Pass the Test
Slips and trips are an important safety concern when it comes to the design and maintenance of public and commercial areas, costing UK industry in excess of £500m a year in compensation and legal fees.
And within the shopping centre sector slips and trips account for more than 75 per cent of all claims faced by malls, according to Steve Booth, director at Slip Test. “Most of these liabilities come under the category of ‘uninsurable risk’ and thus most claims are settled either directly from the service charge or from the centre itself,” Booth notes.
And he warns: “The UK is quickly following the example of the United States and is becoming increasingly litigious. Shopping centres are now facing an unprecedented increase of personal injury claims from both genuine and bogus claimants.”
Slip Test currently tests over 10 million sq ft of retail space each year, and Booth expects this to grow, particularly in the light of new legislation on corporate manslaughter which points the finger of liability firmly at companies, but also at the ‘responsible individuals’ within those companies.
“Most schemes in the UK are managed on behalf of owners by managing agents,” Booth points out. “The managing agent will appoint a centre manager to deal with the centre on a day-to-day basis. The duty of care to the public normally falls to the incumbent centre manager. This means that the centre manager and thus the managing agent can be liable for any claims for accidents such as slips and trips that occur in the centre.”
And he warns: “Each time a claim is made the cost of defending and sometimes settling a claim is coming straight off the bottom line of the managing agent’s budget. As a manager with duty of care it is the responsibility of each centre manager to ensure that flooring in public areas is safe for shoppers to use. It is also the responsibly of centre managers to limit liability both to themselves and the owner of the scheme as well as the managing agent.”
While liquid spills and dust/dirt are recognised as clear hazards, the use of inappropriate cleaning agents or methods can be equally unsafe, according to expert slip resistance testing and consultancy firm CERAM. The company has produced a free guide to the implementation of effective cleaning and maintenance regimes for slip resistant floors, which is downloadable at www.ceram.com/slip.
The guide outlines the fundamentals of effective cleaning regimes, advises on the use of specific cleaning methods and details the correct application of different types of detergents in regular use.
“The most slip resistant surfaces can become slippery if they are not maintained appropriately,” comments Lisa Cobden, senior consultant at CERAM. “In some cases the use of incorrect cleaning materials, or ineffective maintenance regimes, has cost organisations tens of thousands of pounds, often completely unnecessarily.”
“Architects, specifiers, installers and janitorial services need information with which to properly implement appropriate cleaning and maintenance regimes for the flooring that they are responsible for,” she says.
CERAM offers both the ramp and pendulum test in their UK laboratories, as well as providing a full on-site consultancy service encompassing cleaning regimes, maintenance, integrity of substrate, wearing or weathering of flooring surfaces and trafficking patterns.