Those who make their living in the janitorial industry have come to realize that this business is full of competition just waiting to offer the next big thing.
If you''ve ever had the opportunity to go to a show such as ISSA/INTERCLEAN, you know there is no shortage of companies out there soliciting for your business.
Sadly — especially with this economy — everyone seems to be looking for a deal.
This sometimes means that, even with our most loyal customers, we find ourselves having to lower prices or increase services just to keep ahead of the competition.
On top of all this, we are faced with consistently rising chemical prices.
Another Problem About Which To Worry
As if you didn''t have enough to worry about in this business, now you have to deal with the threat of litigation in the event that a slip, trip or fall occurs on one of the properties you maintain.
It seems that, even though slips and falls have always been an issue for the property owner or proprietor, it never directly impacted the service provider.
Oh, how things have changed; increasingly, when a slip and fall incident occurs, the attorney for the victim includes everyone in the lawsuit, even down to the cleaning contractor.
So, this means more liability for you and the need to take into consideration that this could very well happen.
While there''s no one answer to protect yourself against a lawsuit, there are steps you can take to limit your exposure.
One such way is documentation in the sense that, if a person was to slip and fall, you could prove that you or your company is not negligent or even responsible.
As a walkway auditor and a floor safety consultant, I often see companies included in slip and fall lawsuits — and they have nothing with which to defend themselves.
As mentioned earlier, documentation is vital if you, your company or your organization is going to survive a lawsuit.
One such way to show documentation is to have in place a written floor safety program.
Another key, on top of you and your employer, is for the company that contracts you to do the cleaning to have a floor safety program as well.
Included with any program is the need to document regular walkway audits, which should be performed by a well-qualified auditor.
Such an individual can be found at www.NFSI.org, the website of the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI).
The NFSI has a list of Certified Walkway Auditors that can assist you in this process.
Even though it seems like an added expense in an already tight economy, any expenditure will prove minimal compared to what an actual slip and fall lawsuit could cost you in higher insurance premiums and the possible loss of your job or a good contract.
What if the company you''re working for has no program in place, but you do?
For one, make sure that your documentation is current.
In the event an incident occurs, then at least you will have written proof of compliance.
Just the fact that you or your company can show a proactive approach to floor safety will go a long way in disproving any claims of negligence on your part.
Another Source Of Protection
Another resource you may want to consider is the use of slip-resistant chemicals.
These chemicals will cost more, but the value of the product will make it worth any extra expense.
In fact, there''s much to be said about perceived value in the eyes of customers.
If you can offer a product that not only cleans but also raises the slip resistance of the floor, then you have shown your client you have added value.
In a business where all the companies "look the same" and "offer the same things," offering slip-resistant chemicals as an option sets your company apart from the competition.
This, when combined with the fact that you can show your company has a floor safety program in place for your employees as well as documentation from a third-party walkway auditor, will truly distinguish you and your company.
Another plus of having a third-party walkway auditor is the opportunity to have written proof that your cleaning process is superior to that of others.
You may ask, "How will auditing accomplish this?"
Well, it''s easy if you''re starting a new facility to simply have the walkway audit performed before you start.
The reason many floors have a low slip resistance is because the floors are not properly maintained.
This will show up in the audit by the lower standard coefficient of friction (SCOF) values.
By documenting the lower SCOF values of the floor when you first start routine cleaning and then comparing them to the higher SCOF values after your cleaning process, you will show proof that your clients'' floors are being cleaned and maintained in a proper manner.
This is just another way to set your company or operation apart from all the others.
New Standards That Affect You
This standard is only one of eight that will soon be the recognized benchmark for slip and fall prevention the United States.
What this means for everyone who owns and operates a business is that the time for not having to focus on floor safety is quickly ending.
With the development of these new standards, public awareness is increasing, and the need to be compliant with these new standards is vital if a company or organization wishes to defend against any type of slip and fall accident.
The new standards not only act as a protection for the public, but they also act as ammunition for law firms that make a living on slip and fall litigation.
Now, the attorneys have a written standard that clearly defines what the acceptable wet SCOF values are and, if they aren''t met, it is bad news for anyone on the wrong side of a lawsuit.
So, now is the time to start focusing on what type of image your operation will put forth: Proactive or reactive.
Michael Fraley is president of Consolidated Safety Group Inc. (www.WalkwaySafety.com). He is NFSI-certified as a Walkway Safety Auditor and a Slip and Fall Prevention Specialist. Fraley currently is serving on the NFSI/ANSI B101 Standards Committee and is chairman of the ANSI B101.4 Sub-Committee. His company offers nationwide walkway auditing services as well as customized floor safety programs. They also offer a variety of safety enhancing cleaners and degreasers and products. You can contact him at (888) 818-9038, at Mike@FloorTesting.com or by visiting www.FloorTesting.com.