issue that you want to do something about, and again, in lots of businesses that may be relevant, but equally, in many perhaps it isn’t, I think it’s actually trying to get an understanding of the kind of root causes and then look at what’s controllable, what’s reasonable and what isn’t because certain things you can control and you can do something about and other things arguably you can’t.

Christian H.:

If you’re a managing agent of a shopping center, forget slips and trips but you’ve inherited a roof, for example. If there’s issues with that roof, there’s not really much you can do about that, it’s the landlord’s problem. If you’re a contract cleaning company, you’re inheriting, you’re taking over some aspects of the management of buildings, so there’s sometimes limited things that we can do, but there are always things that can be done, for sure.

James M.:

Yeah. That’s a really good point. Would you say there’s just an overall lack of understanding around slips? Do we need to improve education around that kind of thing?

Christian H.:

Yeah. That’s what I spend my life doing really. If anybody either does follow me on LinkedIn or wants to follow me on LinkedIn, and I’m sure we’ll give the plugs later, but the vast majority of my content on LinkedIn is all around education, so helping people to really understand what are the causes, what are the results of not doing it properly, but equally, what are the results of doing things well and therefore some of the success stories.

Christian H.:

I think the HSE had a campaign a few years ago called Shattered Lives and that was pretty effective. That was quite hard-hitting. I think certainly, from my perspective, if you look at people like the architectural community and designers, their level of understanding now is much better than it was 10 years ago, and I think if you can design out problems into new buildings or refurbishments, then clearly, if you get it right from the outset, you’ve got half a chance of keeping it right. If it’s wrong from the beginning, you’re fighting an uphill battle.

Christian H.:

I think maybe there could be something around legislation as well. If you look at some of those NHS numbers and compare them to things like road traffic accidents, it’s staggering the difference and the impact it has on the healthcare system and the quantity of people being affected by this. But, actually, does the legislation reflect that? It’s very vague. I think that’s one of the challenges. It’s very vague. What does safe mean, in terms of slip safety? There isn’t a black and white definition of that and there are people out there that either don’t understand it or perhaps you could say are not wanting to understand it but maybe telling people certain things that aren’t perhaps correct, in order to sell products or whatever. So clarification around that could be good.

Christian H.:

Then I think, as I said before, it’s this perception piece, just broadly really. So, can we get people to just understand that these can be quite serious accidents. The cumulative effect is very serious, but equally, there are some very simple things that can be done to solve this issue at a site level. It doesn’t have to cost a huge amount of money but it’s having that willingness to understand it just a little bit more so that what you’re doing is having a positive effect and not a negative effect. That would make a big difference.

James M.:

I like what you said about working with architects and stuff like that. That’s quite a big part. Most of my work’s around fire and that’s a big target for us, is engaging architects and nipping it in the bud at the design stage, which proves to be much more effective than trying to deal with it later on.

Christian H.:

Yeah. It’s something we do. We do lunch and learns and things like that. Obviously you’ll know this more than anyone but after the whole Grenfell tragedy, everybody that I was speaking to, slips went off the agenda because fire was all of a sudden the number one. My understanding on that was that the materials used for the cladding were obviously massively contributory to the issue there but, equally, another better specified material could have been used without much, if any, change in cost, and actually that would have made a big difference obviously in that case.

Christian H.:

I think, from a slip perspective, it’s kind of the same. Having a good, well-specified, slip resistant floor doesn’t necessarily cost you any more than having a slippery floor. So, therefore, if you can understand the environments you’re installing floors into, then choose an appropriate floor. It doesn’t have to cost you any more but as we said earlier, it’s going to help you immensely to try and mitigate the risk.

James M.:

Yeah. So I suppose it’s kind of understanding the end user, I suppose, from an architect’s point of view. So that brings me on to another question which would be, what types of floors and / or businesses are of an increased risk? I suppose slips is prominent everywhere but what are your target audience, I suppose?

Christian H.:

We tend to cut it by sector and then by environment. So in terms of sectors, hospitality and leisure. Retail, obviously. Manufacturing. Transport. Healthcare. Education. I know that’s almost everything. If you look at the stats, for the insurers, but also look at where we do most of our work, it tends to be in those sectors.

Christian H.:

But then if you go down a level deeper than that and you think about environments. So forget what sector you’re in, but have you got an entrance area? If you do, is it foreseeable that that entrance area might get wet or contaminated? Well, possibly. Or if not, probably. Have you got a washroom or toilets? If so, is it foreseeable that that floor might get wet or contaminated? Yes.

Christian H.:

Then obviously there are environments where you’ve got much greater risk which is evident, such as swimming pools, showers, hotel bathrooms. Bathtubs and shower trays is a massive issue because if you look at the shower tray standard, the European standard, it actually explicitly says that shower trays are slippery but yet they’re being used by barefoot people when they’re wet. So that’s a big issue there.

Christian H.:

It can affect most sectors, so that’s why we try and look into environments. If we’re going out and doing a survey and doing some testing and stuff in a hotel, for example, the ideal scenario for us is that we look at all these environments and actually what we find is that a lot of them are absolutely fine but some of them are not so good and that’s where we can actually… that’s the best scenario for us to be able to educate the customer because if we turned up and everything was horrendously slippery, based on the testing, you might get a few sideways glances and wonders about whether you’re being accurate in your testing and your assessments and things. If we can go and show, “Look, here, we’ve looked at your kitchen and because of the flooring and the slip resistance of the flooring and the cleaning regime you’ve got and the footwear and all these other things, actually, we think you’re doing really well there, but in yours you’ve got some particular issues,” that is quite a good approach to take.

Christian H.:

Typically, what we find is that there’s always something that can be done in some area of the building but, again, as we said earlier, it’s about identifying the piece and doing that initial risk assessment.

James M.:

Yeah, I was just about to say, essentially, what you’re talking about there is doing a risk assessment. It’s looking at your undertaking and just having those discussions with your team. It doesn’t necessarily have to be written down but you’re having that conversation. If you’re doing that risk assessment, what are the causes of slips? What are the common causes of slips then?

Christian H.:

You’ll have to forgive the alliteration. So we’ve got Slip Safety Services and then there are actually six sources of slips, but the alliteration works quite well because it’s memorable.

Christian H.:

But there are six things to look at really. This is not me coming up with this on my own, this is also supported by HSE. You’ve got the floor where you’ve got contamination on the floor. You’ve got the cleaning of the floor. So, in other words, 50% of the thing is all around the floor and that’s on the floor. You’ve got environmental factors. You’ve got people factors, and then you’ve got footwear.

Christian H.:

So any sensible risk assessment that is going to start going into some of the detail around slip safety is going to be looking at and considering all six of those factors. Some of them are obviously going to be relevant all the time. As we said at the start, in order for someone to slip, you’ve got to have a foot touching a floor, so the floor is always going to be relevant, and therefore the contamination and cleaning of that floor will always be relevant.

Christian H.:

The foot is always going to be relevant but is footwear relevant always because if you’re operating a fast-food restaurant, for example, you might have a PPE policy whereby you can control the footwear your staff are wearing but you can’t control obviously the footwear that the members of the public are wearing. So within footwear alone you might have two different approaches between staff and members of the public.

Christian H.:

That could even be taken a stage further because if you’ve got a swimming pool, you’ve got your staff… In the changing rooms, let’s say, you’ve got your staff wearing, potentially wearing footwear that you’re specifying or recommending or providing. Then you’ve got people coming in with all sorts of different footwear on their feet. Then you’ve got barefoot users as well. So, again, fair bit of depth.

Christian H.:

Environmental factors is an interesting one, and some things can and can’t be controlled. Of course that means, if you’re looking at an external area in, I don’t know, Cairo, where you’ve got probably 11 months a year of very hot weather and very little rain, versus in, say, Manchester, where you’ve probably got nine months a year of rain, then that would come under environmental but it also means things like steps and stairs, slopes, because we need more friction on a slope than on a flat surface. People factors, obviously. Are people pushing, pulling, carrying? Are they distracted? Can you be really controlling what they’re doing?

Christian H.:

So there’s a lot of depth that can sit behind all of these six sources and that’s the risk assessment approach that we take. Obviously, where we can, we will try to quantify factors within those six because I think the maxim of what gets managed gets managed is definitely ripe in this area. Didn’t realize it was this detailed did you?

James M.:

I’m tending to learn over the years that everything is more detailed than what you think it is. I was just thinking as you were talking, I remember back to when, before… because, like you, I never dreamt of being a health and safety professional when I was at school. So I went into catering for a short amount of time. In our training they had this case study, and I can’t remember what it was, but I can just remember the video that they showed us of a… it was a young female chef carrying this vat of boiling hot water, which, to be honest, is common practice in a lot of kitchens, like when you’re draining the bain-marie or something like that, or it could even be oil, and just walking to put it down the sink or wherever you’re going to put it, and slips and the whole vat just goes over them. I vaguely remember that she survived but I’m not sure, but I can just remember that reenactment they’d done on this video.

James M.:

I was just wondering, do you get much work from catering? Is there a lot of buy-in from that industry? Just out of my own personal curiosity really.

Christian H.:

That’s a sector that obviously has quite fundamental challenges, in terms of its marketplace, as in it’s hugely competitive and it’s very much price driven, and therefore costs are always looked at quite carefully. So I think anything that they’re having to do that they weren’t planning to do, even if it is around safety, is always going to be a bit of a challenge. Saying that, we do have clients in that sector that are doing some good things.

Christian H.:

Actually, one of the benefits I think from some of the work we can do for the likes of the catering companies, but it also could be a generalist cleaning or FM company, or it could be a managing agent of a building, with doing some of this testing that we can do, fundamentally, if we’re testing the slip resistance of a floor, what we’re trying to ascertain is what’s the inherent level of slip resistance of that floor, as in, was it specified correctly or not, as in from a slip resistance perspective. If you’re a catering company and you’re operating someone else’s kitchen and you’ve just taken it over a few months ago, and actually the floor was handed over to you in a very slippery and arguably unsafe condition, you should theoretically be able to push that back up the chain and any rectification works that should be needed to be done to that floor to improve it wouldn’t have to be borne by… the costs of that wouldn’t have to be borne by you.

Christian H.:

We always encourage people like that, that are taking over management of buildings, to get some slip testing done. But it could equally be some of the fire stuff that you guys do as well, I’m sure. But try and have a benchmark of where the building was when you took it over because if you then find problems, they’re not your issues to solve necessarily. So you can try and get them solved with the help of the client and that takes away some of those commercial pressures that we talked about.

James M.:

Yeah, that’s a good point. I suppose, in essence, at the end of this podcast, hopefully listeners will be able to just be aware of the questions to ask. I always say, from a fire point of view, it’s not knowing the answer, it’s just knowing what questions to ask. It’s just getting a slip test or something done so you can ask the question, “What are you going to do about this? Otherwise I’m not going to buy the property.”

James M.:

So how would you quantify the risk from slips then?

Christian H.:

If you think about those six factors, then the floor, as we’ve said, makes up about half of it. So to do that, which is what we do day in and day out, we use a contraption called a pendulum test, and that’s exactly the same method of testing that the HSE would use themselves.

Christian H.:

So, for example, in I think it was 2015… this is all in the public domain so I’m not saying anything untoward… there was a gentleman that slipped over in a Co-op store in Truro. It was one of those what possibly could have been perceived as cockle slips where you kind of lose both feet and it looks quite dramatic but, unfortunately, he banged the back of his head and he actually died as a result, about 12 hours later, or something. The HSA obviously were informed… or whether it went to the council and then the HSA, I’m not sure. But anyway, somebody phoned the HSL in Buxton and went and did some slip testing with the pendulum. Then I was actually called in to have a look for the Co-op at that time. So I was there about a week after them.

Christian H.:

So that’s the test that, in the event of anything serious happening such as a prosecution, which that did lead to… again, all in the public domain… or any sort of enforcements… If the local authority is going to take it far enough to get somebody from Buxton HSL involved, that’s the test they’re going to use. There are other tests in the marketplace that you can use but that’s the gold standard, so that’s what we use. So you can actually quantify how slip resistant the floor is or not.

Christian H.:

Again, going back to what we said about a foot and a floor, we standardize through the testing the foot, so therefore all you’re learning about is the floor. The machine, it’s called a pendulum because it swings, and perhaps we’ll do a video link in the show notes or something so people can have a look at it. But it swings like a pendulum. It strikes the floor and it pushes a pointer to a number on a gauge and, essentially, the higher the number the more slip resistance you’ve got.

Christian H.:

You can actually correlate the pendulum test value and the PTV to a risk of an accident. So if you have a PTV score of 24, then there’s a one in 20 risk exposure. Whereas if you’ve got a PTV of 36, it’s one in a million. So just by doing that you can actually start to understand a bit more rather than rubbing your foot over the floor or looking at it and saying, “That looks a bit shiny, that might be slippery.” Let’s actually get a number on it, then we can look at what we can do to improve it. If the floor is fairly slippery when it’s wet and it’s in a foreseeably wet environment, well, then we’re thinking about what are the control measures and what are the real root causes.

Christian H.:

So we’re trying to figure out, is that caused by contamination, for example. So quite often you can find a floor that is slippery when it’s wet but if you clean it effectively, and I stress effectively because you can clean a floor aesthetically, to make it look clean, but not necessarily to remove every single bit of residue and contamination and therefore it might still be slippery, but you can improve the slip resistance that way.

Christian H.:

The other thing with the pendulum is, because it’s something you can use on site, in the real world, you can test the floor as it is, “Right, well, let’s clean it. Let’s test it again. Has that made any difference or not?” So, again, you’re starting to then build a picture up of work that you’re doing to try and reduce the risk.

Christian H.:

Things like footwear can also be quantified. So that’s not quite as straight forward, but there’s a HSE scheme called Grip. So you can actually quantify the effect of footwear. If you use footwear, good footwear, well-specified footwear, in my experience you can reduce your accidents by 60%, 70%, but there’s a lot of footwear out there that… People will talk about safety footwear, and that doesn’t actually include anything really robust at all about slip resistance of the footwear. So, yes, you might have steel toecaps and ankle protection but it might be a sole that doesn’t give much friction. So you could be solving one problem and causing another type of problem.

Christian H.:

So where we can we try to quantify this because, again, if it’s shown scientifically, then that’s going to be easier for people to take in, and also it’s easy then to monitor and look at the maintenance plan of your floor safety.

James M.:

Do those kind of values come in on purchase in floor? Is the manufacture of flooring held to a standard [inaudible 00:30:26] to that?

Christian H.:

Yeah. So, again, along with what we said about the architectural community earlier, this has improved a lot over the last decade. Nowadays, you will see, in the majority of professional flooring, commercial flooring suppliers or distributors, you will see some pendulum test data to help you to try to specify.

Christian H.:

You sometimes come across what’s called R ratings. So they’re R9, or R10, or R11. That’s a European standard and it’s very broad brush and not very robust. So we’d certainly recommend people don’t specify on that basis. To give you an idea, an R9 is often thought of as a slip resistant floor but what people don’t know is, there’s no such thing as an R8. An R9 is basically entry level. The range R10 on a pendulum is between something like 22 to something like 33. So it could be very, very slippery or it could be actually not too bad, but you don’t know because it’s just in that broad category. So that’s why here in the U.K. the HSE would say that you should [inaudible 00:31:49] the pendulum testing. It’s always worth getting a test, once you’ve installed some of the floor, before you’ve handed it over as well.

Christian H.:

The other thing I think is, you will see changes of floors. So wear will change floors, cleaning will change floors. If you seal a floor, that’s going to change the slip resistance potentially. So all of these things can play a role.

James M.:

So you mentioned you’ve done quite a lot of work with the insurance industry. What’s their view and approach on slips then, Christian?

Christian H.:

Insurers see this and they know this as their biggest cause of claim and biggest cause of accident in most cases. So, typically, it’s about a third of claims by volume and a third of claims by value. So they spend a hell of a lot of money on accident claims and therefore they’re keen to reduce this.

Christian H.:

My experience with insurance companies is they want to defend claims but they’re often not given the ammunition to do so by their clients. Of course, there will be pragmatic, commercial assessments done all the time in terms of even if we think that we could defend this claim, if it’s going to cost us 10 grand to defend it, whereas we could settle it now for £2,000, then they probably would settle it anyway. So you’ve always got to bear that in mind.

Christian H.:

They certainly are keen to reduce it. Most insurers have a risk management division, I suppose, for want of a better term, and they tend to look at this kind of stuff in two ways. So the first is they’ll fund some activity through risk management bursaries. So, for example, a recent project we’ve done for a big cleaning and FM company was in five airport terminal buildings where we went in and we did a really thorough slip safety survey, all the testing, and looked at all these factors we touched on earlier. Did some reports with some recommendations. Did some training. Then actually even did some anti-slip works in the [inaudible 00:33:50] buildings as well.

Christian H.:

Every single penny of that was funded by the insurance company because their view was this activity is going to make it less likely that someone’s going to slip in the future and therefore we’re going to get claims for it. So it didn’t cost the cleaning company anything, didn’t cost the airports anything. Fully funded by the insurers.

Christian H.:

So I’d certainly recommend to anybody listening that they have that conversation with their broker or insurer, whether it’s about slips or whether it’s about something else. But actually, again, ask the question, “Do we have a risk management bursary available to us? Might we be able to use it for X, Y, and Z?” That tends to be either fully funded up to a certain amount or match funded. So, in other words, if it’s going to cost £100, we, the insurance company, will pay £50 and you, the client, pay £50. They quite like that approach because I think if someone’s got some skin in the game that does encourage them to take things a bit more seriously.

Christian H.:

Another way we’ve seen people, insurers, deal with this kind of issue, which is a bit more draconian, is where they have almost insisted on certain things being done. So I can think of an example with a college that had quite a significant issue with people slipping over and they got to the point where they were going to have their insurances renewed but they basically couldn’t get terms from any insurers. Nobody really wanted to insure them because of the past history. Their current insurer, who we work with… I don’t think there’s a strict legal obligation to carry on insuring them but I think there’s more of a gentleman’s agreement that if somebody can’t get insurance from someone else, you wouldn’t close them down by not giving them insurance. But what they were able to do was say, “Well, look, your insurance”… and these aren’t the real numbers… “Your insurance last year was 20 quid and we’re now going to charge you 100 quid,” knowing that they were stuck.

Christian H.:

What these guys did, rather than just be draconian like that, was they said, “We are going to increase the premium. However, if you bring in this expert, and by the way we’ll pay for their time to come and do the survey, so that doesn’t cost you anything, but if you implement the recommendations that they give, then we’ll restore the premium back to the previous year’s level.” So, yes, that did cost them some money because actually, in this case, they had floor surfaces that were not great in and around their entrances. But actually, when we did that work, they got their insurance restored back to the level it was before and they basically eliminated their accidents.

Christian H.:

So, going forward, that was a really good outcome for the clients because even though it did cost them some money upfront, it cost them a lot less than it would have done had they had the same level of claims going forward, bearing in mind they had an excess on the first 10,000 or whatever it was, of every claim. So every claim was costing them 10 grand. I think the work we did was about 15 grand, and they were having, I think, dozens of claims a year. So that was a good example of where the insurance companies will engineer some reduction of risk in a slightly more robust way.

Christian H.:

What we’ve not yet seen is anybody saying, “If you do X, your premium will reduce by Y percent.” I think that’s because it’s not quite as linear as that, but certainly if you look at what makes up an insurance premium, it’s all about your past history and the perceived risk going forward. So if you can demonstrate that you’ve taken quite concrete steps to reduce whatever the accident category is that is causing you the biggest issue historically, then that’s going to impact your insurance premium in a positive way.

James M.:

That’s a really interesting story for a couple of reasons. My experience with dealing with premiums, like you said, being able to say, “If you do this, we’ll reduce it by 10%,” or something like that, is that the insurers need something tangible, like you say, like a track history of slips within the business, so then if you fix that, we’ve got something tangible to say that there will be a reduction in your premiums.

James M.:

I did quite a lot research around the installation of automatic suppression systems in residential accommodation post-Grenfell. There was a lot of companies saying, “We’ll reduce your premiums by 10%,” or it will guarantee to reduce your premiums by 10%. When talking to insurers and insurance experts, they were like, “It’s just not possible, unless you do it, because, as a result of a track history, something that’s tangible within your business that we can measure, then, yes, you’ll get a reduction in your premiums.” Actually, when talking about suppression systems, if you don’t have that as something that’s tangible, you’re actually just adding another asset to the building, so actually your premiums could have gone up in theory. So that was interesting.

James M.:

I also quite like it because I think, historically, insurers have got a bit of a bad rep for demanding a gold standard for very low risk properties whereas those examples you’re giving are quite proactive, quite pragmatic, and they’re working with their clients as well, which is nice to hear.

Christian H.:

You’re always going to get some on the other end of the spectrum but I think increasingly insurers are seeing risk management as a differentiator as well because it is a competitive market for them too. If they can have a relationship and build a relationship with clients and actually help them to reduce their risk profile, firstly the insurance company is going to hopefully make more profit than they thought they were going to, based on the premium they’d set, if there’s less accidents, fewer accidents, and, of course, they’re hoping that they’re going to then be perceived in a really positive light by the clients and therefore that becomes more of a long-term relationship.

Christian H.:

So I think there’s definitely an appetite out there to work proactively and in partnership with the clients. But, again, it’s the clients having the understanding and the knowledge of that to ask the right questions that can uncover things.

Christian H.:

One of the questions we always ask is, “Who’s your insurance company? Who’s your insurance broker? Are you aware of risk management bursaries? Have you used any risk management bursaries?” Because we know that if they haven’t, then actually, from the client’s perspective, it’s very, very likely that they can probably get our initial work done for basically zero costs. So, again, it’s a total no-brainer for them. If we can help them to do that, then that’s good for us as well.

James M.:

To tie it up, what are the… let’s go for six top tips then for the listeners to take away, to put in action for their business. What, from your expert opinion, would they be?

Christian H.:

Keep the alliteration going! As much as we love James, we actually do have a six step model that we take clients through and that’s our value proposition I suppose, in terms of how we help people. So we do a lot of education and stuff to raise the issue. But in terms of how we could actually help some of your listeners if they felt they needed some help, it’s really working through a six step model.

Christian H.:

So the first point of it is about measuring and quantifying. So, again, if you don’t measure something, how can you manage it? You can’t manage a business without measuring your income and your expenditure.

Christian H.:

Point two is then about understanding. So that’s where some of the points that we’ve talked about today will come in, but in a lot more depth and in a more bespoke way. So really understanding what are the root causes for you in your building or your buildings or whatever it is, that are causing you issues.

Christian H.:

The third piece is about improving that. So in terms of what we do to commercialize and generate revenue in that regard, it’s around helping people with making their floors safer, quantifiably safer by cleaning them or treating them better or whatever it might be. So try and make things better.

Christian H.:

Number four is maintaining that standard. So it’s all well and good saying, “Right, I’m going to buy a new car,” but if you never MOT your car and you never service your car, and you don’t change the tires, and you never clean the interior, within a period of time that lovely new car is not really going to be giving you what you’re expecting to get from it. So maintenance of that is really important. Again, we can hold people’s hands and help them with that, through number five, which is monitoring. So let’s actually come in once a year, which is what the insurance companies that we work with tend to recommend, and do an MOT. So we’ve identified a problem, we put in a resolution. We’ve come back after a year and tested it again. We’ve got another re-certification of the floor.

Christian H.:

That leads into the sixth point which is evidence. So there’s two sides to this, as there is with all health, safety and risk management. There’s can we prevent accidents from happening, and then can we defend claims. A lot of the work, upfront work is about trying to prevent accidents from happening. But the sixth point is evidence, and you can do great stuff, from a health and safety perspective, but if you can’t actually prove that you’ve done it when it comes to a court case or a claim, you’re probably going to be in a bit of a bad position. So actually being able to evidence what you’ve done and prove that compliance is really important as well.

Christian H.:

That’s kind of the model we work through with people. If anybody is interested and feels they might have some issues, we can work that through with them. Those would be some good six steps to take for sure.

James M.:

To focus on, yeah. So let’s say some listeners are listening to this and going, “Do you know what? We have got quite a lot of slips and trips and falls,” even if they are grouped together. “We want to engage with Slip Safety Services.” Do you want to just take us through… I suppose your six tips are kind of what you would do in the offset, but what you do with your customers, how you work with your customers and ultimately what Slip Safety Services provide.

Christian H.:

Something new we’ve just developed, and actually I’m going to use the listeners to road test it if that’s okay, is a scorecard. So what we’ve done is, we’ve basically put together a survey, for want of a better term, which has got 40 yes, no questions in it and it’ll take you about 10 minutes maximum to complete. The questions divide into those six sources that we talked about, so floor, cleaning, contamination, environment, people, footwear.

Christian H.:

The output of this is a kind of a personalized report which is fairly detailed, but it actually goes through all of these six sources. It gives you your score, benchmarks you versus best practice, gives you some tips on what you can do to improve, and loads of other content. That’s a really good starting point because that gets people, within 10 minutes of time to do it and another, let’s say, half an hour to read the report and try and digest it… you’ve got a hell of a lot of information there and actually you’ve got a good starting point for saying, “Well, look, where do I sit on the scale for all of these things?”

Christian H.:

From there, we can go into more detail. We do 15 minute strategy session calls, which you can book with me, to run through stuff as well. There’s a huge range of content on the website, on LinkedIn and things like that as well. But I think if listeners are interested, I would suggest that they go down that route. We’ve actually set it up on www.slipsafety.co.uk/scorecard. So if you go to that URL, it will take you to this scorecard and then fill that in, you’ll get your report. We can then have a follow-up conversation and we can go from there. So that would be great, if any listeners are keen to do that.

James M.:

Awesome. We’ll definitely put that link in the description. That’s amazing. Thank you.

Christian H.:

No problem. No problem.

James M.:

So I suppose that’s the place to go if they want to get more information, and your website. Hit you up on LinkedIn as well. As you said earlier, you’re quite active on there.

Christian H.:

So the website is slipsafety.co.uk. Twitter. The company one is slip__safety. Annoyingly, had to have two underscores to make it work. Or my personal one: ChristianH_SSS, for Slip Safety Services. And then LinkedIn. If you search me on LinkedIn you should find me, but if you want the direct URL, it’s LinkedIn.com/Christian-Harris-Slip-Safety. So if people give us a like and a follow, then pretty much every day there’s something fairly detailed by me on LinkedIn, and then the Twitter has some of that but also some other industry stuff.

Christian H.:

There’s also loads of good photographs of some of the before and after deep cleaning work that we do. I had one post recently which got something like 45,000 viewers-

James M.:

Nice.

Christian H.:

… and 300 comments which was like a… nothing to do with safety as such, it was a sort of test area. I did deep cleaning some really disgustingly dirty tiles in a leisure center. So we’re quite active on there and obviously once we’re connected, you can reach out to us and ask us any questions that you might have.

James M.:

That’s awesome. That’s been actually really interesting, like you said earlier, about it’s something that you deem to be quite simple turns out to be… you could go on and on. I suppose you could go on talking about slips for another few hours I bet, couldn’t you?

Christian H.:

I probably could, yeah. I’m thinking about doing a book. I’ve not committed to writing a book but in my mind I think I have, but I’ve not publicly said I will. There’s a ton of stuff really. What’s even more interesting I suppose is that it will be, and it has to be bespoke, just as any proper risk assessment has to be bespoke to the environment that you’re dealing with. So what’s relevant to someone else might not be relevant to you. There’s a lot more detail we can get into. As I say, if anybody’s interested, then happy to have a conversation with them and come and see them and see what we can do for them.

James M.:

Awesome. That’s been absolutely awesome. Thanks, Christian.

Christian H.:

Pleasure.

James M.:

Well, guys, that was the first episode of Ask the Expert. So this is the beginning of hopefully what will be a miniseries within our series. It will just keep going on and on and on, essentially, interviews with experts. What a way to start. Christian really does know his stuff about slip safety.

James M.:

Apologies for the quality of the audio through it. It dips in and out. I have edited out as much as I could but, do you know what? It wasn’t too bad once I’d taken all the cuts out. So I decided to roll with it, and the quality of the conversation we were having was worth the risk.

James M.:

So be sure to check out all the links in the description, especially the Risk Fluent specific website. So I will drop all those links in the description. Thanks for listening, guys. Don’t forget to quickly follow Christian on LinkedIn because if you didn’t learn anything today, you will if you follow him, following him on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to do that. I’ll catch you next week. Safe. Bye.

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