More than 4 million workers and patrons of restaurants and foodservice locations are injured each year as a result of slip and fall accidents, according to ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association. A study by the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) indicates that the industry spends more than $2 billion annually on such injuries in terms of medical costs, absenteeism, and lost productivity and notes that these accidents are increasing by about 10 percent each year.
Slip and fall accidents are certainly not a problem limited to the foodservice industry. In fact, there are millions of people injured each year in slip and fall accidents in restaurants and in supermarkets along with facilities such as schools and offices to large and small retail stores. And just as in the foodservice industry, accidents appear to be on the increase. Because of this, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a new set of floor safety guidelines designed to essentially raise the bar on floor safety requirements with the hope of reducing slips, falls, and other floor-related injuries.
The new guidelines, which were published in August 2013, are designed primarily to address the safety of the workers in food-preparation areas. But the NFSI argues that they should apply to other areas of the facility – such as dining rooms – just as well. While the new guidelines include several components, two are especially important to restaurant owners and managers. The first of these regulations requires that a "qualified person" be called in to ensure floors are safe and maintained in such a way that they help prevent possible slip and fall accidents.
OSHA defines a qualified person as someone "capable of identifying existing and potential [floor] hazards that may pose a risk or be dangerous." Qualified floor experts already exist. Insurance companies typically call them in to determine a floor's condition after a slip and fall accident has occurred. Now they will be called in before an accident happens, with the goal of prevention.
The other significant guideline focuses on floor cleaning and maintenance. An effective custodial cleaning program can help minimize or eliminate slip and fall accidents. The agency’s rules specify that cleaning, whether performed by an in-house staff or by an outside contractor, be provided by personnel who are educated and trained in proper floor cleaning and maintenance. This training is provided by the NFSI and other organizations.
According to ISSA, when it comes to cleaning tools and equipment, there are specific steps foodservice facilities can take to help lower their risk for slip and fall accidents. The organization suggests choosing "floor cleaning and maintenance products with proven slip resistant characteristics comparable with the particular flooring surface installed."
ISSA also suggests selecting NFSI-certified floor-care products. These have been independently tested in both the laboratory and real-world applications. If the tests indicate the equipment meets specific criteria, referred to as "high-traction," and can help prevent a slip and fall accident, they can then be certified.
In most cases, instead of mops and buckets, the tools recommended for use in foodservice kitchens are floor-care alternatives such as no-touch or specially designed OmniFlex dispense-and-vac cleaning system, made specifically for use in restaurants and other food service areas.
These systems clean floors and other surfaces without the use of mops and help ensure floor safety. (See it in Action) The problem with mops and buckets is that as they get soiled, they can spread contaminants over the floor, potentially creating a slippery surface and defeating our goal of ensuring floors are clean and safe. Fortunately, while the new guidelines to help reduce slip and fall accidents are extensive, they can be adopted fairly easily with the right tools, training, and equipment.
For more information on effective, healthy, hygienic cleaning, contact Kaivac.
Robert Kravitz is a former building service contractor, having owned, operated, and then sold three contract cleaning companies in Northern California.
He is the author of two books about the industry and continues to be a frequent writer for the industry.
Robert is now president of AlturaSolutions Communications, which provides communications and marketing services for organizations in the professional cleaning and building industries.