We are huge advocates of pragmatic safety and risk advice. When it comes to slip accidents, we would certainly never encourage any hotelier client to have anti slip flooring throughout the whole building.
Instead, we know from our own experience, from what senior managers in hotels and management groups tell us, and from claims details shared with us by our insurance and broker partners, that slip accidents in hotels tend to happen in certain hot spots. We therefore focus our advice and efforts on these.
Guest bathrooms have a few challenges that lead to accidents, including:
- The fact that they are wet areas yet are often built using materials (for example bathtubs, shower trays and floor tiles) that are actually very slippery when wet.
- The lack of staff presence. Whereas in your lobby, if the floor becomes wet, a member of staff will see it, and deal with it, in a bathroom. It’s not possible for you to have staff there. Therefore, the floor cannot be dried.
- Typically, you also have quite hard surfaces around a bathroom, as well as relatively sharp edges. So if somebody is to slip, they’re likely to hurt themselves one way or another.
But there’s also a separate issue around being able to defend claims. Looking at claims data from James Hallam (a broker focussing on leisure and hospitality), 35% of claims volumes are slips but 65% of claims values. This suggests it is currently hard to defend claims.
Having claims repudiated (in other words, getting the claim withdrawn or settled for zero pounds) is often based on the staff testimony and CCTV coverage, neither of which are possible within hotel bathrooms.
Currently there are a lot of misconceptions that also lead to issues in defending claims, for example:
- Manufacturers make textured bathtubs or shower trays that hotels assume are anti-slip but, in practice, under any scrutiny these offer little benefit
- Bath mats are often provided but first they are typically ineffective and second they rely on the guest to do something to prevent an accident – this is not robust enough
So you have a high risk area, and a difficult time in defending a claim. Sounds like a bit of a challenge! What can you do therefore?
There are a few points to consider when it comes to bathroom slip safety, which include:
- Having suitable wet slip resistance on floor surfaces and inside bathtubs or shower trays
- Implementing an effective cleaning and maintenance regime (because aesthetic cleanliness does not necessarily mean slip safety)
- Installing handrails to allow people to hold on to something when stepping in and out of a bathtub
- Minimising the difference in height between the bathtub and the floor
The good news is there are lots of examples of both reducing accidents and lowering claim costs significantly in bathrooms:
Lobbies are designed to be welcoming areas, showing off the very best of what a hotel can offer. As such, over the years, this tends to include shiny, gleaming floor surfaces such as marble. Whilst in dry conditions, a smooth, shiny floor gives excellent slip resistance (provided it’s free of contamination), in wet conditions, these are typically very hazardous.
As such, you need to think about your entrance system. You can find a detailed analysis of this by clicking here. But in summary: a combination of a canopy; what types of doors and how many doors you have; fixed entrance matting; whether to use temporary matting; and the floor surface itself.
You also probably don’t want ugly, temporary matting laying over your beautiful floor because this will detract from the aesthetic effect that you’re seeking to achieve. Not to mention the fact that these can produce hazards themselves.
Most people reading this will be operating an existing hotel and as such, making fundamental changes to the building fabric such as adding canopies may not be feasible. The good news is, though, that there are ways of making even shiny floors safe when wet.
Leisure and spa
This is another area that is undeniably wet and therefore needs to be safe when wet and kept that way. Insurance claim data from the government shows that slips are the largest cause of claim in these areas (with over twice as many claims as the next highest cause).
Often we see examples of floors that appear to be safe when wet because they have a texture to them. However, you should be wary of this for three reasons:
- Just because the floor has a texture does not necessarily mean that it is safe when wet. You can have floors that look slip resistant, but in fact achieve very poor wet slip resistance.
- Even if you do have a suitable slip resistant floor, all floors will change over time due to wear. So you need to closely monitor safety to ensure it is still performing as it should.
- Perhaps the most common issue in these areas is that any build-up of contamination on the floor will cause a thin layer to sit within the pores, which will compromise the slip resistance. Guests’ feet will touch this greasy residue before they are able to touch the slip resistant surface. Contamination like body fats and calcium are hard to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Slips in constantly wet areas like this can be reduced significantly, as can claims:
Washrooms are another area that often are designed as if they were dry (smooth, shiny floors are commonplace) but, in reality, constantly become wet.
Like with bathrooms, you also have limited staff presence as well as a lack of CCTV to help to defend any claims that may arise.
Floors in these areas should, as such, achieve low slip potential when wet (a Pendulum Test Value ot 36+). Care should be taken to monitor this over time and effective cleaning will be important because slip-resistant surfaces will attract more contamination than smoother ones (just as a foot will slip over a smooth floor, dirt will also cling to it less).
Staff areas (e.g. kitchens)
Kitchens and many back of house areas are designed to be contaminated. As such, it’s clear that slip risk is high.
The best control measures, in our experience, which have seen significant reductions in accidents and claims, are a combination of improving the floor surface (choosing a slip-resistant floor or increasing the slip-resistance of the existing floor through an anti-slip treatment) – and then, in either case, maintaining it, and monitoring it – coupled with good footwear.
For footwear you should ensure to use the HSE GRIP classification to choose suitable shoes.
Some back of house areas are less likely to be constantly wet and so a lower level of slip resistance on the floor would be acceptable.
For all these areas and others, you should use our CHIMES model to review all the Six Sources of Slips to come up with a robust slip safety risk management plan.
What you should do
The key questions around slip safety for you to ensure an effective zonal approach are:
- To what extent are these areas foreseeably or constantly wet? This drives the slip safety level of the floor surface you must achieve.
- Is the inherent floor surface slip-resistant enough, given the above?
- If we either have a suitably slip-resistant floor, or we treat our existing floor to make it slip-resistant enough, how best can we maintain this bearing in mind that it’s hard to remove every single last bit of contamination in some of these more challenging environments with a daily cleaning process alone?
This is where we can help with our proven, six step model.
- By helping you to understand what level of safety you need.
- By quantifying how you perform currently, against that benchmark using the HSE- approved Pendulum Test.
- By helping to improve the slip resistance of existing floors through either specialist deep cleaning or anti slip treatments.
- By advising you on how to maintain these floors on a daily basis. We do not make or sell any particular products or equipment (we are agnostic on these points) but we do provide a PPM maintenance package to visit on a 6-12 monthly basis to restore the slip safety of the surface to ensure its ongoing performance.
- By monitoring the resistance over time through regular pendulum testing.
- By tying all this together to provide evidence to your insurer of your proactivity in managing safety and risk (which will both help to mitigate against higher premiums, as well as to defend any claims do arise), or for any other prosecuting authorities that may knock on the door such as the HSE or Local Authorities.
We partner with many leading insurers and brokers who often will fund our work, because it’s in their interest to do so.
Further, if you can demonstrate and document that you’re following this process, they will be much more robust and defending claims.
Where we do this with clients, they typically see a 50%+ reduction in accidents… Therefore, fewer people getting hurt (and a reduction in the contingent issues that causes from an admin and reputation perspective)…. Therefore, fewer claims… Therefore, lower costs.
It’s also possible, in our experience, to incorporate our PPM maintenance into your property management on a cost neutral basis. Because the work we do periodically to bring floors up to an “as new” standard means that, on a daily basis, time, effort and cost can be saved. Or, perhaps, you may choose to deploy that elsewhere to further drive improvements in the customer experience.