Loss Control TIPS

Technical Information Paper Series

Innovative Safety and Health Solutions

Preventing Slips and Falls
Through Effective Floor Care

The procedures and products used to clean and maintain floor surfaces are sometimes a direct cause of many "slip and fall" accidents. Maintenance staff may not have proper instruction and training in floor care, may fail to follow manufacturer's directions when cleaning and applying finish, or many not understand that specific types of floors require specific types of care. Many of the best cleaning and finishing materials can be hazardous when applied improperly, and using the wrong product for a specific surface can create problems. It is critical that the right product be used on the right surface, for the right reasons, and under the right conditions.

Primary error in floor care procedure include:

  • Floors improperly stripped of previously applied finish
  • Floors improperly cleaned or scrubbed
  • Floor-treating product applied too often
  • Surface improperly buffed when buffing is necessary
  • Finish applied with improper equipment
  • Too much finishing material applied
  • Improper finish for type of floor
  • Inadequate drying time
  • Inadequate cleaning, leaving soap residue on the floor
  • Inadequate or untimely removal of spills

Use Floor Products To Increase Friction

Many floor treatments are available that can be used to increase the friction of floor surfaces. These products are made for specific types of floors and work best on the floors for which they are specially designed. However, the application of any of these products is not effective unless the floor is properly cleaned and maintained. Maintenance staff must follow specific procedures for proper application of these products in order for the treatment to be effective.

Special Maintenance Procedures for Specific Floor Surfaces

The following is an overview of various floor types and recommended maintenance procedures. In general, the two most important factors in the proper maintenance of floors are the use of the specific chemicals and procedures designed for the particular type floor involved, and the proper application of the treatment products according to manufacturer specifications.


Terrazzo tile is composed of granite and marble chips bonded with cement. It is a brittle material that is easily damaged by cleaners. The common varieties of terrazzo have very low coefficients of friction and are therefore very slippery.

Terrazzo is especially slippery under wet conditions. In addition, many sealants, when applied to terrazzo, create a slippery surface. Therefore, it is extremely important to use chemicals specifically designed for terrazzo.

Terrazzo floors may be treated with a semi-permanent seal, cleaned with a neutral liquid detergent, and coated with a slip-resistant dressing after cleaning. Floors must be flushed clear of all soap residue after cleaning and, before applying any new dressing, they must be completely stripped using a stripper designed for Terrazzo. Terrazzo floors in high traffic or public places should never be waxed.

Some terrazzo tiles contain non-slip additives. One common non-slip additive for terrazzo flooring is alundum grit. These terrazzo tiles cannot be distinguished visually from the more dangerous slippery terrazzo material. However, the cleaning process is the same for both. When proper floor maintenance procedures are followed, non-slip terrazzo floors are generally safe under both dry and wet conditions.


The surface properties and safety of marble vary depending on its origin, cut, and wear patterns that have developed on individual surfaces. Polished marble is a relatively slippery surface with a low coefficient of friction value.

Normal wear can increase or decrease slipperiness, depending on conditions. For example, marble flooring close to a street entrance, where grit and dirt is deposited, can be ground to a rough surface with a higher coefficient of friction, while marble flooring away from street entrances usually becomes highly polished.

Generally, marble steps have a very low coefficient of friction, and unless they are very carefully maintained, they can become extremely dangerous floor surfaces.

It is essential to follow manufacturer's directions when using chemicals designed for use on marble floor surfaces. Mop all marble floors, including borders, to remove all dust, grit, and debris before applying any chemical or water, and follow these general procedures to maintain marble floors properly:

  • Clean and condition. Prepare a marble floor by removing all soap build up and wash with a stone cleaner/stripper compound according to manufacturer instructions. Apply an "acid-free" marble stone cleaner and conditioner, according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Protect. Apply a permeable stone impregnator (for long-term protection) according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Polish. Apply a silicone-based "no-wash" marble polish preserver, according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Buff. Buff the floor once or twice weekly, using the type of pad and buffer speed called for by the manufacturer of the preserver. Obtain information about the pad type and rpm values (buffer speed) from the manufacturer of the preserver.
  • Keep It Clean. Keep the marble surface clean. If the floor has been properly maintained, this intermediate cleaning can be easily accomplished with only a dust broom and damp mop.

Ceramic and Quarry Tile

Ceramic tile comes in many different surface variations that are difficult to distinguish, and it is almost impossible to generalize maintenance procedures for all types. Ceramic tile is available in virgin fired condition or glazed and some have non-slip additives.

Virgin tile, such as quarry tile, has a generally high coefficient of friction. When properly maintained, it offers a relatively safe surface. Virgin tile is often sealed after installation. Many sealants give the virgin tile a ceramic appearance and a low coefficient of friction. Some tile manufacturers even warn in their literature that their tile product can be dangerous when wet.

Glazed tiles are not appropriate for high use walkway areas because they have low anti-slip friction values. Some glazed tiles are manufactured with non-slip implants; however, glazing eliminates the benefits of the friction implants.

Ceramic and quarry tile floors are designed and intended to offer a natural look. If they are very shiny, they have been improperly treated. Proper maintenance usually involves the use of stone cleaners and the use of "no wax" stone preservers. Use only chemicals designed specifically for natural and stone tile floors.

Vinyl Tile

Vinyl and vinyl asbestos tiles are plastic or plastic containing floor surfaces (such as asphalt, rubber, plastic, or linoleum). These plastic sheet tile surfaces have very low coefficients of friction. Floor products that combine cleaner and wax are not acceptable for commercial pedestrian traffic areas because of the build-up of residue that naturally occurs with their use.

The usual treatment for these resilient floor surfaces is to strip and clean the floor periodically, then to apply a non-slip wax or synthetic resin finish, and buff or polish the floor as little as possible, ensuring that the finish does not create a slippery surface. The application of "non-slip" wax dressing without buffing is highly recommended for these floors. This will allow a safe shine on the floor and will be much easier to clean. A non-slip dressing also protects the floor surface from wear and brings out the color pattern.


Fewer slip and fall accidents occur on wood floors than on other types of floors. Many stained woods provide safe floor surfaces. The customary finishing treatment for wood floors involves sanding, sealing with a penetrating sealer, and then dressing with a solvent-resistant combination cleaner and dressing. Wood floors generally become dangerous when unsafe sealants are applied or when they are oiled. The use of oil on wood flooring is not recommended because a slight film of oil may remain on the floor. If oil is used, the floor must be thoroughly wiped and dried. Appropriate commercial products other than oil are recommended; however, be sure to apply them according to the manufacturer's instructions.


Brick floors are simply that: brick. Brick floors are not usually harmed by the strongest of cleaners. They are not intended to be sealed, and should never be waxed. Brick has a naturally high coefficient of friction material and makes an excellent floor surface when left in its natural state, as long as the integrity of the brick persists and the surface remains even and relatively free of protrusions. When any type of sealant or wax is used, the natural coefficient of friction is seriously reduced. The safest method of maintaining brick surfaces is to use a strong cleaner, apply it vigorously, and thoroughly remove all soap residue.

Floor and Deck Paints

Walkway surfaces which have been painted with floor and deck paints can present serious slip and fall hazards. Most paints produce surfaces that are below a .50 coefficient of friction and are therefore dangerous. Few manufacturers and distributors provide labels or warnings advising that their products may be slippery when applied to walkway surfaces, especially under wet conditions. Additionally, very few manufactures warn that it may be necessary to include a non-slip additive (such as sand) in the paint. Some companies market non-slip additives under different labels.

Clean Floors Effectively and Safely

Several processes involved in cleaning floors have been discussed. Three of the more important concerns that must be continuously addressed for all floor types are:

  • Use soap sparingly. A little soap goes a long way. Too much soap produces dangerous, slippery residue
  • Remove all traces of soaps and cleaners. If a floor has been cleaned with liquid or powder soap, flush the surface clean with water to remove all soap from the floor surface. Thoroughly clean and rinse all mops, sponges, buckets, etc., to remove all traces of soap.
  • Maintain floors properly to limit build-up of residues. A build-up of soap and wax can defeat even the best non-slip flooring. A non-slip floor has usually been treated or impregnated with a material to increase friction. When a build-up of residue from soap, wax, or other floor preparation is allowed to accumulate, it may increase to the point that the friction-increasing material is actually buried under the accumulated residue, resulting in a slippery surface.

Use Floor Finishes and Waxes Properly

Keep the maintenance of a high coefficient of friction in mind during the application of any floor finish. Suspended polymers (plastics) are used in some contemporary floor finishes. As the floor dries, these polymers become interlocked, creating, in essence, a surface comparable to a sheet of plastic. Some of these plastic floor finishes are safe walkway surfaces before they are buffed. However, many of them have a very low anti-slip coefficients of friction and are very dangerous.

When a wax must be used, care should be taken to use a non-slip wax. Floor products that combine cleaner and wax are not acceptable for commercial traffic areas because of the build-up of residue that naturally occurs with their use. When any type of wax is used, be sure that the floor is periodically stripped, cleaned, and sealed (if appropriate for the type of floor), and that dressing is applied as indicated by the manufacturer.

If a floor is not properly cleaned and rinsed, any residue left on the floor will mix with the newly applied floor finish, destroying much of its water resistance.

Use Buffing Only As Specified

Many floor finish products on the market are not designed to be buffed. High speed buffing can drastically reduce the coefficient of friction. A floor that has been covered with what should be a very safe floor finish can often be buffed into a very slippery floor.

Developing a proper floor care regimen is an effective way to prevent unnecessary workplace injuries. To reduce your risk, train your staff on floor maintenance and secure solid liability protection from an experienced provider. The AICPA Commercial Property and Liability Program can provide added protection against all unforeseen risks, including slips and falls. For more information and serious coverage, get your free, online quote today. In just a short period of time, the AICPA Commercial Property and Liability Program can match you up with a provider who is best-suited to meet your unique insurance needs!

Preventing Slips and Falls Through Effective Floor Care
© 2005 The Hartford Loss Control Department
TIPS S 560.050

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