Short and sweet, a maxim can help to get to the nitty gritty of a topic. So here are ours, for floor safety. There’s also some further context and explanation below each, but if you can only remember the six sayings, you’ll be in a much better place to achieve reduced risk, see fewer accidents and people getting hurt, improve your claims defensibility and save financial and human cost.
1. There are Six Sources of Slips
As with many areas of safety and risk management, there is often more depth to the subject than meets the eye. When it comes to slip safety, there are six factors to consider in any thorough risk assessment:
If you can control all six you are well on your way to ensuring a safe environment for your staff and clients.
Within each source there is another layer of detail to explore. Some factors can be excellent control measures, but others are sometimes not relevant. Footwear, for example, is only controllable when it comes to your staff, not members of the public.
2. A clean, dry floor is a safe floor
Pretty much any kind of floor surface will give you sufficient slip resistance to be walked upon safely provided it is clean and dry. Slips only really occur when floors become wet and / or contaminated.
So, if you can keep your floors clean and dry, you’re very, very unlikely to suffer from a slip accident.
Most slips happen in environments that become wet. In some of these environments you are able to control the wetness of the floor to a certain extent e.g. a reception or lobby could have some fixed entrance matting to dry visitors’ feet. You must not assume that just because there is a mat, though, that the floor will be dry. See what actually happens on a wet day.
3. But… aesthetically clean doesn’t always mean safe when wet
There is a saying, often trotted out, that cleanliness and slip safety go hand-in-hand, but that’s not quite detailed enough to be accurate.
Yes, a dirty floor is likely to be more slippery than a clean floor, but it does not follow that a floor which looks aesthetically clean is necessarily slip resistant.
On a tiled floor in a shopping centre, for example, we could take 6 individual tiles and clean them 6 different ways, all of which would achieve a good aesthetic result. However, if we were to slip test the 6, they’d all get very different results.
There are a variety of reasons for the potential lack of correlation between cleanliness and safety:
- Shine level is often used as a barometer for cleanliness but typically, the shinier a surface the less slip resistant it is in wet conditions. Beware suppliers of floors, cleaning chemicals or pads that claim that a shinier floor is more slip resistant – they are most likely either using the wrong type of slip test or they are speaking solely about the dry slip resistance. A shinier, smoother surface is indeed likely to have a higher dry slip resistance but a worse wet slip resistance.
- If you are cleaning using a chemical, the exact make-up of the chemical may lead to residues being left on the floor. For example, most degreasers have a high surfactant content. Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension between two liquids, between a gas and a liquid, or between a liquid and a solid. In other words, a lubricant. Cleaning the visible dirt away but leaving a floor covered with surfactants is going to make it slippery when wet.
- The cleaning methodology also has an effect on residues: most large buildings employ scrubber driers to clean but if you have a chemical in the tank then you are always going to be leaving some residues of that chemical on the floor.
- Environmentally-friendly cleaning practices using water only are now increasingly commonplace. In certain environments this can work from an aesthetic perspective and indeed from a slip safety perspective for a period of time, but in our experience it cannot be relied upon in perpetuity to keep the floor thoroughly clean of all contaminants and therefore free of potential barriers between the floor and someone’s foot. As with any cleaning regime you should monitor its effect on slip safety periodically over time.
We hope the above are helpful to you and your drive to improve your slip safety, keep an eye out for part two of our floor safety maxims to live by!
To go into further depth on the above, you can take our digital diagnostic tool the Slip Safety Scorecard HERE