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National Restaurant Association - Don’t trip up: Preventing slips and falls

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Don’t trip up: Preventing slips and falls

It just takes one quick slip. A greasy floor, a buckling mat or uneven flooring could send an employee or guest to the hospital and land your business with an expensive lawsuit and rising insurance premiums. Here are some ways to keep your restaurant out of slippery situations:

Track your traction

Know your numbers. “The first step in preventing accidents is to test how safe your floors are,” says Russell Kendzior, founder of the nonprofit National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), based in Southlake, Texas. Monitor the coefficient of friction (COF) the measure of slip resistance, at various spots throughout your restaurant.

As a general manager for Duffy’s Sports Grill, Benjamin Longanacre had never heard of the COF. But after the South Florida 24-unit chain experienced a series of costly slip-and-fall incidents, the restaurant appointed Longanacre as its first safety coordinator in 2011 and charged him with taking a preventive approach. He quickly learned the importance of the COF, which has two components: static and dynamic.

The static COF measures the “slip potential,” or how much traction it takes to induce a slip, while the dynamic COF quantifies a person’s stopping ability once he or she begins to slip. Walkways with a wet static COF of .60 or greater and a wet dynamic COF of .42 or greater are defined as “High Traction” under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) B101.1 and B101.3 standards.

Get audited. Consider hiring a “certified walkway auditor” or other qualified professional to test your floor safety. Look for a professional versed in safety standards, experienced at identifying hazards and skilled at using a tribometer, or slip meter, to measure the COF.  

Secure your footing

Place your best footwear forward. Require all employees to wear sturdy shoes with slip-resistant soles and low heels. Improper footwear causes about 24 percent of slips and falls, according to the NFSI.

Put out the welcome mat, safely. An entrance mat can be an important first line of defense against slips by removing moisture from footwear. But mats also can contribute to accidents if not carefully selected, correctly placed and properly maintained. Look for mats with high-traction backing to prevent movement, such as those certified by NFSI.

Place mats on a clean, dry surface. “If it’s wet underneath, the mat acts like a surfboard,” shifting across the floor and potentially causing falls, Kendzior warns.

Even things out. Replace buckling, torn or worn carpets and mats. Repair uneven surfaces within the restaurant and on outside walkways. Train staff to report any problems they notice to management.

Put the skids on. Use non-slip matting in kitchen areas that tend to be wet. Beware that some matting might not be effective in areas that tend to be greasy. In those areas, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) recommends using no-skid waxes and floor surfaces coated with grit to create non-slip surfaces.

Start with a solid foundation. If you’re building new or remodeling, select “High Traction” flooring.

Wax on, carefully. Do not wax, polish or treat floors in a way that causes the COF to fall below the “High-Traction” ranges as defined in the ANSI B101.1 and B101.3 floor safety standards.

Clear the way. Keep pathways clear. Close cabinet doors after use. Don’t store items on the floor or in stairwells.

Do not overfill busing containers. Items can fall from overfilled containers, causing tripping hazards. Also, workers might become preoccupied with keeping everything inside an overstuffed container and forget to watch their step, OSHA warns.

Step to it. Keep a stepladder in the storage area to help employees safely reach high items. Never place a ladder on top of boxes or other unstable items.

Stay clean and dry

Mop it up. Train staff to clean up spills as soon they or guests spot them. During peak hours, mop only in areas that need immediate attention.

Caution customers. Don’t leave a spill unattended while getting a mop, recommends Duffy’s Longanacre. Station one team member at the spill, directing guests around it, while another gets the cleaning materials. Place a “Caution: Wet Floor” sign by the spill, and keep it posted until the area is clean and dry.

Cut the grease. Use cleaning tools and solutions designed to cut through grease and grime, without leaving a slippery residue. Bleach is a sanitizer, not a cleaner. “Bleach on top of grease can be slippery,” says Kendzior, who recommends NFSI-certified cleaning products designed to keep floors high traction.

Dry it out. Where wet processes are used, maintain drainage and provide false floors, platforms, mats or other dry standing places where practicable, OSHA recommends.

Color-code your cleaning tools. Avoid using the same mop in the front of the house that you use in the back, says Longanacre. “You’ll just be spreading the grease around.” Duffy’s dedicates red mops, squeegees and scrub brushes for the kitchen; blue for front of the house.

Train your staff. The right tools and cleaning products aren’t enough; make sure staff are trained to use them correctly. Remind employees to keep on top of tasks, such as changing the mop water or replacing mop heads as needed. Motivate staff by emphasizing the importance of preventing falls, Longanacre recommends. For Duffy’s, the hard work has paid off. Since instituting its new cleaning procedures in 2011, the chain has cut its insurance liability claims in half and slashed incurred costs by over 90 percent.

Check out the National Restaurant Association’s “Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls” training DVD, which features both an English and Spanish option. The DVD is sold individually or as part of a three-DVD “Workplace Safety” package.

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