A recent study by Chicago-based insurer CNA Financial Corp has found that 50% of floors fail to meet the minimum friction levels set-out by the American National Standards Institute - meaning they fall short on slip and fall prevention.
The study showed that 40% of falls occurred in walking and working surfaces (compared with 33% in parking lots and 27% on sidewalks). Falls were especially common in entry spaces, which have to deal with the highest levels of foot traffic in a building.
Falling Short on Slip Resistance
The biggest area of concern was the slip resistance of commercial flooring: while your new flooring may have good surface resistance levels immediately after installation, this will gradually deteriorate over time if the flooring isn't properly maintained, with a specific focus on maintaining that level of resistance.
Hard surface flooring is particularly susceptible: many cleaning and maintenance procedures for hard flooring involve mopping and polishing, both of which can make the surface more slippery.
What can be Done to Reduce the Risk and Severity of Slips and Falls?
With slips and falls being one of the leading causes of injury in the workplace, it's clear that your choice of flooring has the potential to significantly improve health and safety for all building users.
Your building entrance is subject to the highest levels of foot traffic of your whole building. On wet, icy or snowy days, all the moisture, ice and snow will be tracked into the building on people's shoes. This means the flooring in your building entrance will quickly become slippery, increasing the likelihood of slips and falls occurring.
Fortunately, there's a solution: a tiered entryway system will help to reduce moisture transfer from outdoors to indoors. Rather than stepping straight off the street and into the building, a tiered entryway creates a transitional space from outdoors to the main office space.
It breaks the entrance to your office into three zones: outdoors, primary indoors and secondary indoors. Each zone works together, to combine scraping actions outside (to remove the worst of the dirt or snow from your shoes) with absorbent mats inside (to suck up moisture so it doesn’t pose a slip hazard or damage your flooring) to keep wet weather from turning the entrance of your office into a huge health and safety risk.
Flooring Type and Backing
The type of flooring installed has an impact on the likelihood of slips and falls - especially in wet weather. Hard flooring surfaces become slippery as the water remains on the surface, whereas carpet fibers absorb the moisture rather than letting it sit on the floor surface.
The type of flooring affects the likelihood of slips and falls, but the floor surface also has a significant impact on the severity of injuries resulting from a slip or fall. Falls onto hard surface flooring (such as vinyl or wood) are more likely to cause a serious injury than falls onto carpet, which is softer and more shock-absorbent. Only 17% of people who fell on carpet sustained injuries, compared to 46% who fell on vinyl (source).
While falls onto carpet are less likely to result in injury than falls onto hard flooring, the type of backing on your commercial carpet will further contribute to its ability to absorb impact from falls. There are three main types of carpet backing:
- Hard-backed carpet, which is the worst of the three for absorbing impact - but still much better compared with hard surface flooring.
- Closed-cell cushion-backed carpet, which is initially good at shock absorption, but gets worse over time as the cushion cells distort and compress through continued use.
- Open-cell cushion-backed carpet, which is best for sustained impact absorption, both from falls and repeated daily foot traffic.