It is estimated that more than eight million people are injured each year by accidental slips and falls, costing thousands of dollars in emergency room and hospital costs. These are often preventable, and the responsibility lies with the employer to take every necessary precaution to protect workers.
The National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) lists flooring, improper footwear, poor signage, and lack of training as the causes of workplace falls. To prevent slip/fall accidents, the responsibility lies with everyone. Employers, in particular, can protect their workers and their business by ensuring there is proper training and ample warning signs in more dangerous parts of the workplace.
The easiest and most effective way to prevent slip/fall accidents is to ensure proper and ample signage for workers and customers. Janitorial staff should have a number of wet floor signs, and should stress to people as they work the importance of taking care on wet floors. Often the public will ignore these signs, but the onus is on the employer to make sure they are there in even the most remote of situations that a fall could occur.
Russell Kendzior, executive director for the NFSI, says that the placement of signs is crucial, and should always be done in advance of any hazard. Placing a sign on a wet floor is the easiest way to prevent slip/fall accidents, and could save the company or employer in the event of a lawsuit. A wet lobby floor is an excellent example: people tracking water in could cause a treacherous floor, so signs at all doors are essential to provide guests with ample warning.
The kind of signs used to prevent slip/fall accidents vary by manufacturer and company need, but Kendzior recommends that signs reach the knee and be large enough to cover most - if not all - of the affected area. The industry accepted color for hazard signs is yellow, since it's easily visible and proven effective.
For larger areas of hazard, Kendzior says only barricades will do. This will prevent slip/fall accidents by blocking access entirely to the dangerous area. This can be effective for keeping guests out of a restroom being cleaned, for example, or a large section of floor that has just been mopped. Though they are underused and wrongly considered a business deterrent, barricades are important for protection and safety.
Safety signs come in a variety of forms and sizes, so employers can make sure they get the right sign to prevent slip/fall accidents from occurring in their workplace:
- Safety cones: these are ideal for small spills, since they don't barricade but keep traffic away from the spill until it can be cleaned up; small and lightweight, these can be easily attached to a cleaning cart or folded up and carried on the belt.
- Over-the spill pads: these square polypropylene pads can be easily carried and quickly accessed, and each sheet absorbs up to 16 ounces of liquid; spill pads take care of the mess and keep customers from slipping on it at the same time.
- Floor signs: should be at least knee height and yellow in color.
It is the responsibility of every employer to take steps to prevent slip/fall accidents from occurring in the workplace. Quick hazard removal and adequate hazard identification during cleaning and inclement weather are essential. Employers must ensure they not only have the correct signage, but a staff trained to use them in a timely and appropriate fashion.
Steve Hanson is co-founding member of The Janitorial Store (TM), an online community for owners and managers of cleaning companies who want to build a more profitable and successful cleaning business. Sign up for Trash Talk: Tip of the Week at http://www.TheJanitorialStore.com and receive a Free Gift!