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Helping customers prevent costly slip-and-fall accidents

Many safety supply distributors share the same experience of increasing claims from restaurant owners, said “They had a problem with greasy, slippery tiles. They were having slip-and-fall accidents all the time. The result was lawsuits and a big rise in insurance premiums, not to mention the pain of lost time."

Restaurant and business owners are finally realizing benefits of using the correct products to improve floor conditions. Safety supply distributors are helping companies establish a proper floor-care program, and then training employees on the new products and procedures.

The restaurant's story illustrates a common slip-and-fall scenario: A facility unwittingly makes an error in floor-care product or, more likely, procedure that leads to unsafe conditions. And like this situation, it often takes an accident before an owner takes an interest in floor safety.

Pricey Problem - It's too costly not to prepare.
All business owners should seriously consider worker safety issues and training procedures.

“They don't want to spend the money on it, It's a cycle item. They get a letter from their insurance carrier warning about slip-and-fall safety, go to a seminar that talks about slip-and-fall risks, or they hear about an accident — that's the rare time when it's an issue with a customer."

Even more frightening is owners who say they aren't worried about slip-and-fall accidents because “that's what insurance is for."

“It's like anything else, until it happens to them, they aren't that worried."

Perhaps they should be. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than one million people seek medical attention from a hospital emergency room for slip-and-fall accidents each year. More than 12,000 people die.

Fifteen percent of the estimated 3.8 million disabling workplace injuries each year are due to slips, trips or falls, according to the National Safety Council. These accidents account for 12 to 15 percent of all workers' compensation costs. The average direct cost for one disabling injury now approaches $28,000. In the case of a death on the job, the average cost has recently been estimated at $940,000.

The Right Stuff
Half of all slip-related falls happen because of unsafe or unclean floors, according to the National Floor Safety Institute. People slip on greasy restaurant floors, trip on a grape left lying in the grocery's produce aisle, or fall when they don't see a “wet floor" sign on a marble floor.

Proper products could prevent some of these accidents. Key items that business owners should consider for slip-fall prevention include:

  • Cleaning supplies: Customers should have good mops to clean up wet spills, dust mops to clear out hazardous dirt and debris, spill pads to soak up excess water quickly, degreasers and skid-resistant chemicals that work with the specific floor surface, and any other equipment or chemicals that keep floors clean and dry.

  • Matting: Every facility should have plenty of skid-resistant mats. They are important for entrance areas, spots where flooring surfaces change, in restrooms or other spots that get wet, and any space where grease is an issue. Another good idea is skid-resistant strips or rolls that can easily be applied to stairs, ramps, and other hazardous surfaces.

  • Signs: Whenever an area is being mopped or has a spill, it should be cordoned off with a safety sign. Signs that stand out, such as humorous signs (WET FLOOR: SKATE, DON'T SLIP) or brightly colored signs offer an updated alternative to traditional yellow wet floor signs. Another good product is yellow striping that identifies walking and working areas.

  • Fans: Air movers are can dry areas that are prone to be wet because of poor ventilation.

  • Ice melt.

Get With the Program
While proper products are important in reducing slip-and-fall accidents, they are only a small piece of the puzzle. “It's almost never product related," says one executive vice president. “It's procedure related."

Employees should use the correct equipment and chemicals, clean frequently, deal with spills promptly, properly mark wet areas, and always be on the lookout for potential hazards. Managers should frequently inspect working and walking areas to identify environmental and equipment hazards that could cause slips, trips and falls. Immediate corrective action should be taken.

All slips, trips and falls, with or without injury, should be reported, recorded and thoroughly investigated. Corrective action to prevent such a repeat occurrence should be taken immediately. It's wise to have regular meetings to discuss floor safety. This is a time to consider procedural or product changes, and to look at slip-and-fall incidents and how they can be avoided in the future.

All employees should be involved. A good program has people that are paying attention and dealing with the problem right away. Not only can a good program prevent accidents, it can also be an important tool in defending against litigation. A single claim can cost a company thousands of dollars. While many claims are legitimate, plenty of others are fraudulent. Either way, a company that can demonstrate that it has a thorough floor care program will likely fare better in court than a company with no such program.

One of the things the courts like to see is that the customer has good records of how they are taking care of the situation. There was a claim of one customer who was involved in a slip-and-fall accident on a sidewalk. The company produced records, going back 7 years, showing consistent purchases of ice melt. They were able to show that they had people working on that date taking care of the sidewalks.

It's important to stress to customers the importance of maintaining their program. Starting a great program and then quickly forgetting about it doesn't do anyone any good. A lot of people have programs in place, but they don't have continuous follow-through. They work it for a while but then it doesn't become that important until it's too late.

Proper Training Is A Wise Investment
An essential part of any program is training. New employees should be given extensive training on the prevention of slip-and-fall accidents and all employees should be regularly retrained. Unsafe practices should be corrected immediately.

The need for training provides business owners with a golden opportunity to help equip employees, improve productivity and decrease injuries. For example, beachside customer was putting down entrance-way matting only when the weather turned bad in an effort to keep its expensive marble floors looking nice. Their safety supply rep educated management about the potential risk of this action — that sand and the elements were an issue year-round. The problem was corrected and the facility is a loyal customer that has purchased thousands of dollars worth of matting from the company.

Most distributors offer individualized training, either independently or with the help of a manufacturer's rep. Use this offering as a selling point.

“Educated customers are loyal customers. The ones concerned about doing a project right and efficiently."

Reminder to business owners - a company with high turnover, a new crew needs new training. You can train a whole staff and it could turn over again in 60 days. You have to constantly retrain on the procedures. Of course, not every business owner is diligent, or even concerned, about training. People should be searching out to attend slip-fall classes.

A good time to have training updates with slip-fall products is when something new comes on the market. When new things, such as barricades, familiarize yourselves with these tools that are available to evaluate whether it is something that would be beneficial to your company.

The price of preventative measures is a barrier for many customers. Try selling the long-term financial benefits of reducing costly accidents. If you can reduce your insurance costs because you have a quality program, in the long run that's what's important. Another good idea is to tell your managers & supervisors whenever there is a costly slip-and-fall accident in their same area or industry (or when another of your customers has had a problem). When you way the cost of prevention vs the cost of an accident, remarkably the training costs seem much more reasonable and a good investment.

In addition to the many safety related products that Dawg® offers, we are also a great source for compliance and training information:
Dawg® Safety and Training resources
Compliance Regs and feature articles
Helpful product reference charts

Dawg® Products That Help You Comply:


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