While at a recent visit to our local emergency room with my elderly aunt, I observed two separate incidents of hospital personnel slipping on the wet floor while we were waiting in the exam room. The staff was incredibly busy that evening and everyone was bustling around, the facilities at full capacity. I began to question the quality of my aunt’s care as I watched our healthcare professionals slipping across the floor, at risk of injury themselves.
Upon further research, I was surprised to learn that private industry hospital workers are at greater risk of injury and illness than workers in many other fields that are traditionally considered dangerous, including construction and manufacturing. The second highest cause of injury in these facilities is from slips, trips, and falls (STF), and the leading cause of these falls is contaminants on the floor - particularly in food service areas, at building entrances, and in areas around soap dispensers, drinking fountains and decontamination areas. These injuries can result in lost time or disability for the worker, driving up costs for the healthcare provider.
The good news? Research has shown that implementing a comprehensive STF prevention program in hospitals can significantly reduce the number of injuries. Here are some simple, effective ways to improve the environment of your healthcare facility and minimize risk.
1. Provide, communicate and maintain a written housekeeping protocol.
Creating well-documented housekeeping procedures can ensure quality and consistent methods of clean-up throughout your facility. Ensure that each employee receives a copy of the protocol and training on its implementation. A comprehensive program should include:
How to promptly contact the housekeeping department
Where to store cleaning materials and products and how to use them
When to use wet floor signs and barriers and where they are kept
When specific areas of the facility should be cleaned
Appropriate cleaning methods for floors and other surfaces (specifically, a two-step mopping process rather than simply damp-mopping)
Posting additional copies of the housekeeping protocol throughout the building can ensure that, no matter the time or place, contaminants on the floor will be dealt with quickly and effectively.
2. Keep floors clean and dry.
There are several effective strategies for maintaining clean, dry floors:
Simply encouraging your employees to cover, clean or immediately report spills, and advertising the housekeeping phone number through emails and posters, can go a long way toward reducing hazards.
Provide proper floor mats. Placing water-absorbent walk-off mats at all entryways can keep dirt and moisture from entering the building. Mats designed specifically for contamination control can prevent the spread of germs and bacteria. Mats should be large enough so that several footsteps fall on the mat to clean contaminants off the bottoms of shoes, should be non-slip, and should be flat or use a beveled edge in order to keep from becoming a hazard themselves. Not sure which mats are right for your facility, or wondering when it’s time to replace curled, ripped, or worn mats? Request a free site survey and let our experts answer your questions.
Provide paper towel holders, trash cans, and umbrella bags near entrances and water fountains.
Properly maintain the drip pans of ice machines and food carts to prevent water from spilling onto the floor.
3. Use highly visible barriers and signs.
Improve lighting in dimly-lit spaces. Prevent entry into contaminated, wet areas by using tall caution signs. Barrier products or caution tape can be used to keep employees away from an area being cleaned or from stepping on a spill. And don’t overlook the importance of removing all signs once the floor is clean and dry - otherwise, staff may find them commonplace and ineffective and simply ignore them.
4. Wear slip-resistant shoes.
Proper footwear is a key component to an STF prevention program, particularly for healthcare staff who work in perpetually wet areas such as dishwashing and surgical instrument decontamination. Non-slip bottoms can prevent falls even on wet floors and are a must in the healthcare field. Want to ensure that all your employees wear slip-resistant shoes? Offer to share the cost of approved shoes or provide a payroll deduction option for shoe purchases.
On the night of my aunt’s emergency room visit, I actually made a suggestion to the charge nurse on duty that they consider some new procedures. In an environment of such high risk for injury, it’s good to know that there are simple, effective changes that can be made to significantly reduce the risk of slips, trips, and falls. I’m hopeful that the next time I go to the hospital I’ll find improvements in their safety practices, both for the benefit of the hospital employees and for their patients.