True Cost of a Spill: How to Clean Spills, Keep your Customers Safe and Protect Your Bottom Line

By Amy Milshtein

True Cost of a Spill: How to Clean Spills, Keep your Customers Safe and Protect Your Bottom Line
A worker closes down an aisle to mop a spill, leaving customers frustrated and inconvenienced.

Knowing how to clean spills quickly and completely will save your business time, money and big headaches. Spills are going to happen, no matter how careful your employees or well-intentioned your customers may be. Just think about all of the things that can shatter, tear, overflow and splatter in a crowded grocery store or a busy restaurant; it's kind of amazing that accidental messes don't happen more often!

Dealing with that spill quickly and confidently can keep a little mishap from growing into a big, expensive problem. Spills have real costs that go beyond the loss of some product. Employees must stop what they're doing and pay attention to the problem, grocery aisles or restaurant sections have to shut down, customers are inconvenienced and frustrated. These minor disruptions are nothing compared to your liability for an injury due to a slip, trip or fall. 

Protect your customers, employees and business by mastering the best way to clean spills. 


The Real Costs of a Slip and Fall

Recently, the surveillance video of a New Jersey man's faked slip and fall accident made the rounds on news sites and social media. Arrested and charged with insurance fraud and theft by deception, his crime did not pay. We can chuckle at his 'dumb criminal' antics, but actual slip and fall accidents are no joke.

Neither are the insurance pay outs. 

The National Floor Safety Institute reports that slips and falls account for over 1 million hospital emergency room visits. Slip and falls, according to the report, represent the primary cause of lost days from work and the leading source of workers compensation claims. Compensation and medical costs associated with employee slip/fall accidents add up to approximately $70 billion annually.

Defending against sip and fall claims cost big money too, an average of $50,000 per incident. The problem is so prevalent and disruptive that an entire industry is growing up around prevention. Companies are offering high-tech solutions like an app that alerts staff to safety risks like spills, grease or bunched up floor mats and a googly-eyed robot that patrols store aisles in search of hazards. 


The Soft Costs of a Spill

Even if there is no accident or incident, spills still have plenty of soft costs. Employees must divert attention from assisting customers to cleaning the mess. Aisles need to be blocked to keep customers from slipping, tracking the mess to another location or even worse, 'helping' clean up. Often a few hazard cones or Wet Floor sandwich boards are enough for the job, but some establishments are stationing actual employees around the spill to keep people away. These techniques work, but they also prevent sales and increase customer frustration.

Then there's the actual cleaning. Most deep cleaning is done by maintenance professionals at night when the establishment is closed or, in the case of 24-hour businesses, slow. Day workers may not know how to use the cleaning supplies, or even where they are kept. 

Identifying the spill presents another challenge. Is it oily? Sugary? An acid? Maybe it's not liquid at all but small, dry particulates like flour or grains which can be just as hazardous. 

Then the employee has to choose the right tools to remove the mess and leave the area completely dry. Meanwhile customers are inconvenienced, staff productivity is down and the spill is still on the floor.


Cleaning a Spill the Wrong—and Costly—Way

Old cleaning technology like brooms, buckets, mops and rags, might seem like the simplest, cheapest way to handle spills but the may make the problem worse. Mops and buckets don't remove soils as much as push them around, leaving the area dirty and moist. If the floor is porous, the soils and detergents used to remove them can build up, bond to the surfaces and create a perpetually slippery surface. Dangerous cross contamination can occur if staff grabs a mop and bucket normally used to clean restrooms. 

An autoscrubber would be a better choice, but they have their limitations too. Big, expensive and complicated to operate, autoscrubbers require time and lots of space to work. This means more employee resources devoted to clean up and less customer time on the aisles. 


Choose Kaivac for the Best Spill Response

Make a better choice with the Kaivac OmniFlex™ AutoVac™. The small, nimble machine features a powerful on-board vacuum for a thorough clean. Three to four times faster than a mop, it quickly removes soils completely and dries with one pass with no chance of cross-contamination. The simple-to-use OmniFlex™ AutoVac™ cleans as well and as fast as a traditional walk-behind or ride-on autoscrubbers at a fraction of the cost. A battery-operated model means no power cord for anyone to trip over. 

Learn more about how Kaivac's OmniFlex™ AutoVac™ can clean spills and tackle your other cleaning needs here


Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines. 

Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.

She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.

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