5 Tips for Preventing Slip and Fall Accidents in the Food Service Industry
5 Tips for Preventing Slip and Fall Accidents in the Food Service Industry
From food processing plants to restaurants, the food service industry is constantly dealing with elements that can be problematic when it comes to slip and fall injuries of workers and patrons. From grease, water, spilled food, and the high level of foot traffic in many of these places, it sets up a hazardous foundation for people to be moving about. Even with employees wearing non-slip shoes and proper training in place, it can still fail to get the job done and additional measures need to be implemented to create a safe environment. From preventing slip and falls within restaurants or within food processing plants, you can follow our five simple tips to ensure your building is as safe as possible when it comes to preventing a trip, slip or fall accident.
- Assess your facility:
Before you can prevent slips, you need to understand where they can occur. Consider walking the building with a facility manager who knows the day to day operations well so they can give you insight on common slip areas or places that frequently need mopping. Make sure to walk all areas, which could include platforms, catwalks, delivery areas, walkways, machinery stations, kitchen, and food prep areas and restrooms. Keep your eyes out for:
- Walking on surfaces that are uneven or changes in flooring height. This is a common place for a fall and can easily be remedied with caution signage, railings or a non-slip film.
- Poor lighting or visibility, including blind spots. In dark supply closets or delivery areas, consider putting in floor level illumination or egress path markings like Jessup’ to define the walkways. Blind spots might require an overhead mirror so people can see others coming around sharp corners.
- Cluttered areas could be a tripping hazard. Electrical cords and boxes are top offenders of trip and fall accidents in the workplace. This is actually a very easy fix of simply assigning an employee to keep the area tidy after the end of a shift or by better organizing the space
- Provide clean up supplies (paper towels, absorbent material, “wet floor” signs, etc) at convenient locations in the facility that all employees are aware of and can access.
- Test how safe your floors are. Review the coefficient of friction (COF) which is the measure of slip resistance, in various spots throughout your restaurant or food processing facility. You will want to test both the static COF which measures the “slip potential” and the dynamic COF which will tell you the person’s stopping ability once a slip begins. 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.
- Stairs should be treated with extra caution:
Stairs in restaurants or food processing facilities need to be maintained and with bright lighting. Make sure to provide a handrail if you have more than three stairs and for added traction, you should consider adding stair treads. Stair treads are a vital part in preventing slip and falls in restaurants and food processing plants, not to mention they are very cost effective. For example, consider a fast food location that has a basement for storage. Employees might be walking downstairs with full hands, unable to use a handrail. Or perhaps your food processing plant has stairs to walk on the floor where liquids are frequently spilled. Maybe your restaurant is downstairs and in a darker location, where patrons are at risk of a fall. All of these examples show how important it is to have a durable stair tread product in place.
- Flooring needs to be slip resistant and mop friendly:
The texture of your floors is important because they are constantly being hit with liquid elements from water to grease and even sauce or spilled beverages. You will need flooring that is not only slip resistant but also is extremely sanitary. It also has to stand up to the daily hustle, wear and tear of your employees moving about. Consider implementing an anti-slip film that is certified “High Traction” by the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) and that is also mop friendly like our Safety Track 3500 Resilient Medium Grade non-slip tape. If you noticed your floors are beginning to crack or show other depressions, consider having them fixed because moisture will begin to accumulate which can be a hazard. Depending on your facility you may want to review the extensive set of guidelines developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) regarding flooring selections— meant to eliminate risks of contamination of microorganisms and employee accidents. Bottom line, you want to make sure your floors in areas where a product is handled or stored, should be constructed of durable, easily cleanable materials, and impervious to moisture. If not, an alternative would be to utilize anti-slip treads, anti-slip mats, grit tape or other anti-slip adhesives that can be easily cleaned.
When it comes to cleaning the floors, use cleaning solutions that have the ability to cut through grease, but don’t leave a slippery residue. It is important to note that bleach will sanitize, but should not be used as a cleaner because on top of grease, it can create a very slippery environment. Try to use NFSI-certified cleaning products that are designed to keep floors high traction.
- Use mats and rugs wisely:
Mats and rugs can offer a great front line of prevention against slip and fall accidents, but they can also cause them—if not properly maintained. It may seem minor or silly but can make a huge difference. Consider employees hurrying around or patrons not paying attention and your buckled rug could pose a huge hazard. Some tips when it comes to mats and rugs include:
- Place an entrance mat at your door, but make sure it is secure to the ground. This can provide a great first line of defense against a slip by removing excess moisture from shoes. Look for a mat that either has a high traction backing or put an anti-slip tape underneath it to prevent movement, such as those certified by the NFSI.
- Only place rugs and mats on dry, clean floors. If you put a mat on a floor that can commonly get wet underneath you will just add to the potential for a slip, trip or fall. It can easily shift across the floor if it is wet underneath.
- Review your current rugs and mats. If they are looking torn, worn out, or buckled then replace them. The investment in a new mat is minor compared to the potential lawsuit of a slip and fall accident. Train your employees to report any problems with rugs or mats to the management team.
- Require employees to wear slip resistant shoes:
Wearing appropriate footwear in the foodservice industry is imperative in helping prevent slip and fall accidents. Street shoes, shoes with leather soles and athletic shoes put your employees at a higher risk to slip. As the owner or manager, contact footwear manufacturers that sell lines of shoes made specifically for the hospitality industry and they will often time come out to your location so your team can try on and purchase appropriate work footwear. It should be a staple to their uniform!
Bathrooms in any establishment can be troublesome, so it is worth touching on a few tips to help prevent slips and falls in them. Similar to other areas that have liquid present, be sure to apply non-slip mats or non-slip tape around the sinks and possibly the toilets. If possible, put your hand dryers or towels next to the sink so people don’t have to move around with their wet hands, potentially dripping water on the floor. Lastly, make sure you have an employee doing regular bathroom checks to make sure it is clean, tidy, and the floors are dry.
Some of these tips seem like common sense but are unfortunately overlooked all too often in the food service industry. With compensation and medical costs associated with employee slip/fall accidents hitting approximately $70 billion annually according to National Safety Council Injury Facts and more than 8.7 million people injured from slip, trip and fall incidents every year in the United States, the threat is very real that one could occur if proper prevention measures are not taken. Of course, accidents are bound to happen, but luckily you have the ability to lessen the likelihood of them by implementing the strategies mentioned above. By creating a safer environment for your employees and patrons to walk around in you will be improving your team morale, lessening your liability claims and providing peace of mind to all that enter your establishment.