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The top 5 ways to reduce slips and falls in a restaurant

Did you know that for every 10,000 workers employed in the foodservice and hospitality industries, approximately 21 slip and fall accidents occur each year that result in at least a month-long recovery period? To make matters worse, an estimate from The National Floor Safety Institute states that the average cost of legal defense for companies against these particular cases is $50,000. 

While preventing slips and falls should be an obvious priority, even the slightest miscalculation can prove to be an expensive liability. Food and beverage spills, torn carpets, damaged flooring and poor lighting are all ingredients for creating slip and fall accidents in modern eateries. The following are five ways to reduce the chances of these accidents occurring in restaurants and commercial kitchens.

Ensure that your restaurant’s flooring has enough slip resistance.

A slip occurs when there is insufficient traction between your shoes and the walking surface. This is most commonly quantified by something called a Static Coefficient of Friction, or SCoF. The higher the rating, the less likely a slip and fall will occur. When the SCoF rating is lower than 0.6, your employees and customers are at a higher risk of experiencing a slip and fall accident.

Surfaces subject to water, grease, oils and other common restaurant contaminants are more prone to slipping; therefore, higher SCoF levels for these areas are required. When it comes to restaurants and commercial kitchens, products with a SCoF of 0.8 or greater are typically the safer option. 

Adjacent walking surfaces having similar coefficients of friction (SCoF).

While flooring surfaces between rooms may differ, this is not something a person will think about when walking from one area to the next. For example, the primary concern of a server retrieving an order from the kitchen is not the differential in SCoFs between that area and the dining room. Applying the sole of your shoe to the flooring surface creates friction, and if the difference in SCoFs between areas is too high, it can cause an accidental trip.

Clean and maintain restaurant and commercial kitchen flooring regularly per the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Even the most slip resistant floor, can become dangerous if not maintained regularly and properly. Cleaners, sealers, and waxes all have an impact on slip resistance. Using the wrong maintenance procedures can be detrimental to the slip resistance of your restaurant’s flooring and compromise safety. In the case of commercial kitchens, an eroded surface can harbor harmful bacteria that can potentially find their way into a customer’s meal in addition to contributing to slips and falls. 

Avoid this by adhering to the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning and maintenance guidelines. Certain floors require specialized maintenance routines, and straying from the manufacturer’s instructions may damage the surface integrity of the product.

Smooth, seamless transitions between flooring surfaces.

Contrary to popular belief, a raised transition strip is not the only solution to connecting adjacent surfaces. Similar to a stark difference in the SCoF, raised structures can contribute to accidental trips and impede movement. This includes tears in carpets and flooring warped from moisture and subpar installation. 

A seamless transition via heat welding or other means between areas (such as a wet to dry area transition) gives your flooring a uniform look while preventing tripping incidents caused by raised structures.

Use of contrasting LRVs to clearly identify changes in direction or elevation.

Light Reflectance Values (LRVs) and the difference they can make in an environment are not always taken into consideration. LRVs measure contrast of light on a 1 – 100 scale, with 1 being light and 100 being dark. When designing a restaurant, similar values make distinguishing two adjacent area finishes difficult. A  change in elevation can create a dangerous situation for employees and customers alike. Try using a 30 LRV difference for an adequate visual cue.

While contrasting LRVs are a great way to signal a step up or down, they can have the opposite effect when elevation remains consistent between two areas. Different LRVs can create the illusion of a change in elevation and increase the chances of tripping.