Working in a nursing home or residential care facility can be hazardous, according to OSHA, which estimates that nursing home employees miss work at a rate that is 2.3 times higher than all other private industry businesses combined. These lost-time days largely are related to accidental slips, trips and falls.

OSHA has made these facilities the target of a national emphasis program (NEP), which means the agency now will be inspecting such businesses, specifically, for safety violations over the next 3 years.  It also will be keeping tabs on all types of businesses for slips, trips and falls, because data shows such accidents cause 15 percent of all accidental deaths in North America – second only to car accidents.

"[Nursing home and residential care workers] have dedicated their lives to caring for our loved ones when they are not well. It is not acceptable that they continue to get hurt at such high rates," says Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. 

"Since dirty and wet walking surfaces are often cited as causes of preventable accidents, safety-minded businesses often include commercial 'floor mat systems' to help prevent slips and falls," says Adam Soreff, director of marketing for UniFirst, a company that provides commercial floor mat and uniform services to companies throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The most effective floor mat systems, Soreff says, consist of placing scraper mats with raised rubber cleats outside entranceways to remove heavy dirt and moisture first, and then placing carpet-topped walk-off mats inside entrances to trap any residual dirt and moisture. In addition, placing walk-off mats in all heavy traffic areas inside helps contain soiling and moisture even further.

Special safety floor mats should also be included as part of floorcare systems. For instance, "wet area" mats that funnel spilled liquids beneath their surfaces are recommended near areas such as sinks and drinking fountains; and anti-fatigue mats, which can reduce muscle and joint fatigue, are helpful wherever employees stand for long periods of time.

"When it comes to selecting mats for safety, it's imperative that businesses look for industrial-grade mats specifically constructed to lie flat and stay put,” Soreff adds. “For this reason, we recommend mats certified as 'high traction' by the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI)."