The ever-changing pace of doing business is just a fact of doing business.
Whether our business is cleaning, maintenance or manufacturing, we all have certain guidelines and issues that affect how we do our jobs.
While some regulations are mandatory, others are put in place to protect our companies, employees and the public.
And, while many standards and guidelines are set forth and may or may not be mandatory for a company to follow, the fact remains that these standards should be viewed as a critical part of how a company protects its employees and customers.
Often, what distinguishes a great company from a good company is how they view their employees and customers.
If a company only views these key components as merely a number or statistic, they will more than likely show up on someone''s report as a statistic at some point in time.
The days of small or large companies ignoring problems — especially safety problems — is quickly fading as we see safety issues being addressed more often by insurance carriers, government agencies such as the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the companies themselves.
Just this year alone, OSHA has significantly increased their number of agents in an effort to enforce compliance.
So, how does all this affect the cleaning industry and those responsible for the care of a facility''s floors?
Slips and falls are continuing to be problematic for everyone.
Whether you''re the maintenance contractor, building owner or the manager of the facility, the fact remains that slips and falls occur on a regular basis — and at an alarming rate.
Slips and falls cost billions of dollars each year — not to mention the pain and suffering of those who are victims of the incidents.
How Big Is The Problem?
Just look at a few statistics and it doesn''t take long to see why there''s a need for concern.
In 2007, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 2.2 million Americans sought emergency room treatment for an accidental fall, making falls the leading cause of emergency room visits in America.
The National Safety Council''s 2008 edition of "Injury Facts" lists falls as the leading cause of accidental death for people over the age of 85.
In 2006, 21,200 people died as a result of an accidental fall.
Ironically, three days before I wrote this article, my mother became one of these statistics: She fell and spent two days in the intensive care unit.
I mention this because there is a good chance we all will have to deal with some type of slip and fall incident occurring in our lifetime — whether it involves a relative, an employee or a valued customer.
So, what can be done to help prevent such incidents from occurring?
Are there any tools or resources available that will help a company to be proactive in their slip and fall prevention efforts?
Yes — but it''s only going to help if it is used properly and implemented into your company''s safety efforts.
A New Tool In Slip And Fall Prevention
In December of 2009, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) B101 Committee on Slip, Trip and Fall Prevention released the first in a series of floor safety standards designed to prevent pedestrian slips and falls.
The new standard is the ANSI B101.1 Standard, which specifies the procedures and devices used for both laboratory and field testing to measure the wet static coefficient of friction (SCOF) of common hard surface floor materials.
The purpose of the ANSI B101.1 Standard is to provide a test method that provides a measurement procedure setting forth traction ranges, which facilitate remediation of walkway surfaces when warranted.
The ANSI B101.1 Standard has three traction ranges: High Traction, which presents a low risk of slips and falls; Moderate Traction, which presents an intermediate risk; and Low Traction, which presents an elevated risk.
So, how can the ANSI B101.1 Standard help you in your slip and fall prevention methods?
For one, it allows a company to have their floors tested and audited by a trained individual — a Certified Walkway Auditor, for example.
A walkway auditor has been trained in the auditing process that tests the facility''s floors onsite and then compiles a detailed report listing the SCOF readings.
The report will help identify areas of the floor that could present a slip and fall hazard and offer remediation steps that can be taken.
The walkway audit will not only identify possible hazards but also show your company''s proactive approach to safety.
The need for a company to show its due diligence and to be proactive is a key factor in the event a slip and fall incident occurs.
Now, when an incident occurs, the attorneys handling the litigation will not only ask for a copy of your company''s floor safety program but also any and all company''s who''s business it is to maintain the floor.
Statistics show that companies who cannot provide a written, documented program that addresses slip and fall prevention methods pay out the most in litigation because negligence is hard to disprove.
The new ANSI B101.1 Standard can either be a tool for your company to utilize in your floor safety program or a tool for attorneys who''s job it is to prove negligence on your company''s part.
So, whether you''re an in-house janitor, a building service contractor (BSC) or the executive of a major corporation, be prepared and protect your company''s bottom line.
Millions of dollars are wasted annually due to unwanted litigation.
It only makes sense that a little prevention can save your company thousands, if not millions, of dollars in slip and fall litigation.
Any time slips and falls occur, your company is affected by the results.
Let''s say a valuable employee who has been trained and is very proficient in his or her job is suddenly unable to perform their duties because of a slip and fall.
Not only do you have a workers'' compensation claim, you now also have to retrain another individual who may not be as proficient to replace the injured worker.
Also, any time accidents occur, this tends to raise a company''s insurance premiums — and let us not forget the negative publicity that is often associated with such an incident.
But, perhaps most important is the fact that, as an employer, you should always want to protect your employees and customers from harm — it''s the right thing to do.
A perfect example is the automobile manufacturer who is now front and center because of safety issues involving their vehicles.
This company is being reactive rather than proactive, and these safety issues will end up costing the company millions of dollars and perhaps even more in public trust.
So, remember the term proactive and remember the word reactive — then choose which type of company or individual you want to be known as.
If you choose the responsible path of being proactive, then I believe you and your company will benefit from this approach.
Regardless of the type and size of the facilities you service, you should seriously consider making the best use of the new ANSI B101.1 Standard.
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 Michael at 1-888-818-9038, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.floortesting.com.