People who slip and fall often become embarrassed and quickly leave the area without reporting the incident. So a one-time problem that could have been eliminated by maintenance lies in wait for its next victim.

There are too many “next victims” when it comes to slips, trips and falls. Liberty Mutual’s 2008 Workplace Safety Index reported slips, trips and falls accounted for nearly $12 billion in workers’ compensation claims in 2006.

Workers injured by slips, trips and falls spend more days away from work than those injured as a result of other on-the-job accidents — a median of eight versus six days.

Three-step system
An effective method for eliminating the threat of slips, trips and falls involves a three-step floor matting safety system.
  • Step 1 calls for placing scraper mats with heavyduty, cross-patterned cleat construction just outside all entranceways to stop the heaviest dirt from entering a facility. Scraper mats should be large enough to allow two or three scrapings of the bottom of footwear as each individual enters a facility.
  • Step 2 involves the use of “walk-off” mats placed inside the entranceways (or just beyond any inside scraper mats) to remove residual soiling not removed by scraper mats. These mats can prevent up to 15 pounds of dirt from being tracked through a facility, thereby protecting interior flooring, ventilation systems and sensitive electronic equipment. As a general rule, all interior walk-off mats should be long enough (6 to 12 feet depending on environmental conditions) to prevent wet or soiled footprints from being seen on floor areas beyond the end of the mat.
  • Step 3 of a floor matting safety system calls for the use of “wet area” floor mats wherever interior liquid spills can be anticipated, such as near water or drink dispensers or in manufacturing areas using liquids. These allow moisture to pass to the bottom of the mat where it remains harmless until cleaned up or until evaporation takes place.
Materials and trainingKeep in mind even the best manufactured floor mats cannot compensate for human factors such as inattention to surroundings, poor vision, slow reaction times, or poor balance. Every truly effective floor matting system should include an employee training and educational component that focuses on:
  • Proper footwear: Employees must be informed about the role shoe selection plays in slip-and-fall accidents and should be encouraged to wear footwear appropriate to floor surface conditions.
  • Warning signs: Signs should be posted in any area where slippery conditions exist, such as areas where floors may have recently been washed, polished or waxed or where surface areas change in their composition (e.g., from carpeting to vinyl).
  • Staying alert: Inform employees to always pay attention to their surroundings, particularly during inclement weather. In turn, employees should adjust their walking stride to a pace that’s suitable for the walking surface or task at hand.
Use common sense
Take control of slip, trip and fall hazards by maintaining an unwavering focus on good housekeeping protocols, including the strategic placement of well-maintained floor mats. An ongoing employee training component must emphasize safety as everyone’s proactive business — whether an embarrassing situation occurs or not.