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R&I Exclusive

The Science of Slips and Falls: Building a Better Floor-Safety Program

A new study from CNA Risk Control dives into the root causes of slips and falls, promoting floor safety through maintenance and risk awareness.
By: | October 24, 2017 • 4 min read

Slips and falls are the second greatest cause of accidental deaths each year, according to OSHA data, right behind motor vehicles.

Nearly 25 percent of reported claims stem from a slip, trip or fall, and many of them could have been prevented, which is why CNA chose to take a deep dive into the unique factors behind these all-too-frequent events.

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“The American National Standards Institute provides guidance on hard surface flooring materials for slip resistance testing. CNA used tribometry as a baseline for determining the slipperiness of the floor,” said Shari Falkenburg, assistant VP, Risk Control, CNA. Tribometry is the measurement of friction on a surface, in this case measuring the traction between an individual’s feet and the floor.

In a new study entitled “Enhancing Floor Safety Through Slip Resistance Testing, Maintenance Protocols and Risk Awareness,” CNA Risk Control walkway specialists reviewed slip and fall liability claims from Jan. 1, 2010 to Dec. 31, 2016 to gain insight as to how and why these accidents occur.

The specialists then spent two years testing floors in commercial settings — from retail trade to construction — during pre- and post-cleaning, breaking the research into two main components: cleaning agents and floor material.

“Depending on the type of floor, selecting the wrong cleaning agent could impact the slipperiness of the floor,” said Steve Hernandez, senior VP, Risk Control, CNA. “In addition, selecting improper cleaning equipment and tools could also contribute to floor slipperiness. This information helped to better understand the root cause behind slip and fall claims.”

CNA’s findings are that floor type and the cleaners used on them play significant roles in a surface’s coefficient of friction — the presence of traction between an individual’s feet and a surface. Cleaners react with floor types differently, which in turn can create a number of workplace hazards.

Materials Matter

Cleaning agents used on floors were broken down into four categories: alkaline-based, acidic-based, pH neutral and microbial enzymatic.

Each cleaning agent was found to react differently to flooring and a floor finish.  According to CNA’s study, the varying products used to clean a floor often are the direct cause of a slip or fall.

“There’s no exact percent, but I would estimate that on average 20 to 25 percent of the businesses we tested weren’t using the proper cleaning agent,” said Falkenburg.

Steve Hernandez, senior VP, Risk Control, CNA

While seemingly a small part of the floor maintenance process, choosing the right cleaner can have a significant impact on overall floor safety. Cleaning products are designed to sustain a floor’s original COF, so when improperly applied, the friction measurement can be changed.

CNA also looked at nine different categories of flooring in its study. The researchers recorded the natural COF levels, each floor type’s level of slipperiness when wet and what they were made of, from laminated to honed stone.

Linoleum, a resilient flooring typically used in hospital and health care settings, for example, was deemed to have a naturally low COF. It’s a surface that tends to have some type of polymer coating and is intended for dry applications only.

“Insurance carriers and brokers educated [in slip resistance testing and floor maintenance protocols] have a better understanding of the risks. This helps start the conversation on what a business needs to prevent liability and workers’ compensation incidents from occurring.” — Steve Hernandez, senior VP, Risk Control, CNA

CNA dug deeper by testing the floors for DCOF — dynamic coefficient of friction — pre- and post-cleaning, noting how certain cleaners interacted with each floor type. Acidic-based cleaners required a thorough rinsing to achieve maximum cleanliness, while microbial enzymatic cleaners required no surface rinsing post-cleaning.

Overall, CNA advised business owners to look at five things when maintaining their flooring: material used, surface type, condition of the floor, cleaners used and whether the material has a finish on it. (Alkaline-based cleaners removed finishes in some cases. A neutral pH-based cleaner would be better for such flooring.)

Retail and real estate businesses continue to present the greatest potential for slip and fall accidents. But construction and health care have seen steady increases as well.

Businesses should obtain the designated COF for each of their floor surfaces directly from the manufacturer, the study said.

“Insurance carriers and brokers educated [in slip resistance testing and floor maintenance protocols] have a better understanding of the risks,” said Hernandez. “This helps start the conversation on what a business needs to prevent liability and workers’ compensation incidents from occurring.”

“Risk managers can have conversations with their vendors to discuss floor maintenance procedures, including selection and application of cleaning agents and cleaning equipment utilized. Vendor agreements should incorporate these elements.”

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“There’s more risk awareness needed, based on the findings in the study,” added Falkenburg. “Business owners should conduct a needs analysis of their walkway safety management to recognize hidden walkway risks including floor contaminants.”

For instance, she said, they may come across an entrance way with a glare. This glare can lead to poor visibility and increased slips and falls. To prevent such accidents, businesses can add a rug or a plant to the area. “Give the brain something else to look at and observe,” she said.

Slips and falls are a physical peril. “Therefore, it’s a risk we can measure and take actions to reduce or mitigate. With the proper focus on floor testing, we can use trial and error until we have the proper controls in place to yield a passing DCOF value,” said Falkenburg. &

Autumn Heisler is digital producer and staff writer at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Cyber Resilience

No, Seriously. You Need a Comprehensive Cyber Incident Response Plan Before It’s Too Late.

Awareness of cyber risk is increasing, but some companies may be neglecting to prepare adequate response plans that could save them millions. 
By: | June 1, 2018 • 7 min read

To minimize the financial and reputational damage from a cyber attack, it is absolutely critical that businesses have a cyber incident response plan.

“Sadly, not all yet do,” said David Legassick, head of life sciences, tech and cyber, CNA Hardy.

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In the event of a breach, a company must be able to quickly identify and contain the problem, assess the level of impact, communicate internally and externally, recover where possible any lost data or functionality needed to resume business operations and act quickly to manage potential reputational risk.

This can only be achieved with help from the right external experts and the design and practice of a well-honed internal response.

The first step a company must take, said Legassick, is to understand its cyber exposures through asset identification, classification, risk assessment and protection measures, both technological and human.

According to Raf Sanchez, international breach response manager, Beazley, cyber-response plans should be flexible and applicable to a wide range of incidents, “not just a list of consecutive steps.”

They also should bring together key stakeholders and specify end goals.

Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions

With bad actors becoming increasingly sophisticated and often acting in groups, attack vectors can hit companies from multiple angles simultaneously, meaning a holistic approach is essential, agreed Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions.

“Collaboration is key — you have to take silos down and work in a cross-functional manner.”

This means assembling a response team including individuals from IT, legal, operations, risk management, HR, finance and the board — each of whom must be well drilled in their responsibilities in the event of a breach.

“You can’t pick your players on the day of the game,” said Hogg. “Response times are critical, so speed and timing are of the essence. You should also have a very clear communication plan to keep the CEO and board of directors informed of recommended courses of action and timing expectations.”

People on the incident response team must have sufficient technical skills and access to critical third parties to be able to make decisions and move to contain incidents fast. Knowledge of the company’s data and network topology is also key, said Legassick.

“Perhaps most important of all,” he added, “is to capture in detail how, when, where and why an incident occurred so there is a feedback loop that ensures each threat makes the cyber defense stronger.”

Cyber insurance can play a key role by providing a range of experts such as forensic analysts to help manage a cyber breach quickly and effectively (as well as PR and legal help). However, the learning process should begin before a breach occurs.

Practice Makes Perfect

“Any incident response plan is only as strong as the practice that goes into it,” explained Mike Peters, vice president, IT, RIMS — who also conducts stress testing through his firm Sentinel Cyber Defense Advisors.

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Unless companies have an ethical hacker or certified information security officer on board who can conduct sophisticated simulated attacks, Peters recommended they hire third-party experts to test their networks for weaknesses, remediate these issues and retest again for vulnerabilities that haven’t been patched or have newly appeared.

“You need to plan for every type of threat that’s out there,” he added.

Hogg agreed that bringing third parties in to conduct tests brings “fresh thinking, best practice and cross-pollination of learnings from testing plans across a multitude of industries and enterprises.”

“Collaboration is key — you have to take silos down and work in a cross-functional manner.” — Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions

Legassick added that companies should test their plans at least annually, updating procedures whenever there is a significant change in business activity, technology or location.

“As companies expand, cyber security is not always front of mind, but new operations and territories all expose a company to new risks.”

For smaller companies that might not have the resources or the expertise to develop an internal cyber response plan from whole cloth, some carriers offer their own cyber risk resources online.

Evan Fenaroli, an underwriting product manager with the Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY), said his company hosts an eRiskHub, which gives PHLY clients a place to start looking for cyber event response answers.

That includes access to a pool of attorneys who can guide company executives in creating a plan.

“It’s something at the highest level that needs to be a priority,” Fenaroli said. For those just getting started, Fenaroli provided a checklist for consideration:

  • Purchase cyber insurance, read the policy and understand its notice requirements.
  • Work with an attorney to develop a cyber event response plan that you can customize to your business.
  • Identify stakeholders within the company who will own the plan and its execution.
  • Find outside forensics experts that the company can call in an emergency.
  • Identify a public relations expert who can be called in the case of an event that could be leaked to the press or otherwise become newsworthy.

“When all of these things fall into place, the outcome is far better in that there isn’t a panic,” said Fenaroli, who, like others, recommends the plan be tested at least annually.

Cyber’s Physical Threat

With the digital and physical worlds converging due to the rise of the Internet of Things, Hogg reminded companies: “You can’t just test in the virtual world — testing physical end-point security is critical too.”

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How that testing is communicated to underwriters should also be a key focus, said Rich DePiero, head of cyber, North America, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions.

Don’t just report on what went well; it’s far more believable for an underwriter to hear what didn’t go well, he said.

“If I hear a client say it is perfect and then I look at some of the results of the responses to breaches last year, there is a disconnect. Help us understand what you learned and what you worked out. You want things to fail during these incident response tests, because that is how we learn,” he explained.

“Bringing in these outside firms, detailing what they learned and defining roles and responsibilities in the event of an incident is really the best practice, and we are seeing more and more companies do that.”

Support from the Board

Good cyber protection is built around a combination of process, technology, learning and people. While not every cyber incident needs to be reported to the boardroom, senior management has a key role in creating a culture of planning and risk awareness.

David Legassick, head of life sciences, tech and cyber, CNA Hardy

“Cyber is a boardroom risk. If it is not taken seriously at boardroom level, you are more than likely to suffer a network breach,” Legassick said.

However, getting board buy-in or buy-in from the C-suite is not always easy.

“C-suite executives often put off testing crisis plans as they get in the way of the day job. The irony here is obvious given how disruptive an incident can be,” said Sanchez.

“The C-suite must demonstrate its support for incident response planning and that it expects staff at all levels of the organization to play their part in recovering from serious incidents.”

“What these people need from the board is support,” said Jill Salmon, New York-based vice president, head of cyber/tech/MPL, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.

“I don’t know that the information security folks are looking for direction from the board as much as they are looking for support from a resources standpoint and a visibility standpoint.

“They’ve got to be aware of what they need and they need to have the money to be able to build it up to that level,” she said.

Without that support, according to Legassick, failure to empower and encourage the IT team to manage cyber threats holistically through integration with the rest of the organization, particularly risk managers, becomes a common mistake.

He also warned that “blame culture” can prevent staff from escalating problems to management in a timely manner.

Collaboration and Communication

Given that cyber incident response truly is a team effort, it is therefore essential that a culture of collaboration, preparation and practice is embedded from the top down.

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One of the biggest tripping points for companies — and an area that has done the most damage from a reputational perspective — is in how quickly and effectively the company communicates to the public in the aftermath of a cyber event.

Salmon said of all the cyber incident response plans she has seen, the companies that have impressed her most are those that have written mock press releases and rehearsed how they are going to respond to the media in the aftermath of an event.

“We have seen so many companies trip up in that regard,” she said. “There have been examples of companies taking too long and then not explaining why it took them so long. It’s like any other crisis — the way that you are communicating it to the public is really important.” &

Antony Ireland is a London-based financial journalist. He can be reached at [email protected] Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]