Floor Mats and Slip & Falls
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Learn More About Slip Resistant Floor Mats
South Florida’s damp climate and frequent rain cause a number of hazards for many customers and guests of our local businesses (grocery stores, convenience stores, office buildings, hotels and restaurants). As a result of our rainy conditions and other dangerous conditions (oily substances and grease at restaurants and condensation from refrigeration cases at grocery stores), there are precautions that business owners should take to protect their customers and guests from slipping and falling. One precaution is the placement of slip resistant mats at all entrances and other places where these dangerous floor conditions can exist. In fact, the presence of a well placed and well maintained non-slip mat may demonstrate that a business owner is actively taking preventive measures to avoid a slip and fall and it also shows their committment to protecting their customers and guests.
FLOOR MAT BASICS:
It is a general rule, that the longer the floor mat is, the more effectively it can absorb rain water from things like umbrellas, shopping carts and everyday footwear. On a rainy day, mats placed at a business location should allow for a minimum number of paces in the normal direction of foot traffic, allowing the mat a chance to absorb any water that may accumulate at a door or entrance way. Additonally, proper placement and good maintenance can have a considerable impact on the effectiveness of slip resistant mats.
Dirt, excess moisture and grease or oily substances are some main contributors to most slip and fall accidents. While every business is different, identifying problem areas where these materials may build up can help business owners protect their customers and guests from a slip and fall injury. For example, in grocery stores, water absorbent mats should not only be placed at entrance ways but also placed in and around refrigerated and freezer cases to anticipate possible water leakage.
Walk off mats should be standard at all entrances, and, according to the Carpet and Rug Institute, there should be, for certain types of businesses, 15-20 feet of mats to insure all of the contaminants are trapped, and 20-25 feet on rainy days to absorb excess water. In some instances, the mat’s edges should be secured with carpet tape to avoid rolling or curling therefore avoiding a tripping hazard. Markers may be painted on the floor to remind staff or employees to place a slip resistant mat in the proper position.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD MAT:
It is recommended that slip resistant mats be constructed of rubber or cocoa fiber. These materials help remove water and dirt from the soles of shoes. A mat that is certified as “High Traction” by the National Floor Safety Institute will provide the highest level of slip resistance and these mats are less likely to move, curl, or bunch. The color of the slip-resistant mat may also aid in preventing a slip and fall accident. Experts suggest the color of the mat should contrast with the color of the flooring. Additionally, for a smooth transition the edges of the mat should taper down toward the floor and ideally mats should not exceed ½ inch in height. Thick mats should be constructed with beveled bright yellow edges to minimize tripping and maximize visibility and when placing mats outside of an establishment, a scraper, a wiper-scraper or a recessed mat are highly recommended.
Proper maintenance of all floor mats is required to insure that the mat being used to prevent a hazard does not itself become the hazard. Mats that are curled, ripped or worn should be replaced immediately and it is also important to clean the surface of a slip resistant mat in order to preserve its surface roughness. After cleaning, floor mats should be allowed to dry flat before being used again and business owners should have extra mats so that worn and wet mats can be replaced. Additionally, during rainy weather, mats should be changed frequently.
Here is what ISSA, a worldwide cleaning industry association, and Alliance, an OSHA cooperative says about proper maintenance:
“These materials (slip resistant mats and rugs) need to be regularly inspected for the buildup of contaminants and deterioration that could lead to the creation of fall hazards. Keep in mind that while mats reduce the likelihood of producing slips, improperly maintained mats can create trip hazards.”
MAT LIFE EXPECTANCY:
There are many factors that can affect the life expectancy of a slip resistant mat. Some manufacturers, and retailers, make claims about the life expectancy of their mats based upon the material used to construct the mat. For instance, some manufacturers suggests that Urethane Mats will last 5 or more years, that Molded PVC Mats are expected to last 3-5 years, Molded Rubber Mats should last 2-3 years, and PVC Sponges have a life expectancy of only 6-12 months. Of course those are just generalized predictions, the amount of foot traffic, excessive temperatures, exposure to chemicals, oils and/or fluids, maintenance procedures, as well as the type of cleaning compounds used can dramatically cause life expectancy of a slip resistant mat to vary.
What Does Florida Case Law Say About Floor Mats?
In Florida, there is body of case law related to slip and fall lawsuits which involve floor mats related to issues ranging from improper placement to failure to use floor mats during inclement weather. This case law has influenced the way business conducts itself. For example, in Teresa Walker vs. Winn Dixie Stores, Inc. the case involved Winn-Dixie’s standard policy to implement a “Rainy-Day” plan. This plan includes putting out an umbrella rack, orange cones and floor mats when it either looked as though it was about to rain or when it was already raining.
Quick Slip And Fall Facts:
Do You Have An Injury Claim For a Missing, Misplaced or Damaged Floor Mat?
If you have suffered an injury from a slip and fall caused by a missing, misplaced or damaged floor mat, then you may have a legal claim against the owner and operator of the property where the accident occurred. Sometimes, determining who is responsible (the hotel manager, the franchise owner, the restaurant cleaning crew, etc.) may be difficult to determine and an experienced Florida slip and fall lawyer can be very helpful in making sure you collect all of the damages that you are entitled to for your claim.
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