WILMINGTON, Mass. — Working in a nursing home or residential care facility can be particularly hazardous to your health, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA says such employees miss work at a rate that is 2.3 times higher than all other private industry businesses combined, largely related to accidental slips, trips and falls.
OSHA has targeted these healthcare facilities in a national emphasis program (NEP), meaning it will now be inspecting such businesses, specifically, for safety violations over the next three years. And it will be keeping tabs on all types of businesses for slips, trips and falls because data shows such accidents cause 15% of all accidental deaths in North America—second only to car accidents.
“Since dirty and wet walking surfaces are often cited as causes of preventable accidents, safety-minded businesses often include commercial 'floor mat systems' to help prevent slips and falls,” says Adam Soreff, director of marketing for UniFirst, a company that provides commercial floor mat and uniform services.
The most effective floor mat systems, according to Soreff, consist of placing scraper mats with raised rubber cleats outside entranceways to remove heavy dirt and moisture first, and then placing carpet-topped walk-off mats inside entrances to trap any residual dirt and moisture. Placing walk-off mats in all heavy traffic areas inside helps contain soiling and moisture even further.
And there are special mats available, such as “wet area” mats that funnel spilled liquids beneath their surfaces (recommended near areas such as sinks and drinking fountains) and anti-fatigue mats that can reduce muscle and joint fatigue (helpful wherever employees stand for long periods of time).
It's imperative that businesses look for industrial-grade mats specifically constructed to lie flat and stay put, Soreff adds. UniFirst recommends mats certified as “high traction” by the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI).
Even the highest quality floor mats must be professionally cleaned, maintained and inspected on a regular basis to remain clean and fully functional. “Vacuuming alone won't do it, and neither will a scrub brush,” Soreff says. “You've got to get deep down into rubber crevices and fiber pilings to hygienically clean floor mats.”
It's surprising that many facility managers are unaware that there are companies like UniFirst that can bundle commercial floor mat systems with other business services, he adds.