How to combat slips, trips and falls

How to combat slips, trips and falls

US retail giant Walmart gets sued 12 to 20 times a day for slip and fall accidents (with up to 5 000 claims a year). And there is big money in accident payouts (it paid US$7,5 million to a shopper who broke his hip instore). Businesses would be well advised to take preventive action by installing mats to prevent wet and slippery falls.

Wet floors are the cause of many slips and falls, and protection can be as simple as making sure that floors are clean and dry. Of course, this is often easier said than done, especially in the rainy season – hence the need for mats.

But mats can be a costly outlay for businesses, and require specialised cleaning, which not every business can manage.

We chat with Nathalie Leblond, Rentokil Initial South Africa’s marketing communications manager, and Deon Coetzee, its technical manager, as well as Guy Foulds from Kleentex on the importance of slip and fall protection.

When did Rentokil Initial enter this industry?

Initial – the hygiene division of Rentokil Initial – has been partnering with Kleentex to offer service mats on a rental basis for over 20 years.
There are several mats that are slip-resistant and can enhance the safety of patrons, visitors and colleagues, assist with acoustics, collect dirt, provide messaging opportunities and lower the exposure to litigation.

How has slip and fall protection changed over the years?

The introduction of the “hard floor” or “resilient floor” created circumstances where people could slip and fall to a greater degree than when floors were carpeted.

Innovations over the years have included slip-resistant surfaces on the floors themselves; after-market applications for hard floors to make them less slippery; and mats that can be placed in likely slip zones.

Slips often happen when floors are wet, so a primary objective for businesses should be to keep floors dry. To accomplish this we provide absorbent mats that can be strategically placed in areas that are most likely to become wet and slippery – such as entrances on a rainy day, or work areas that generate liquid hazards.

There is also more awareness today of the effect of a slip/fall on a person: serious injury, life-changing injury, personal cost, the cost to the company, and a negative effect on the reputation of a business.

What products does Rentokil Initial offer with regards to slip and fall protection?

We offer the following mats to prevent slips and falls: Entrance mats, which also have a high dirt and water absorbency rate to keep dirt and debris from getting tracked into your premises, thus saving you maintenance time and money.

Floor mats for high-traffic areas, like the lobby and reception of offices, hotels and shopping malls, function as dust control mats to minimise the potential of slipping hazards by absorbing dirt and water, thus preventing them from being trailed into your building.

Water-trapping floor mats, which are designed to allow staff to pass safely from a wet area and into a dry area – without the risk of slipping, or tracking dirt and grime into dry areas that could be occupied by the public, guests or visitors.

Oil-trapping rubber mats, which are designed to prevent potential slipping hazards and injuries from occurring in wet and greasy environments – such as food preparation areas, in restaurant kitchens, and working areas in the industrial and manufacturing sectors.

What other products do you offer that improve the well-being of employees?

We offer anti-fatigue mats. Apart from assisting with dirt, moisture and dust collection, they can be used very effectively to alleviate back and leg pain in workers whose jobs require standing for long periods of time.

In addition, anti-fatigue mats are designed to affect one’s balance ever so slightly. This keeps workers moving, but not so much as to be uncomfortable or unpleasant. This increases blood flow to the feet and legs, which means extra oxygen and an overall enhanced experience. It also keeps employees awake and alert. So, in addition to improved performance, anti-fatigue mats also assist in employee safety.

Regular dust-control mats also improve hygiene and air quality. Large walk-off zones in high traffic areas will also lessen the phenomenon known as “sick building syndrome” – where dust particles that have been tracked in are taken into the air-conditioning systems and either form layers of dirt within the air system or get redistributed within the building.

In addition to mats, Initial also offers a full range of hygiene solutions designed to create optimal hygiene levels in your building and keep employees safe from the risks of cross-infection and transmissible diseases.

What challenges does this industry face?

The service industry, in general, suffers from a perception that our product offerings are expensive and many businesses believe that they can arrange it themselves at a lower cost. However, that involves a capital outlay for the mats themselves, and specialised laundering, which, if not done correctly, will shorten both the effectiveness and lifespan of the mats.

What does the future hold for slip and fall protection?

Unfortunately, it will probably take a big increase in the number of slip and fall accidents, and an increase in litigation and payout claims, before building owners recognise the value of the measures that can be taken to combat such accidents.

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