Finnish Fall Findings Focus on Floor Finishes

By: October 27th, 2008 Email This Post Print This Post

Sorry for the over-the-top alliteration, but I knew I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to use it when I attended a presentation on slip, trip, and fall (STF) hazards at the Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare (AOHP) annual meeting in September.

During the meeting, James W. Collins, PhD, a researcher at NIOSH, shared the latest information on STF, which is the No. 1 cause for workers’ compensation claim in healthcare.

Collins and colleagues used data from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health—they are the world’s experts on slip surfaces, he explained—and Liberty Mutual insurance company to design an STF prevention study that looked at seven shoe types and eight floor types in three hospitals.

One shoe type, Shoes for Crews, proved to be superior to all other shoes in preventing STF, but it was routinely rejected by healthcare workers due to aesthetics, said Collins. Clog wearers take note: the poor STF prevention qualities of clog-like shoes did not even qualify that style for consideration, Collins explained.

Concerning floors and floor finishes, the NIOSH study found quarry tiles to provide best footing under oily conditions, and matte or dull floor waxes the best STF protection in the healthcare facilities studied.

Even with this data, healthcare management will not always make the right decision. When Collins explained the advantages of dull wax finishes, a hospital administrator rejected the suggestion because in that facility, slick, shiny floors were associated with the infection control campaign against hospital acquired infection.

That reasoning is tough to figure.

Cautioning that the conclusions to the NIOSH study have not been approved or officially published yet, Collins said that the data suggests that STF decreased by 59% when the hospitals adopted the study recommendations.


By kathleen cronin on November 25th, 2008 at 10:19 am

I was glad to read about this, at our hospital we have discussed this issue in our Enviroment of Care committee. Thanks.

By Gary DeSantis on February 2nd, 2009 at 11:28 am

Although I certainly am not able to disagree with Dr. Collins my logic tells me that high gloss and slip resistance are not mutually exclusive. Floor coatings exhibiting slip resistance as defined by, say U.L., should not be any “slicker” or slip promting than a non-gloss finish. Further, in my practical experience, I have noticed the use of a Floor Restorer (again meeting U.L. slip standards)and buffing after provides a much “slower”, more postive surface. We have found that soil conditions can promote negatively slip resistance. All floors regardless of gloss levels must be maintained rigorously and regularly to promote slip resistance. That regular maintenance can and should produce a high gloss level that is no faster or less slip resistant than a dull finish.

By Mike Gunderson on May 26th, 2009 at 1:29 am

While a high gloss floor finish is likely no more slippery than a dull finish, the fact is that a high, deep gloss finish on floors creates an illusion to the eye of being wet. This is especially true for elderly people who do not see as clearly as they may once have. What can happen for many people who come walking onto a high, deep gloss floor, is that they change their gait, sometimes expecting to slide along the floor as if on ice. This can in fact cause trips to occur more so than slips. True slips typically occur when the floor is actually wet. Conventional floor finishes are often particularly slippery when wet because the finish will actually emulsify in many cases. Because it is difficult to truly maintain a high gloss finish to keep the shine consistent, excessive mopping or wet scrubbing is often done, which can leave floors wet for a longer period of time than they should be. This creates the opportunity for highly hazardous environments. A very good alternative for finishing floors is ultra-durable urethane which provides a naturally high slip resistance and maintains its shiny appearance with much less effort. Microfiber mopping is very effective, and you can use hot water which generates faster evaporation, so the surface is not slippery for nearly as long. Conventional finishes do not play well with hot water, so cold water must be used. This country would do very well for the environment, indoor air quality, health and safety and cost factors if it would begin using the latest technologies for floor care rather than the same old conventional wax that has been used for decades and has never been improved in terms of durability or maintainability. Conventional finishes are not made to perform, they are made to require maintenance so that machines and additional chemical products will be purchased regularly. It’s time a change was made for the benefit of all.


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