It is fuel for one of the oldest slapstick gags in the film industry, and the cause of incalculable giggling when witnessed in real life. But slipping on a wet floor is anything but funny for those who fall victim to such an accident, and when the rainy season hits, the risk of work personnel picking up serious injuries increases.

In fact, workplace accidents involving slipping on wet surfaces – whether in hallways, lobby areas or workplace washrooms – are quite common, with more than 68,000 recorded in Australia alone in 2014.

It stands to reason then, that properly managing wet floors in washrooms, or anywhere else in the workplace, is an important part of establishing a safe working environment. At Alsco, we are proud to play our part, providing a range of protective floor mats that absorb spills, drips and overflows, and are slip resistant for added security under foot.

These mats can be used in a variety of locations, from kitchen and processing locations to entrance ways. But amongst the most practical locations are workplace washrooms, either inside around the sink area where water spillage is common, or at the entrance way to protect people slipping on the way in or out of the amenity.

How Serious Is The ‘Wet Floor’ Problem?

In truth, it’s difficult to find statistics relating specifically to washroom incidents, but there is plenty of information highlighting the significance of the broader ‘wet floor’ accident category. According to figures in Key Work Health and Safety Statistics 2014, published by Safe Work Australia, injuries caused by falls, trips and slips represented 21.4% of all serious workers compensation claims in 2011-2012.

Its prominent share of workplace injuries continues, with the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reporting that between July 2013 and June 2014, Australian workplaces registered 68,200 ‘falls on the same level’ (which includes slips and trips), or 13% of the total number of work-related injuries and illnesses over the 12-month period.

In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that the vast majority of about 1,300 registered incidents of slips and trips in the food and drinks industry (pubs and restaurants etc) are accounted for by slips (80%), and of them 90% were cause by wet floors.

Meanwhile, the US reports 540,000 serious slip and fall injuries in the workplace on average each year, with as many as 460 workplace fatalities directly related to slips on wet floors.

The indictment of the ‘wet floor’ problem at work is pretty clear, but there is little reason for the threat to remain so high. Adequately managing wet floors in your workplace is not a very complex undertaking, and there are several steps that can be taken to greatly reduce the risk of falling on a wet floor, in washrooms, kitchens, lobbies or anywhere else.

The Danger Areas

Whatever the nature of your business, slips and trips are always a risk – even in carpeted offices, staff can trip over a dog-eared carpet corner and get injured in the fall. Wet areas are usually confined to specific locations, however, and while statistics fail to identify the precise location of incidents involving wet surfaces, common knowledge tells us they are confined to 6 main areas. These are the

  • front and rear entrances, where rainwater is carried in on wet shoes, clothes and umbrellas,
  • kitchens, where water, grease, oil and moist ingredients can fall to the ground. Also refrigerators and other temperature-controlled food storage units might leak.
  • lobbies and waiting rooms, again where water from outdoors can be allowed to drip
  • washrooms, where splashing around sinks, overflowing toilets and leaking pipes can lead to wet areas
  • canteens, where spills can occur during break and lunch time. Also, cisterns dispensing hot or cold drinks, and refrigerated display units may leak.
  • warehouses and workshops where machinery oils, detergents and other liquid chemicals might spill.

Of course, any areas where there is a normally smooth surface – like marble floors or ceramic tiled floors – are aesthetically impressive and easy to clean, but they become hazardous surfaces should there be spillage at all.

So, What Can You Do?

As with all health and safety issues, there are several steps you can take to counter the likelihood of there being an accident. In fact, managing wet floors in washrooms, entrance lobbies and general walkways, is perhaps the most straightforward of all the safety-related tasks in any working environment.

We have put together a shortlist of the top 6 tips for managing wet floors in washrooms at work, and in that way protecting staff and visitors from the threat of slipping and suffering an injury – or worse.

Tip 1- Don’t Keep Wet Areas Secret

Our first and most logical tip is to make sure everyone knows if the floor is wet. Generally, this involves placing a ‘Caution – Wet Floor’ sign or a safety cone, strategically at the edge of the wet area. We say ‘strategically’ because it should warn people before they reach the wet area, not when they are in the middle of it. In the case of small spillages, such as from a coffee cup or drinks bottle, one sign should adequately cope with the task, but for larger areas, you may need to use 2 or more signs.

In a workplace washroom, the most common wet area is around the sink, where water frequently splashes over the top and then drips onto the floor below. However, wet areas can also be caused by leaking pipes or overflowing toilet cisterns or bowls in the cubicle. Wherever it may be, let your work mates know about the spillage and where it is immediately, and contact the staff member responsible for looking after a clean-up.

Tip 2 – Block Access

The second step is to block any access to the wet area. Having one or two wet floor stands or cones cornering the area is fine, but that is not enough to ensure workmates don’t wander onto the wet surface, placing themselves are risk. This is always important, but particularly so when managing wet areas in washrooms with frequent traffic, like those in medium to large offices or where customers might visit too.

There are a few options available to you to block access, like portable plastic barriers that can be hooked together to surround the danger zone. Barriers might also have retractable canvas belts, which are ideal for blocking off large spillages, or expandable barriers with scissors-action plastic slats, which are perfect from cordoning off smaller areas.

Tip 3 – Keep Cleaning Equipment Handy

Obviously, removing any spillage or overflow quickly is the most essential part of managing wet areas in washrooms or anywhere else. So, it stands to reason that the equipment necessary to do the cleanup should always be close by and easy to find.

The selection of products and equipment is pretty straightforward, with buckets and mops the most obvious, but it’s a good idea to have highly absorbent material (blankets, paper etc) to cover an area quickly and soak up the moisture. If you have janitorial staff, then this is something they can look after.

Otherwise, appoint someone to oversee things, and ensure they have a detailed list of ‘must-haves’ properly stocked. And most important of all, make sure everyone knows where the equipment is, just in case something happens before or after the janitor is gone.

Tip 4 – Maximize Awareness

We’ve already mentioned how important it is not to keep wet areas and spillages secret, and to warn workmates to take care. But being sure that everyone is constantly aware of the risk is important too. After all, vigilance is an essential tool when it comes to staying safe and keeping standards high.

So, it’s a good idea to put up posters in areas to promote awareness of the risks, like in the canteen, on corridors and (of course) in the workplace washroom itself. There are plenty of safety at work signs to download that address this particular problem. Just be sure they are large enough to see clearly, and not a small A4-sized print out hidden behind office plants or an open boardroom door.

Tip 5 – Choose The Right Floor Mats

Of all the areas in a workplace, the washroom is probably the favourite to find a wet and slippery floor surface. But while it’s a great idea to have a mop and bucket close by and posters that keep your workmates alert to risks, laying down a floor mat remains one of the most practical solutions. Why? Because they dramatically reduce the chances of slipping – even if the spill has not yet been cleaned up.

The secret is in the design of the matting chosen. Advances in technology and materials development means there is an array of mats available that are highly slip-resistant and absorbent, effectively locking away much of the moisture while ensuring the mat itself does not slide underfoot and cause a fall.

Successfully managing wet areas in washrooms means finding a way to negate the risk of injury. At Alsco, we provide a variety of floor mats specifically designed to handle wet areas and reduce the risk of slipping. Depending on the nature of your work, there may be certain wet area mats needed for certain sections of the workplace. For example, there are thick mats that let liquid and debris to fall through while keeping workers above the spillage and allowing them to work on. They are popular in kitchens and workshops, but equally effective around those sink areas in workplace washrooms.

Entrance mats normally suitable for lobby areas are highly absorbent too, which can be useful if placed at the doorway into the washroom, but they can also be used around the sinks too. For more on Alsco Mats, check out our online brochure.

Tip 4 – Choose The Right Cleaning Schedule

Finally, we want to highlight the wisdom in choosing the right cleaning schedule. Why? Well, an essential part of maintain a clean workplace is to mop the floors. These need enough time to dry, otherwise your commitment to hygiene will only create a safety hazard.

The logical choice is to have the cleaning done early in the morning, before the staff arrive for work, or in the evening after they have left. But it is important to schedule the cleaning with sufficiently drying time in mind. Don’t do it 30 minutes before work starts – make it 90 minutes or even 2 hours, if possible.

Of course, even with enough time provided, it’s important that the normal safety procedures be maintained. That means placing the ‘Wet Surface’ signs where necessary, and not allowing any possibility of a mishap occurring.

Solve The Problem With Alsco Mats

Over the years, Alsco has become a trusted name in the textile rental industry, serving a variety of industrial sectors Australia-wide. Through Alsco Mats, we provide floorcare solutions for every situation, making us the perfect option when it comes to managing wet areas in washrooms, kitchens, lobbies, and corridors.

And because we provide a complete mat rental service, our clients avoid the often high costs associated with purchases, maintaining and replacing floor mats in the workplace, with weekly rates starting from less than $1 a day.

Some of the key benefits of mat rental and you’ll see it makes good business sense:

  • Keeps floors clean and prevents floor damage
  • Presents a clean image to your staff and customers
  • No capital outlay
  • Tax deductible advantages
  • Complete managed service

For more on how Alsco Mats can contribute to a safer workplace in an affordable and reliable way, simply visit the website. You can also check out our range of floor mats on our brochure. And if you want to speak to one of our experienced team, you can fill our online enquiry form, or call us at 1300-659-892.