Floors For Foodservice

Take this short quiz to discover how much you already know about slip-and-fall accidents:

How many foodservice workers--people working in or using commercial kitchens--are injured in the United States each year due to slip-and-fall accidents?

o 3 million

o 1 million

o About 500,000

How much does the foodservice industry spend each year as a result of slip-and-fall accidents in kitchen areas?

o About $1 billion

o More than $2 billion

o More than $3 billion

Of the following, which most often results in a slip-and-fall accident in a kitchen area?

o Power cords and other items left on the floor

o Lack of slip-resistant finishes on the floor

o Soil and grease buildup

According to the National Floor Safety Institute and the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 3 million foodservice workers have a slip-and-fall accident every year. This is costing the industry more than $2 billion annually, an expense that is increasing at a rate of 10 percent each year.

And the most common reason for these accidents is not power cords or the floor’s finish. Instead, it is what you probably suspected--soil and grease buildup on the floor.

At this point, you may wonder what this has to do with park and recreation facilities.

The answer is simple. Scores of park and rec centers have commercial kitchens or foodservice areas that are either used by staff or rented out to visitors on a regular basis. If the floors are poorly cleaned and maintained, they can be an accident waiting to happen.

Understanding Falls

Park and recreation managers should know there are actually four types of falls that can occur at a facility. One type is referred to as a trip-and-fall. This happens when there is an object--often unexpected--in the walking path.

A stump-and-fall or step-and-fall accident is similar. This occurs when the walker encounters some type of impediment in the floor, such as a tacky area, that causes him or her to lose balance.

Another common cause is a floor tile that is no longer even with the rest of the floor. In this case the walker stumps as a result of the raised tile and falls.

However, the most common type of fall is a slip-and-fall accident, when the interface of a shoe and the floor fails to support the walker. The walker loses his or her balance and unless he or she can correct this and recover, a fall is likely. As we have learned from the quiz, this often is a result of soil and grease on the floor--implying it was not cleaned and maintained properly.

It should also be noted that when a fall of any type occurs in a commercial foodservice area, lighting can be a contributing factor.

If lights are too bright, they can cause glare, which can actually disguise a problem area on the floor.

If lighting is too low, it can reduce the efficiency of the eye.

In other words, the walker may not see the raised or tacky area, or the soil and grease, so he or she is not able to avoid them.

To make matters worse, soil and grease often gather in grout areas, making it difficult to see, no matter what the lighting conditions.

Commercial Kitchen Floors

Possibly the safest floor that can be installed in a park and recreation center kitchen is concrete or cement.* This type of floor is considered a safe surface, and requires little cleaning and maintenance other than sweeping and mopping.

However, concrete/cement is not commonly used in commercial kitchens. What is considered the floor of choice for all types of facilities is quarry tile. Without going into too much detail, quarry tiles can be compared to half-inch bricks. They are made from a mixture of clay and other natural ingredients, and by themselves are reasonably slip-resistant.

As far as helping to prevent a slip-and-fall accident from occurring, the problem lies not with the quarry tiles but with the material used to install them. In most cases, grout helps secure the quarry tile to the floor and connect it to surrounding tiles. This forms a bond that not only secures the tiles but also helps waterproof the floor, protecting the subfloor below the kitchen.

The problem is that soil and grease tend to collect in the grout areas, and this is frequently why a slip-and-fall accident occurs.

Cleaning And Maintenance

At one time, the most common way to clean quarry-tile floors in a commercial setting was to apply powerful degreasers, deck (brush) the degreaser into the tile and grout areas, hose the floor down to wash away the chemical, and then allow the floor to air dry.

This can be time-consuming and, therefore, costly. Further, today we know that some degreasers can harm the environment, and hosing down the floor can use anywhere from 9 gallons to more than 20 gallons of water per minute.** Using this much water is simply not an option today in most areas of the country.

Adding to this, the floor can take a considerable amount of time to dry, which in and of itself can result in a slip-and-fall accident.

Today, many commercial kitchen floors are simply mopped. This is a slow process and not very effective. Numerous studies in recent years by organizations such as the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI) indicate that mopping a floor often spreads soil instead of removing it, defeating the entire cleaning purpose.

An effective option that many commercial kitchens are adopting is referred to as a “dispense-and-vac” system, comprised of a trolley-type bucket, a brush, and an attached wet/vac. The cleaning procedure is as follows:

• Fresh and measured amounts of water/cleaning solution are applied to the floor as the bucket is walked over the tiles.

• The floor is lightly brushed, ensuring that the floor surface and the grout areas are cleaned.

• Soils and liquid are vacuumed up, leaving the floor clean and dry.

It is actually this final step that is the key to the entire process. Vacuuming the solution and moisture ensures that they, along with soils and grease, are thoroughly removed from the tile and grout. Further, the floor is dry and ready for use almost as soon as it is cleaned, enhancing safety.

Tom Morrison is a frequent writer for the professional cleaning industry, and vice president of sales and marketing for Kaivac, manufacturers of No-Touch Cleaning and Crossover Cleaning Systems.

* Concrete and cement are actually not the same, although they are often used interchangeably. Cement is actually a type of concrete, made of different ingredients in different quantities, and processed in a different manner. However, for our purposes here, we will refer to them as essentially the same.

**Depends on the diameter of the hose, from one-half inch to three-quarters inch, along with the water pressure.