The wet areas in retirement homes and Australian aged care facilities unless laid after 2010 may not comply with current AS4568 2013 Slip Resistance standards. Up until 2010 these surfaces only had to demonstrate compliance to a “duty of care” and or local council requirement.
The result of this minimum compliance was the continuing increase in slip fall incidents being reported. Fortunately compliance prior to 2010 included the installation of support rails and special access fittings has helped in limiting these incidents.
As Insurance and Public Liability providers continued to monitor slip fall incidents it became obvious that their existing clients whose flooring did not meet the newer standards were exposing the provider and the Aged Care Facility to an increased risk of litigation, as well as potential injury to the aging clients in residence.
These risks to the aged residents were being realized in significant increases in slip fall accidents resulting in the long term or sometimes fatal injuries. The most common outcome of these falls were hip replacement surgeries, which often leads to a series of more serious health issues in this age group.
Ceramic tiles and vinyl flooring typically used in these older special access bathrooms, kitchens and public areas often exhibit a very low SCOF (Surface Co-Efficient of Friction) and there was little formal documented data to support the inherent slip risk, particularly when they were exposed to water contamination from spills or transfer from shoes or wet weather gear..
Today however there is ample documentation from not only Standards Australia, the C.S.I.R.O but many Insurance companies that have taken the time to investigate the underlying cause of these accidents.
It is now incumbent for Aged Care Facilities in Australia to conduct formalized NATA testing at their site to identify any areas of risk and then to ensure they undertake proactive actions to minimize these risks. In most states, this NATA testing is available for both pre and post-treatment.
Correct risk management will provide solutions that will drastically reduce these risks. In carrying out these works facility managers in demonstrating their “duty of care” compliance will also meet their insurance coverage requirements.
With improved health care and lifestyle, the average life expectancy continues to grow significantly. Unfortunately, the frailty and motor skills deteriorate correspondingly. These increases not only force Aged Care Facilities but society, in general, to take additional precautions to ensure slip fall accidents are kept to a minimum.
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