Every year, UK companies pay out over £800 million a year in public liability claims caused by slips on floors. Despite this, many are continuing to invest in ineffective cleaning regimes that are actually making the problem worse.
Why is this?
Put simply, when it comes to maintaining floor safety and reducing claims costs, the right arm is not talking to the left arm.
Our experience of working with companies across retail, hospitality, leisure and travel is that many of them still work in silos.
Consequently, each area of the business has different goals, targets, budgets and P&L KPIs to hit.
Looking at a supermarket, for instance, the design team could specify a new floor and come in under budget; the FM team could find a contractor to clean this floor under budget and the insurance team might only have a certain number of accidents resulting in claims and come in under budget.
On the face of it, everyone wins, as there’s a big pot of money on flooring and they spend less than this.
But dig a little deeper and the picture is not so rosy.
It’s not unusual for companies to budget for a high number of potential claims but invest much less on their floor cleaning.
With an average claim costing £14,000, this usually means that the company is much worse off overall than it needs to be.
At Bonasystems, we advise companies to take a holistic view about floor risk and consider the overall total cost of owning their floors rather than line-by-line.
Rather than planning for high claims costs, they should be looking at increasing their spend on floor maintenance and cleaning so that they can reduce their claims.
An extra £50 a month, for example, could reduce risk from 1 in 2 to 1 in 1,000,000.
They’d only have to prevent one claim every 23 years for this investment to be self-funding.
Going back to the supermarket example, with joined-up thinking, the design team could choose a slightly better surface and the FM team could specify an effective cleaning regime.
These actions on their own will make some difference, but not a significant one.
However, and this is the crucial part, the accidents and claims could fall by over 50 per cent, producing a significant overall saving.
By working together and investing in certain areas, the overall cost to the business falls.
The choice of cleaning products can make a significant difference in reducing the cost of claims.
Whilst your average lemon gel cleaner might look cost-effective on the face of it, if more is having to be used then it becomes more expensive anyway – both in terms of product cost and staff time – again adding to the bottom line.
But more importantly, by choosing the cheapest option, it is inevitable that floors risk non-compliance with HSE pendulum slip testing standards – which is the industry standard.
It is absolutely vital to get the right cleaning product for the environment.
It stands to reason, for example, that bathroom floors are more likely to become contaminated with body fats, shampoos and oils.
Similarly, kitchen floors suffer more than most environments with food components and oil.
If the cleaning of those areas is not effective enough, they will simply become more slippery, becoming more difficult to clean and increasing the risk of an accident.
Again, this comes back to the issue of departments working in silos.
So often, FM departments and their cleaning contractors are under pressure to keep costs down, particularly if they work in budget-sensitive areas such as the public sector.
In our experience, being reluctant to invest in a proper cleaning and maintenance programme will actually cost more in the long-term as it will not help achieve compliance and will not reduce the cost of insurance claims.
It is much more cost effective to look at the “cost in use”, rather than the upfront cost.
Organisations need to factor in how effective it is and the potential reduction in claims that will result.
It makes sense that if you are able to clean a floor effectively one day, it will need less work the next day.
If all these things are taken into account suddenly a product that looks “premium” becomes much more cost-effective within the bigger picture.
Companies need to be aware that the sentencing rules for health and safety breaches (of which floor safety is one) became much stricter last year.
Any breaches are now treated much more seriously, with the prospect of significant (millions of pounds worth) of fines and hundreds of thousands of pounds in claim costs, not to mention significant reputational damage.
The good news is that this is fairly easy to solve. But it takes co-operation across organisations and joined-up thinking.
The best results are often gained when each of the departments involved in either specifying, maintaining or paying for floor costs work together to discuss investment in cleaning, the knock-on effects on insurance costs and the hidden financial benefit of doing it properly.
Not only does the cost of claims decrease, so do insurance premiums and the risks of fines.
By working together to reduce claims pay-outs, organisations will actually gain financially and any outlay on a proper cleaning regime will be recovered.
For more advice and information on reducing the cost of floors visit: www.bonasystems.com
By Christian Harris, Commercial Director at Bonasystems