Proactive ways to help minimize slip and trip accidents in retail and restaurant facilities.
By Aaron Mills
It’s easy to think the risk of someone suffering a slip or trip is low when hundreds of people safely pass through a building every day without incident. Unfortunately, even if slips and trips aren’t top of mind for facility managers, they’re still happening at a consistent rate. According to the National Safety Council, 25,000 slip-and-fall accidents occur every day in the United States — averaging over 17 every minute.1 On the job, they account for one fourth of occupational injuries tracked by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).2
Despite the prevalence of slips and trips in the workplace, most facilities take a reactive approach to the issue, only addressing the problem when an accident occurs. However, by implementing a comprehensive safety plan, building managers may be able to mitigate problems associated with slips and trips, including workers’ compensation and litigation fees.
In general, slip and trip accidents occur when there is a lack of traction or sturdiness between the walking surface and the shoe.3 Specific situations that can cause an incident can vary and include wet or greasy floors, uneven walking surfaces, slippery walking surfaces, loose flooring, dry floors with debris and polished or freshly waxed floors.
One of the easiest ways to be proactive about floor safety is to always be aware of the conditions in and around a facility. If there are areas that are often wet or have an uneven surface, make note of them and check for hazards frequently. Most importantly, if you notice a new danger — like pooling water, frayed carpet or cracked tiles — always address it right away.
Recognizing that a good defense is often as important as a good offense, there are several additional solutions that can be utilized to help mitigate slip and trip risks including ongoing facility maintenance, traction tapes and treads, and matting.
Ongoing Facility Maintenance
Implementing and maintaining a comprehensive facility maintenance plan is a key first step in helping to avoid slips and trips.
One of the best ways to get smarter about helping to prevent slips and trips is for a facility manager to know his or her building inside and out. By walking through a facility with an eye toward safety, potential trouble spots may be identified and remedied before an accident occurs. Specific areas to monitor include:
- Front entryways
- Kitchen area or sales floor
- Loading docks
If potential issues are discovered during the inspection, managers should consider making strategic investments to help improve safety, including installing adequate handrails, anti-slip treads, matting and proper lighting.
Traction Tapes and Treads
The prevention of slips and trips and the creation of a safe walking surface should be a necessity in the design and construction of buildings and adjacent areas. In an effort to address slip and trip risks in high-traffic areas, facility managers should consider installing traction tapes or treads, which provide anti-slip protection in a variety of conditions. Ensuring an easy application process, the tapes and treads adhere to clean, dry surfaces without wrinkling, curling, tearing, shrinking or lifting. Furthermore, the pressure sensitive adhesive backing makes it easy to apply the product without the use of anchoring.
In a retail facility, managers should be aware of the goods sold throughout the store as spilled liquids, like beverages or soaps, may increase a customer’s slip and trip risk. Furthermore, tapes and treads should be installed in areas where moisture may accumulate (produce aisles or restrooms) to help ensure traction.
In restaurants, traction tapes and treads can help prevent slips and trips in areas around dishwashers, where the floor is frequently wet, or anywhere where food and drink spills are common (like buffet lines, beverage dispensers or condiment stations).
Remarkably, 80% of dirt and water is tracked into buildings on the soles of visitors’ shoes.4 Floor mats can provide a highly effective solution by removing and trapping dirt before it can be tracked inside. As the construction of most mats allows dirt and moisture to flow through the matting, debris is not tracked back into the building and can easily be vacuumed out. For areas with heavy traffic, such as entrances and lobbies, heavy-duty matting should be used.
For entrances (especially in inclement weather such as rain, snow or extreme dust), a proper matting system is important to help eliminate debris and moisture on shoes, making the entrance safer for guests and employees. For best results, facility managers should utilize approximately 30 feet of matting — 10 feet outside, 10 feet in the vestibule, and 10 feet within the facility — to achieve the safest environment. The matting used for the area outside the building and within the vestibule should be designed to scrape larger debris, like salt chunks and dirt, from shoes. Inside the facility entrance, matting should be utilized to eliminate moisture along with any remaining debris from outside. If a retail or restaurant facility has insufficient matting at the entrance, it’s likely that debris and liquids will be tracked inside, creating an unsafe environment.
Throughout the rest of the building, facility managers need to be conscious of larger slip and trip areas, such as the space by the dishwasher and oven, which can cause greasy floors. For these areas, it’s important to look for a product that allows liquids to flow through, such as an open-backed type mat. This will keep the top of the mat relatively dry and allow liquids from shoes to pass through it. These mats are most popular in dishwashing areas, but can also be effective around drinking fountains and drink stations.
Facility managers of retail and restaurant buildings encounter a unique set of challenges when addressing floor safety issues, including the presence of multiple high-traffic areas and the need to protect a variety of different surfaces. Fortunately, there are a number of cost-effective ways to help prevent slips and trips, including ongoing facility maintenance, traction tapes and treads and matting.
Ultimately, the only way to truly attempt to beat the odds on slips and trips is to be proactive —not reactive — about floor safety. For facility managers, that means knowing your building inside out, making the right investments and having a plan in place to address any issues before they become a problem.
2 United States Dept. of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Non Fatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Requiring Days Away From Work, 2012” Nov. 26, 2013.
4 International Sanitary Supply Association: Mats, Mats and More Mats. www.issa.com
— Aaron Mills is the marketing development manager at 3M. For more information, visit www.3M.com/floorsafety.