Walkway Auditing: Managing the Risks to Prevent Slips and Falls

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Slips, trips and falls are the most common accidents to occur in the workplace and in public spaces. One of the most effective ways to identify and handle the risk of slip and fall claims is by having a Certified Walkway Auditor perform a Walkway Audit. Yet, few property owners and facility managers are aware that this service even exists, let alone fully understand the building science behind it. Here is why we believe it’s smart business.

Common Causes contributing to slip and fall Accidents

There are five major factors that contribute to the loss of traction that result in slips and falls:

  • Shoe Traction
  • Inadequate Surface Friction
  • Poor Maintenance
  • Contaminants on Surface
  • Physical impairment
Unless you are at a workplace, checking and controlling people’s shoes for proper traction is not realistic or feasible (airport security is enough of a hassle). The remaining four factors can certainly be tested, analyzed and remedied to control the risk to a very reasonable level.

Inadequate Surface Friction

Those who have taken a physics class may recall that there are two well-known types of friction—static and dynamic/kinetic friction. Without diving too deep into the science, the roughness and material type are the two primary driver that impact friction of a surface. When constructing or renovating a building, keep in mind the floor materials you plan to use and the coatings, you would also need to account for how many layers are applied.

As an example, Xpera's Certified Walkway Auditor was called in by a major shopping center that noticed something was amiss in a common area that used multiple colored flooring. During our investigation we learned some colors required additional coatings, and the mistake was those surfaces were not made rougher before applying the color. Consequently, those spaces were far more smooth than the single-coated surfaces, posing a slippage risk.

Poor Maintenance

Nearly everyone can recall a time when their foot caught a large crack or a break in an uneven surface. The result can range from a small, embarrassing stumble to a catastrophic fall and injury. Monitoring walkway surfaces and repairing any potential issues requires diligent maintenance protocols to prevent potential liability issues.

Aside from the more obvious issues of not fixing cracks and tripping hazards, there are also
subtle mistakes that create slip and fall risk, such as not using appropriate cleaning products or procedures. For example, if a restaurant’s cleaning crew uses the same mop for the kitchen and dining areas, the mop could transfer any unbroken-down grease to the walkways where guests travel.

Another all too common problem is the use of excessive cleaning product. This causes soap residue to remain on the flooring surface, becoming a contaminant that reduces the surface friction and contributes to the risk of slips and falls (especially if it gets wet).

Contaminants on surface

Contaminants are considered any substance between—and not a part of—two surfaces, such as a person’s shoe and the floor. This can include water, ice, grease, dust, debris and the infamous banana peel. We have all encountered these types of scenarios, and it doesn’t take a certification from the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) or a Certified Walkway Auditor to know that cleaning up debris in a timely matter is the best way to manage this risk.

Proper maintenance to keep the pathways clean is the common answer to remedy this risk. Well-placed mats and runways are an effective method for mitigating contaminants picked up and transferred by shoes. 

Physical Impairment

Finally, property owners need to look beyond the normal, day-to-day usage of walkways to consider the slip-and-fall risks associated with users who may be physically impaired in some way. That could include individuals on their property with mobility challenges requiring the use of crutches, for instance, or those whose stability may be compromised by drugs or alcohol. Thinking about and preparing for these scenarios goes a long way towards ensuring potential risks are kept in check.

Manage Walkway Risk with a Certified Walkway Auditor 

Xpera Group is pleased to be able to offer Walkway Auditing as one of our many specialized services, under the leadership of industry veteran Steve Wilson.

Our NFSI Certified Walkway Auditors perform a comprehensive analysis of a building site, including all surface materials and conditions, utilizing a rigorous process rooted in building science and specialized state-of-the-art equipment. We identify potential slip, trip and fall hazards, so issues can be remedied before problems arise. We then repeat these audits on a regular basis (yearly, quarterly or monthly) in order to monitor changes in flooring conditions over time, ensuring that the site is safe, records up-to-date and risks kept in check.

To learn more about how our Walkway Auditing services can help manage risk at your property, contact Ron Whitehead at

Topics: Walkway Auditing, Risk Management, Stephen Wilson, building science, Publications


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