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While the world grapples with the fear of bombs and militants, I am battling with a fear of slippery ground. Let us take a look at the statistics… Everyday, the average non-sedentary individual spends at least two or more of his waking hours walking on floors or pathways. There is a 50% chance of slipping or tripping and being seriously injured.

Uneven ground and steps in unexpected locations have always been safety hazards. One would like to believe that levelled floors are safer. Unfortunately, this is not so. We could attribute this to many reasons, but two factors come to mind instantly – the choice of flooring and the process followed to keep it clean.

Floor cleaning is a process that requires a sequence of steps that render the floor clean and more importantly dry. What is done, in reality, is quite different. A quick coverage of the floor surface with a dripping wet, long-handled mop is the usual shortcut that is followed in many organizations. The result is often a wet floor that is at high risk. Airport lounges, corridors in offices and educational institutions are among the many places where people are either walking hurriedly or even running, throwing caution at the air.

The choice of a smooth and polished marble or granite floor may seem ideal because it looks upmarket, is easy to clean and enables stringent hygiene standards to be maintained. Many hospitals select these floorings because of the advantages that they provide. The disadvantage is that a little water spill renders the floor as slippery as a banana skin! A physiotherapy centre that I was visiting recently for treating a frozen shoulder, had selected polished granite for the steps and flooring. The flooring was fine as long as the weather was also fine. But, during monsoon, rain water got pooled at the base of the staircase and the wet steps were a fear factor for patients entering the building. Many patients, already afflicted with injuries to the lower limbs, had to take every step with hesitation and fear. Ironically, one of the physiotherapists slipped and fell.

In my ongoing search of preventive factors for these slip-ups, I must issue a warning about the seemingly innocuous floor mat that is placed at the entrance to rooms and bathrooms. These mats are often backed with plastic and become lethal because of what lies beneath a wet floor! As a victim of this situation, it must have been the only moment in time when my desire to laugh at the incredulous expression on the faces of the people who opened the door to find me at floor level, was stifled by the severity of the pain resulting from the fall. I have, since then discovered that there have been many victims of a similar circumstance.

I understand that statistics would reveal facts and figures that may be useful to analyse the likelihood of accidents from slippery floor surfaces, but that is not my intent… My purpose is to ensure that processes for cleaning floors ensure that floors are not only clean but also dry and free from any residue of cleaning agent. Until that is guaranteed, here is a piece of advice WATCH YOUR STEP!

Avril Sule

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