New OSHA enforcement program underway

Liability, Friction and Floors: Who’s to blame when someone falls?

*Nano-Grip treated floors assure compliance



Reprinted from the Nov. 20 issue of SERVICES, a building service industry trade magazine


Several years ago, a cleaning contractor in northern California was thrown on the hot seat before he even knew exactly what had happened. His company cleaned several branches of a major California bank as well as one of their offices. One afternoon, someone from the bank’s headquarters called him and asked him a series of questions such as, when was the last time his company had stripped and refinished the floors in the office location; what type of finish was applied; did he still have any gallons of the finish left and if not, could he verify when and where they were purchased; when was the last time his crew damp mopped the floors, and what type of cleaning solution was used.

The questions came fast and furious.Finally, he asked what this was all about.Now comes the explanation: a female employee, who was pregnant, slipped and fell on the floor. Although she said she was fine, the bank called an ambulance to ensure this was so. Apparently, what this bank representative was doing, whether right or wrong, was trying to place the blame for the accident squarely on the contract cleaner.

For building service contractors and facility managers this is a wake-up call. Invariably, if there is a slip and fall accident in a facility you clean and maintain, the blame will be shared between both parties in some way. And with new regulations coming, as we shall discuss later, it is imperative that you document how you clean and maintain your customers’ floors and have acceptable proof that they are safe to walk on.

This cleaning contractor was not prepared in any way for this incident. He did not even know what type of finish was applied to the floor or where he had purchased it.

However, in this case he was in luck.Thankfully she was not injured.The female employee who suffered the slip and fall was not wearing shoes. In fact, she had a tendency to take off her shoes and walk around the office in her socks and had actually been recently reprimanded for this behavior. Nonetheless, the bank, it appears, was fully prepared to have the contract cleaner take the blame for the incident and bear financial responsibility for any costs or lawsuits that might result; that is, until they realized all the circumstances of the event. . . and their case essentially evaporated The world of slip and fall is changing

Cleaning contractors need not only document their floor care cleaning and maintenance products as well as their procedures, but they also need to be aware of some rather big changes that OSHA* is implementing regarding floor care. This is happening even though they have not actually been approved by the organization. Possibly this is best explained using the following example. One day, OSHA conducted what can be termed a raid on one hundred locations of a national fast food franchise. The inspectors were not concerned about anything in the kitchen or food safety. What they were concerned about were the floors.

Under what is called the ‘general duty clause’ which is designed to protect, among other things, the safety of the customers, the OSHA inspectors tested all the floors for slip-resistance, determined many were ‘high-risk,’ and fined each location about fifteen hundred dollars.

According to Russell Kendzior, president of the National Floor Safety Institute, which creates standards to help ensure floors are safe, this fast food restaurant chain was likely a target.

“It’s almost like they were punishing this [fast food] chain. They likely assumed they were taking adequate precautions to ensure the safety of their floors and were totally unprepared or even expected this event.”

The fines, the inspection, and the increased awareness is part of OSHA’s goal to prevent a slip and fall accident from happening in the first place. Typically, floor friction and safety inspections are taken after an incident occurs and used in court to build a case against a company whose floors are suspected to be unsafe. But, by OSHA requiring employers and property owners to be proactive regarding their floor safety through making periodic measurements regarding coefficient friction, the goal is to dramatically decrease slip and fall incidents, and the lawsuits that often accompany them.

While the goal is well-intentioned, according to Kendzior, there are many concerns that must be addressed. First and foremost:

  • Few companies, including building service contractors,are aware of the fact that OSHA is now inspecting floors for safety, even if no accident has been reported.
  • Few organizations, as a result, including cleaning contractors, are prepared for this program.
  • The program is being instituted even though it has not actually been published by OSHA.
  • There are no clear standards yet as to what defines a safe floor and what constitutes a slippery floor.

“I’m also a little concerned about how this program will be implemented,” says Kendzior. “Will certain organizations be targeted, possibly like this fast food chain, or will the floor safety inspections be randomly selected or based on floor safety issues in different types of facilities. It’s all a bit fuzzy now how OSHA plans to carry out these inspections and who will be inspected.”

Proving floor safety

For building service contractors, OSHA’s actions are both a concern and an opportunity. They are a concern because BSCs must now take steps to ensure their customers’ floors are safe, and this is an opportunity for because the new law may open more doors, helping contractors secure new clients.

According to Craig Stephenson, vice president at American Slip Meter, now is the time for cleaning contractors and their facility manager partners to become familiar with the testing equipment that measures floor safety. The equipment manufactured by his company takes the guess work out of slippery floors by measuring the static coefficient of friction (SCOF) on floors. “SCOF refers to the grip, the friction and resistance on the floor. A rating of 0.50 COF has been traditionally recognized as providing non-hazardous walkway surfaces. This means there is enough friction to help prevent a slip and fall from occurring.” **
SCOF meters are actually a relatively new device. Their origin stems as far back as the 30’s cleaning when workers often used a simple test to determine how slippery a floor was after a finish (wax) had been applied. Using a rudimentary scale, they dragged a beanbag filled with ten pounds of beans over the floor. If there was more than six pounds of drag, the floor was considered safe. If there was less than six pounds, it was considered slippery, with the potential for a slip and fall accident to occur. Essentially, variations of this testing concept were used into the 60’s. By the early 90’s, SCOF testing systems were developed and introduced by American Slip Meter, which made measuring slip resistance far more accurate and scientific. Those measurements are widely used after the fact in lawsuits to determine if a reasonable level of care was provide to ensure floor safety of someone who had suffered a slip and fall injury.
Using slip meters can help cleaning contractors, as well as building managers, ensure that their floors are safe. To that end, Stephenson also says he is aware of cleaning contractors, floor maintenance companies, and other service workers who are meeting with clients, discussing floor safety and the liability, then offering to test their floors to ensure the floor meet safety standards. “If the floor does not meet safety standards, the BSC would then have an opportunity to strip and refinish the floors, improving their safety, and in so doing potentially win a new client,” says Stephenson. BSCs who use slip meters to demonstrate their heightened safety awareness and their ability to measure coefficient friction can market themselves and safety experts and in a litigious American society, safety control could easily be the factor that sways a bid in favor of one BSC or another.

The bottom line

OSHA is going to be placing much more attention to floor safety. Consider OSHA’s impact over the years—before it was created in the 70’s, there were approximately thirty seven workplace fatalities every day in the US. Today that number has dropped to just twelve. Measuring the SCOF of workplaces is one more way OSHA can protect workers and the public from accidental injury. While employers and budgetary committees may argue that OSHA rules and regulations have become too cumbersome and costly to comply with, OSHA’s regulations have decreased workplace accidents and deaths dramatically over the past forty five years and ultimately made the workplace safer and healthier for employees and customers.

For the most part, this is good news for cleaning contractors, if they are proactive in recognizing the potential liability that slippery floors present for themselves and their building owner. In every aspect building managers are becoming more dependent on the expertise of skilled contractors to ensure the safety of building users. The equipment and chemicals used in a facility— especially in the wet winter months when slip and fall accidents most often occur—will make a difference in how slippery floors become and if a BSC can proactively reduce liability through best practices and recording SCOF measurements, this expertise becomes a marketable service during the contract bid process.

Who the trip and fall liability could ultimately be pinned on is anyone’s guess but the potential for lawsuit along with and OSHA’s strong stance on floor safety has been enough motivation for many owners to investment in a slip meter and use it often to document coefficient friction. Let’s face it, accidents happen but the question in the court room comes down to this: ‘did everyone do all they could to make the floor safe?’

Gone are the days of dusting, cleaning vacuuming and scouring. Now, it is important to recognize that cleaning contractors play a vital role in the health, safety, and success of their customers’ business and building operations.

Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer for the professional cleaning and building industries. Only using his bio and photo in the first article that appears in the magazine.

*Occupational Safety and Health Administration

**There is another form of COF and that is dynamic COF. DCOF measures slip resistance during motion while SCOF measure slip resistance when an object (or person) is about to be put into motion.Slip_Fall

Slip-and-Fall Accidents can destroy your business

When it comes to running a business and keeping both customers and employees happy, business owners have enough to worry about, so the surprise expense of slip-and-fall accidents can be more than many owners can handle. Given how expensive these accidents can be, in terms of both time and money, business owners have to take every precaution necessary to ensure that their floors are as safe as possible.

A simple application of Nano-Grip will guarantee that wet floors are not only slip resistant but meet federal standards for safety. To find out if your floors are compliant with these standards call 855-687-0976 for a referral to your local applicator.


The High Cost of Slip-and-Fall Accidents


Even extremely minor slips and falls, those that don’t result in injury, can have a halting effect on a business, because employees and managers have to stop to deal with the situation. Unfortunately, most of these types of accidents are much more serious. The 2013 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index pegs same-level falls as the second leading cause of injuries in the workplace, with an annual cost of over $70 billion between workman’s compensation and medical costs, according to ISSA.


What’s more, slip-and-fall accidents are more likely to result in time away from work when compared to other kinds of accidents, with a median of eight days out of work compared to six, according to the ISSA report. Additionally, 30 percent of same-level falls result in more than 21 days of work lost.


As costly as these accidents can be when they happen to employees, they can be even more costly when a customer is injured. There is really no limit to how much a lost tort case can cost a business, and even if the business is able to successfully defend itself, it’s still out the cost of defending itself in court and any poor press that may result from a publicized incident.wet-floor

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) offers 3:1 matching grants to employers

Nano-Grip keeps employees safe by making floors nonslip when they are wet. For a referral to your nearest factory trained applicator call 855-687-0976.


Ohio Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Examine Latest Safety Grants Offered by the BWC

Businesses that are hoping to receive grants must maintain workers’ compensation coverage, be current with membership and premium to the BWC, and demonstrate a need for a safety intervention.

Employers in our state are required to protect the health and safety of workers at all times while on the job. The Ohio workers’ compensation lawyers at Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy explain that some businesses are achieving this by taking advantage of a grant program provided by the state.

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) provides the Safety Intervention Grant Program, which offers employers a 3-to-1 matching grant of up to $40,000 per eligibility cycle to purchase equipment and tools that can help reduce employee injuries and illness.

Businesses that are hoping to receive grants must maintain workers’ compensation coverage, be current with membership and premium to the BWC, and demonstrate a need for a safety intervention. A significant amount of information pertaining to historical claim data, employee data, production/opeation for the business and safety analysis must also be submitted as part of the application.

Companies who receive the grants must then conduct follow-up case studies and submit quarterly data reports to help determine the effectiveness of the improvements that were made. The data obtained from participating companies will then be shared with all Ohio employers.

This year, a total of 55 Ohio employers will receive up to $1.5 million for safety improvements at their businesses. A list of the organizations that will receive the grants and how the money will be spent has been provided by the BWC.pair-of-orthopedic-crutches-vector-1733309


OSHA Launches Program To Protect Nursing Employees, targets slip/fall injuries

According to a June 24th report on NPR the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has sent an “enforcement memo” to all hospitals putting them on notice that it will begin inspecting hospitals and issuing fines of up to $70,000 for violations including SLIPS AND FALLS HAZARDS.

The Nano-Grip anti-slip floor treatment process was designed to address this pervasive problem. Nano-Grip treated floors are actually less slippery wet than when dry. Nano-Grip applicators can guarantee compliance with government and industry standards for safe walking surfaces. For a free evaluation of your facility using a digital SCOF meter to measure slip resistance call 855-687-0976.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will announce Thursday that it’s going to crack down on hospitals, for the first time ever, to prevent an epidemic of back and arm injuries among nursing employees.

Nurses and nursing assistants suffer more of those debilitating injuries than any other occupation, and those injuries are caused mainly by moving and lifting patients.

As NPR reported earlier this year in a five-part series, Injured Nurses, many of those workers end up having grueling operations and quitting their jobs. Yet, most hospitals have done little to prevent the injuries — even though studies show they could.

OSHA chief David Michaels described his agency’s new program to NPR in an exclusive interview.

The public more typically hears about OSHA when the agency goes after factories where workers’ arms got cut off, or construction sites where the scaffolds collapsed. But now, Michaels says, OSHA’s inspectors will investigate what hospitals are doing to make sure that nursing employees don’t get disabled doing their everyday jobs lifting patients.

OSHA sent letters last year to hospital administrators across the country and created a companion website, warning that nursing employees suffer high rates of injuries from moving and lifting patients. But OSHA’s new initiative, outlined in an “enforcement memo” that the agency plans to send Thursday to its 10 regional offices, takes the agency from merely recommending safe practices to potentially fining hospitals if they do not adopt them.

“We’ve seen from the statistics how bad the problems are, but we haven’t been to that many hospitals — and the NPR stories helped motivate us to say, ‘What can we do?’ ” Michaels says. “It’s time for us to start doing some enforcement to make sure fewer workers are hurt.”

Nursing employees across the U.S. told NPR that their nursing schools and hospitals teach them to move patients the same way that nurses have done for more than a century: bend their knees and keep their backs straight. “Proper body mechanics” are practically a nursing mantra.

But studies show that even the best “body mechanics” can’t prevent nursing staff from getting injured. Instead, studies show, the only way nursing workers can move patients safely is if they use special equipment, such as ceiling lifts — much like factories use hoists to move heavy parts.

OSHA’s inspectors will interview nursing staff and managers, and review internal hospital documents, to answer questions such as: What kinds of machines and other devices are used by the hospital to move patients? Does the hospital have an adequate supply of the equipment? How well does the hospital train its staff to use it? Does management track and promptly treat injuries among nursing staff?

“Sadly, there will be some hospitals where we find significant ergonomic hazards, and they are at risk for serious penalties,” Michaels says. “We’re hoping most hospitals will abate those hazards before we get there. But we’ll go in, we’ll issue penalties, and that will tell the industry to change things.”

A typical penalty would likely be $7,000 per hospital, according to an OSHA official, but it could be as high as $70,000 in cases where evidence suggests that hospital administrators deliberately ignored the problem.

Under the new enforcement memo, inspectors will also investigate how hospitals are protecting nursing staff from other hazards, including attacks by patients, slips and falls, and tuberculosis.

Some health specialists are skeptical and told NPR that OSHA’s new initiative is unlikely to prod the hospital industry to change much.

“OSHA deserves credit for doing this,” says Michael Silverstein, former director of Washington state’s occupational safety and health program. But he cautioned that court decisions, political opposition in Congress and spare budgets have constrained what OSHA can do.

For instance, OSHA’s staff is so small compared to its mission that OSHA officials estimate it would take 100 years to inspect every workplace in the nation just once. So even though the agency has more than 1,000 inspectors, an OSHA official acknowledges that they will likely investigate dozens of the nation’s 4,000 hospitals each year, not hundreds.

Friend or Foe? Study Examines Seniors’ Increasing Use of Walking Aids

From the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, May-2015

The use of walking aids has increased by 50 percent in the past decade and is expected to increase as the number of seniors doubles by 2050

Newswise — America’s population of senior citizens is growing, and with it, a reliance on canes, wheelchairs and scooters. The use of walking aids has increased by 50 percent in the past decade, according to a new study, and should continue to increase as the number of seniors is expected to double by 2050.

The proliferation of senior mobility devices is surprising considering that prior research showed a correlation between device use and falling — the leading cause of death resulting from injury among adults 65 and older. Those who are fortunate enough to survive a fall spend more than $19 billion annually on directly related medical costs. Seniors will be happy to know that the latest National Health and Aging Trends (NHAT) study shows that those who use mobility devices are not falling more than those who do not.

“Previous research suggested that these devices may have altered the way people walk, thus contributing to falls, but those studies only looked within groups of people who used devices, who are already more likely to fall,” says Nancy Gell, assistant professor of rehabilitation and movement science at the University of Vermont, whose article in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society revealed the lack of correlation. “This study is the most in-depth since 2004 and shows no link between mobility devices and falls as previously thought.”

Yet, the question remains: why do more than 25 percent of older Americans now rely on canes, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters? Is it laziness? Doctors’ overprescription? Has it become more socially acceptable? Or is it just an increase in the number of senior citizens?

Why the increased reliance on walking aids?

Gell, a physical therapist with a PhD in exercise science, sought the answers in her article “Mobility Device Use in Older Adults and Incidents of Falls and Worry About Falling,” based on an in-depth analysis of the NHAT study. She considered multiple factors including whether the increase is due to greater acceptability, greater longevity and a correction for unmet needs in previous decades. The main culprit could be the underlying problems leading to mobility device use in the first place such as obesity, strength deficiences or issues with balance or cognition. More research is needed, she says, to understand if greater reliance is tied to physical issues such as obesity and weakness or to social issues such as greater acceptability and access.

Regular participation in physical activity could prevent many mobility issues, according to Gell, whose primary goal is to reduce sedentary behavior and increase physical activity in older adults with chronic conditions and mobility impairments. “Understanding the determinants of greater mobility device use will provide insight into the training needs of older adults and whether current mobility device training standards are sufficient for safety and mobility, and whether use tracks appropriately with current needs.” Gell says.

Gell reported for the first time that a large percentage of the older adult population uses more than one mobility device. In fact, more than nine percent now rely on multipe devices. Overall individual device use in America shows that 16.4 percent of seniors use a cane; 11.6 percent use walkers; 6.1 percent use wheelchairs; and 2.3 percent rely on scooters. “It’s important that we consider why people are increasingly using more than one device and ask related questions,” she says. “Are they being trained on one, but using two or three? Do people get one device paid for with insurance and then have to pay for two or three out of pocket? Are they safe on two or three devices?”

Gell found that cane-users, in particular, were more likely to report limiting activity due to fear of falling, compared to those who don’t use any devices. “Staying active is a key component to staying healthy and maintaining mobility and function,” she says. “For many people, a cane is the appropriate device for their circumstances to stay mobile. However, if worry about falling continues despite using a cane for support, it is worth considering a different device in order to be as active as possible.

Weighing the risks of ‘actively falling’ with a ‘safe sedentary’ life

Despite some studies showing that active seniors are more likely to fall simply because they are creating more opportunities, Gells says the benefits of being active outweigh the negative health outcomes of being sedentary. In Vermont, for example, activity levels are high among older adults, but so are fall rates. According to America’s Health Rankings, Vermont is fourth best for physical activity among seniors but is also in the top ten for most falls.

“The question is if it’s better to be active or sedentary and not risk falling. We think it’s better to be active,” Gell says. “My work is always focused on the idea of return to function and how to help people stay active as they age.

Nano-Grip keeps seniors safe by making walking and bathing surfaces slip resistant. Call today to have your floors tested for compliance with industry and government standards for slip resistance. 855-687-0976

A study of the physiological causes of slip and fall incidents

This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

Attentionally Avoiding Traps – and Trips

The takeaway is this is a combo skillset that is neither haphazard nor hereditary; attention control can definitely be improved with the right practices.

When attention slips, so can we. Likely because the mind leads the body. Attention is much more than solely “mental” – it drives what our body does. Every action begins with our brain sending signals to activate specific muscles for accomplishing selected tasks such as reaching, grabbing, lifting, or walking. In other words, what we see + what we intend + what we direct all lead to what we actually do. Understanding this, internal martial arts masters instruct students to initially focus on affecting attacker’s perceptions: “First move their mind in order to move their body.” Similarly, skid control trainers remind drivers to “Stare, don’t steer, into a turn.” That where you focus is where you’ll wind up heading (termed “target fixation” in aviation.)

Turning attention toward preventing the persistent problems of slips, trips, and falls, I’m sure you’ve seen similar statistics over and again – they don’t seem to change much. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 223,700 cases involving falls, slips, trips in 2012. But how many more went unreported? Off the record, numerous corporate Safety pros reveal these are among the most underreported incidents. And what about those slip or trip injuries that are coded differently because they result in strains and sprains or are “bodily reaction” (basically a slip/trip/balance issue that didn’t result in impact)?

Further, no surprise, this issue affects companies wherever people walk, worldwide. For example, Great Britain’s Health & Safety Executive reported that in 2013-14, falls and slips & trips accounted for over a third (35 percent) of all employee injuries.

Standard responses to these persistent problems are good and all and have undoubtedly managed to keep slips/trips/falls from becoming worse. But even with best mats/signs/flooring/reminders and footwear, the level of these injuries has still clearly been holding steady at a dull roar. And, regrettably, there are some convinced nothing else could be done, that these injuries are inevitable and ultimately unpreventable. In counterpoint, strongest leaders know that all problems have solutions, even if they haven’t yet discovered them.

Consider another approach: placing people more in control of their own safety by transferring to them the right mental and physical skills. This has shown to consistently prevent slips/trips/falls; it begins, as many things do, with attention.

Performance psychologist Robert Nideffer sees attention as having two dimensions: width and direction. Width means its field – what you see and/or hear or smell or feel – can be narrow or wide. Direction refers to where you focus, either internally (thoughts, recalling procedures, dwelling on nagging pain in part of body, etc.) or externally (objects strewn on the ground ahead and more). We may be too narrowly focused to see that we could have walked around that slippery area or trying to be so externally aware that we didn’t notice we were holding our breath (raising tension and sapping balance) when traversing an at-risk surface. I’ve found that a high-level ability to prevent slips, trips, and falls relies on being able to combine and shift between attentional fields, appropriately scanning for surface changes or obstacles with a wide/external view, then zooming in with a narrow external view – to note, for example, how elevator floor and threshold are at slightly different heights – while maintaining a wide/internal sense of balance.

Regrettably, I can’t transfer personal techniques for preventing slips/trips/falls in writing (or video) any more than can I try to help you experience the taste of a spice you’ve not yet tried. However, rest assured it’s readily possible to help all kinds of workers of all ages learn how to better keep their balance while on the move and significantly reduce injuries from slips, trips and falls. But this has to emanate from leaders opening their mental vistas to provide for workers’ learning the right skills for becoming more in mental and physical control of their own safety. Ultimately, real attention to highest-level Safety begins with leaders

The Nano-Grip floor safety system of nonslip treatment and aftercare relieves the brain of  the complications which arise from encountering a slippery surface while traversing an otherwise safe surface. One simple application renders mineral floors such as tile and marble less slippery wet than dry. For a referral to a local Nano-Grip applicator to have your facility evaluated call 855-687-0976 .images