Slip Causes and Solutions: Cleaning

Why is cleaning so important?

Slip and trip accidents can be serious and costly. The costs to industry are substantial (over £500 million per year) and there is incalculable human cost and suffering to those injured. Floor cleaning is significant in causing slip and trip accidents, both to cleaning staff and others. Legal actions following an injury can be extremely damaging to business, especially where the public is involved. Insurance only covers a small part of the cost.   Effective solutions are often simple, inexpensive and can lead to other benefits. The most effective approach is to ensure that slips and trips hazards are designed out of a building. Consulting with the cleaners during refurbishment for example, can provide valuable information on the suitability of proposed flooring types and storage facilities for cleaning equipment.   People rarely slip on clean dry floors. Floors in poor condition and bad housekeeping are responsible for most trip injuries. Where cleaning is carried out effectively, it can make the difference between a floor being an unacceptably high slip risk or an acceptably low slip risk.

When is someone likely to slip or trip?

Almost all slips happen when floors are wet or dirty (for example contaminated with water, oil, food debris, dust etc). If the floor has a smooth surface (for example the surfaces of standard vinyl, glazed ceramic tiles, varnished wood and some metal floors are all often very smooth) even a tiny amount of contamination can present a real slip problem. Trips generally take place on damaged, uneven and badly laid floors or because obstacles have been left where people do not expect to find them.

What the law says about Risk management – Employer's responsibilities

Risk management involves an employer looking at the risks that arise in the workplace and then putting sensible health and safety measures in place to control them. By doing this, employees and members of the public will be protected from harm. The law requires an employer to assess and manage health and safety risks - for most businesses this is not difficult to do and for the great majority of risk assessments, the following bullet points should act as a helpful guide:

Step 1: Identify the hazards
Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how
Step 3: Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
Step 4: Record your findings and implement them, showing that:

a proper check was made
you asked who might be affected
you dealt with all the obvious significant hazards, taking into account the number of people who could be involved the precautions are reasonable, and the remaining risk is low; and you involved your staff or their representatives in the process
Step 5: Review your risk assessment and update if necessary Further more detailed information may be found at [insert link]

What can be done to prevent slips and trips?

Control measures can be divided into: Management Systems Contamination control: - preventing contamination - choose the right cleaning method - make sure cleaning does not introduce an additional slip risk Obstacle removal All three are needed to prevent slips and trips

Management Systems

Slips and trips research has shown that cleaning processes are often poorly thought through; and cleaners are rarely involved in deciding how things are done. Cleaning, as with other areas of health and safety, requires a good management system to help identify problem areas, decide what to do, act on the decisions made and check the steps have been effective. A good system should involve: planning to make sure the correct cleaning regime is chosen for the type of floor, taking into account how the floor is used, by whom (for example some people are more at risk such as visually impaired people, the elderly), when it's used and contaminants present. Consider also how spillages etc will be cleaned up between the scheduled whole floor cleaning organising the work and consulting with staff to make sure the planning stage is implemented control to ensure that working practices and processes are being carried out properly, for example access is prevented to wet smooth floors monitoring and reviewing to identify any improvements that can be made to the system.

Contamination control

People rarely slip on a clean dry floor. There is contamination involved in almost all slip accidents and this can be introduced by the work activity or by the cleaning activity itself. The best method is to prevent contamination of the dry floor. Spot cleaning is a useful technique to clean up spills etc as they happen, especially between whole floor cleaning. Consideration should be given as to who is best placed to do the spot cleaning, for example those working in an area or dedicated cleaners. Further information on spot cleaning is given in 'Choosing the right cleaning method'. At entrances, enclosed holders for wet umbrellas and effective well-maintained matting can stop the floor getting wet. If contamination is walked beyond the matting, can it be improved?

Obstacle Removal

Obstructions and objects left lying around can easily go unnoticed and cause a trip accident. These causes are frequently overlooked, but generally easy to remedy.

Potential trip hazards associated with cleaning include:

Cables and leads - from cleaning equipment such as scrubber-driers and vacuum cleaners Rubbish - from, for example, discarded boxes, waste materials, and bin bags Uneven floor - from curling mats, peeling or missing carpet tiles Lighting - poor lighting can increase the risk of trips, as obstacles may not be clearly visible. Cleaners and supervisors should tell occupiers about areas where the light is poor or bulbs are missing or blown. Housekeeping - workers leaving clutter around workstations, which create trip hazards for cleaning staff, spillages from leaking machinery, vending machines or roof lights. Ensuring cleaning equipment is not left unattended and is safely stored when not in use is important, as is adequate provision for the storage of cleaning equipment and warning signs, barriers etc.

Choosing the right cleaning method

To effectively remove contaminant, the correct cleaning regime needs to be chosen. Consideration should be given to the factors below when choosing the cleaning technique.

Cleaning chemical – ensuring use of the appropriate cleaning chemical is essential if there is any greasy, oily or limescale contamination on the floor. Water on its own, whether it is cold or warm, is not effective in removing this kind of contamination. The specific contamination removal capabilities of the cleaning chemical should be thoroughly tested before a selection is made, as many general use cleaners are completely ineffective in removing certain types of contamination. Follow the manufacturer's instructions, because too strong a solution can be as ineffective as too weak. The cleaning chemical should be left on the floor for enough time to allow effective removal of grease before rinsing. A useful comparison is washing-up, heavily soiled pots and pans require soak time in the detergent. Agitation can often increase the effectiveness of the cleaning chemical.

Spot cleaning - using a paper towel or rag to remove small areas of water-based contamination from the floor. This is a cheap and effective method of removing water-based spills. It avoids spreading the contamination or increasing the slip risk by mopping a large area. Spot cleaning can be used between scheduled whole-floor cleaning to control contamination. For greasy spills, an appropriate cleaning chemical will be required.

Mopping - is usually only effective on smoother floors because it only skims the surface of the floor, regardless of the effort used. Even a well-wrung mop will leave a thin film of water which is enough to create a slip risk on a smooth floor. Subsequent use of a dry mop will reduce the drying time but will not eliminate the slip risk. Where smooth floors are mopped, take care to make sure the floor is left to dry completely before pedestrians are allowed access. When using a mopping system, it is essential to consider how dirt is removed from the floor and where it goes, and to avoid simply spreading a thin layer of contamination over a whole area. For example, use a separate dirty water bucket for wringing the mop out to increase the dirt removal. Greasy floors require contact time with the chemical solution, for example use an immersion mopping technique, where the detergent is put down in one stage, and mopped up after a soak time in a second stage.

Sweeping brush - on a smooth floor may be adequate to remove dry contaminants. Airborne dust can be created, so this technique should not be used where there are health risks associated with the dust, for example flour, sawdust.

Hose/power washer - with sufficient power can be used to remove dusty or doughy contaminants. The floor will be left wet, so should be rough enough not to create a slip risk with the water left behind. Suitable drainage will be required. For greasy contamination, an appropriate cleaning chemical will be required.

Squeegee - can be effective in removing excess water after cleaning, to reduce drying time. The floor will not be left dry and will still present a slip risk. If a floor is rough enough to be left wet, the volume of water is not important and a squeegee is unnecessary. Where oily or greasy contamination is present, the squeegee can have the effect of spreading a thin layer of contamination over a wider area, or forcing it into the surface. This may result in a floor that is more difficult to clean.

Wet vacuum cleaner - effective at cleaning up liquid spills. This is more effective on smooth floors which can be left completely dry.

Dry vacuum cleaner - effective at cleaning up dry/dusty contaminants. This is often effective on rougher floors. It avoids the creation of airborne dust. If the dust creates a health risk, make sure the filter is suitable.

Scrubber-drier machines - can be an effective way to clean most kinds of flooring. Different designs of scrubber-drier lend themselves to different situations. The squeegee needs to be wide enough to recover all the water put down by the scrubber-drier. Single scrubber machines tend to throw water out to one side, and may require an asymmetric squeegee to recover this. The squeegee needs to be well maintained to ensure there is no leakage, which may, for example leave a smooth floor dangerously wet. On very rough or profiled surfaces the squeegee may not be flexible enough to allow adequate removal of water from the surface. On greasy floors a suitable cleaning chemical should be used to remove and hold the oil or grease in the water. The operator should be trained in the correct use of the machine, for example using the appropriate level of water for the floor surface, to reduce leaking and water trails.

Where can I find more information?