Slips, trips, and falls have been, and continue to be, one of the top two or three loss drivers encountered in much of the broad spectrum of hospitality settings. Slip and trip hazards present a risk both for guests and employees of an operation in the hospitality industry. The safety or risk management staff in a hospitality operation is faced with real-world challenges that they must often live with for years. Practical approaches and a solid risk management strategy can minimize these risks and the associated loss exposure.
There are some basics aspects of any approach to preventing slips, trips, and falls. The underlying philosophy follows classic industrial safety practice; beginning by engineering out hazards, and then mitigating remaining hazards with administration and management.
Before a property is constructed, the opportunities are greatest to reduce slip, trip, and fall risks. It is important for a safety or risk management professional to be involved in the design process, preferably from the concept phase. The early stages are the best time to get things properly set up to minimize risk. It's important not to limit design input to mere details, but to look at broader concerns as well, such as use of elevation changes in the design.
Governmental and industry standards are a key starting point for good design. If a facility isn't "up to code," it begins at a disadvantage before it is even open for business. There is the issue of sorting out which codes apply in a given situation, and sometimes the best approach is collaboration between the project architects and safety professionals.
Some important elements of design for risk reduction are not fully addressed in most governmental codes, such as coefficient of friction (COF) or slip index values, or the means of measurement a COF value relates to when one is given. These are reasons why internal standards can make sense for even relatively small organizations. Internal standards can be a basis for specifications for new or remodel construction, and allow the safety practitioner to achieve a high level of safety.
Even when a company standard has been established, individual projects still require attention. It can be as simple as a slightly different interpretation of one point of a standard, or as complex as a major shift in design goals trading safety for aesthetics or cost. These are all reasons why significant participation in the design process is very valuable.
To fully realize the value of good input in the design phase, there must be check-ins during construction. Last minute design changes, field adjustments, material substitutions, and varying construction tolerances are all best caught at this stage. It is helpful to have a checklist or specification sheet to refer to while on job walks and project reviews.
It is also useful to take measurements, particularly slip resistance measurements. Beware inadequate methods of slip resistance measurement.