According to the United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive, slip and fall accidents are the most common cause of injury in the workplace. Further, on average they cause 40 percent of all reported major injuries. An estimated 45,000 personal injury slip and fall accidents happen every year in the U.K., and these injuries cost the country more than 1 billion pounds...and this does not include slip and fall injury settlements and amounts.
Slips and falls can occur in a variety of ways, from tripping over an electrical cord to missing a step on a stair. But a great deal of slip and fall accidents are the result of a spill on a floor.
Here’s an example of what often happens in a grocery store.
A shopper knocks over a glass jar of pickles, which breaks on the floor. She pushes the glass and pickles off to the side and then walks away.
Nice of her to clear the area, but the big concern is the liquid now on the floor. It’s typically made up of vinegar, salt, sugar, and olive oil. Once on the floor, this combination of ingredients can become very slippery, making this is a slip and fall accident waiting to happen.
Finally, a store worker sees the spill and looks for the manager. But what happens next can be a comedy of errors:
• The worker looks but cannot find the manager.
• When he finally does locate the manager, he can‘t remember exactly where the spill occurred.
• Finding the spill, they are not sure what it is—water? oil?—or how best to clean it.
• They then realize they don’t know where the appropriate cleaning equipment is stored. Should they just grab a mop? (Mopping will likely just push the oily mess from one area to another.)
• Neither do they know the proper safety procedures. Should they close off the immediate area with warning cones or close the entire aisle? • Once the area is cleaned, one way or another, how long will it take for it to dry?
By the time the two workers have figured out what to do, five customers have walked through the aisle, tracking the oily substance and leading to more opportunities for a slip and fall accident.
Developing a Spill Response Program
What we just discussed happens nearly every day in retail stores throughout the U.K. There are always spills to contend with. As much as we may try to prevent them, they are going to happen. What becomes critical is how we respond to them. Having a quick and effective spill response program in place can prevent a slip and fall accident.
Using our grocery store as an example, the spill response program usually entails the following:
• Equip staff members with walkie-talkies or a similar device; running around looking for the manager is wasted time that can be used to clean and prevent an accident.
• Identify the spill. Is it water? Oil? Bleach? If it is to be cleaned up, we need to know what we are dealing with.
• Know where safety cones and cleaning equipment are stored. Often managers are much more focused on teaching their staff how to stock shelves and work with customers; discussing with them where safety or cleaning equipment is stored may never even come up.
• Place several safety cones around the spill area as quickly as possible; that should be adequate to prevent customers from tracking the spill.
• Sweep the area clean of debris; do not use mops as they may spread contaminants.
• Use a Kaivac AutoVac system to clean the area. The Kaivac AutoVac system is a relatively small machine—making them very easy to move, store, and transport—that operates similar to a full-sized auto-scrubber. (Learn more below or by clicking here or See it in action here. The machine will clean and remove the spill. and the area will be dry in minutes. But for safety reasons, keep warning signs posted around the area for about 30 minutes.
The Kaivac AutoVac system is now being tested by a worldwide mega-retailer as one way to develop a spill response program to help prevent slip and fall accidents. And while our example was a grocery store, the equipment can be used in nearly any setting, from schools to office buildings, as part of a spill response program to help prevent slip and fall accidents.
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.