The Science of Slips and Falls
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 far too many of them are preventable. To tackle the issue head-on, CNA conducted a new study entitled “Enhancing Floor Safety Through Slip Resistance Testing, Maintenance Protocols and Risk Awareness.”
CNA specialists 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, SVP, Risk Control, CNA. “In addition, selecting improper cleaning equipment and tools also could contribute to floor slipperiness. This information helped to better understand the root cause behind slip and fall claims.”
The study concluded that floor types 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.
In fact, the 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 Shari Falkenburg, assistant VP, Risk Control, CNA.
CNA tested different flooring materials for DCOF — dynamic coefficient of friction — pre- and post-cleaning as well, noting how certain cleaners interacted with each floor type.
Overall, CNA advised business owners to look at five things when maintaining their flooring: material used, surface type, floor condition, cleaners used and type of finish.
Businesses should obtain the designated DCOF 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 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.”
“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.” &