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How a healthcare company’s innovative approach has reduced slips and falls

How a healthcare company’s innovative approach has reduced slips and falls


Jane Warren reports on how 2024 RoSPA Fall Prevention Trophy finalist, Compass Group UK & Ireland Healthcare, is leading the way in the healthcare sector.

The majority of acute hospitals and senior living homes, where Compass’ Healthcare sector provides their services, are older buildings with infrastructures that can struggle to cope with the large footfall and demands of the current healthcare system.

Many are still fitted with smooth vinyl flooring, rather than the modern, lightly-textured variety which is known to help prevent slips and falls. While smooth vinyl is known to be extremely effective for infection control it can become slippery.

“The hospitals we work with serve some of the most vulnerable patients, some with mobility issues, often using walking aids,” says Jeanette Whitehead, who has been Senior HSE manager for Compass Group UK & Ireland’s Healthcare sector for the past seven years.

“Some of these falls can be absolutely life changing, particularly if the person has mobility and joint issues.”

And patients are not the only ones at a greater risk of slips and falls in a healthcare setting.

“Friends and family are often distracted and rushing to support their loved ones; while hospital colleagues dedicated to the care of their patients are often in a hurry and focused on reaching the place they are needed,” adds Jeanette.

New approaches

Trend analysis of all incidents and near misses, considered together with these contributing factors, have formed the basis of enhanced processes which Compass Group UK & Ireland Healthcare has introduced over the past five years to prevent falls and slips. These innovations led to the team, headed by Jeanette, getting a commendation as a finalist in the RoSPA Fall Prevention Trophy in May of this year.

“I like to see if we can find a solution to a challenge in a way that keeps everyone safe,” she says.

“People in hospitals are all focusing on something really important. I look at it from the perspective of what is the one thing we can do to make what could be the worst day of their life better by making it safer.”

Innovations include an umbrella bagging system in entrance areas that enables a plastic sleeve to stop drips, and the Space Vac – a backpack vacuum cleaning tool with an ultra-light 6 metre extension hose that reduces the risk of working from a platform. For busy stairwells, a battery-operated vacuum cleaner was introduced that removes the risk of trailing cables.


One of the company’s most compelling innovations is the company’s bespoke ‘scrubber dryer cleaning robots’ nicknamed Hanzel after a former manager who passed away and who was beloved by staff for his cheerful nature.

“The robots named in his honour do the essential task of keeping the corridors clean and free from debris, and they also leave minimal water on the floor cutting down the on the risk of falls and slips. They also respond to hospital users by telling very bad jokes and singing, and they get decorated for Christmas and Halloween,” says Jeanette.

The robots are supervised by an operator working alongside them on high cleaning.

Says Jeanette: “The care industry is under financial pressure and solutions needs to be cost effective, operationally sound, suitable for all building types and able to effectively address specific issues such as cleaning at height or working on busy stairwells.”

Reducing spills

Other innovations implemented by Compass Healthcare include a new spin on old mops using a microfibre cleaning head.

The cleaning is done by the material itself using capillary action which makes it 80 per cent more effective at removing microbes. A secondary advantage is that water is only there to create a suction to lift the dirt off the floor. “Because it requires less water, it dries incredibly quickly and has led to a decline in cleaning-linked falls.

“This experience showed us that we could cut down on slips and falls by considering how we clean, what we clean and when we clean.”

But what continued to worry Jeanette was the ongoing risk of slips and falls in busy main corridors. Footfall research revealed that up to 3,000 people a day use the main corridors in some of our settings.

The presence of cafés at the front of hospitals and the risk of wet floors due to poor weather conditions was a concern.
“A café is important because it allows people to feel normal for five minutes while visiting a hospital, but their introduction did lead to a slight increase in falls,” points out Jeanette.

“We would normally clean at night, but spills happen throughout the day, particularly when the spill is due to a hot drink in a café.”

The company therefore developed bespoke ‘Keep it Tight’ signage reminding customers to firmly secure the lids on their hot drinks after adding milk and sugar. This proved immediately effective and falls caused by spilled drinks reduced by 60 per cent.

However, even a small amount of liquid becomes extremely slippery - so the next challenge for Compass Healthcare was finding a way to deal with unexpected spills at any time of the day or night. Their bespoke ‘Spill Board’ was the result, and it is about to be rolled out to clients across their sites.

“Usually, in order to ensure a spill does not become a hazard, one colleague has to wait next to the spill, while another goes to get cleaning equipment. And of course, many spills occur while there are no staff nearby to alert the cleaning team,” points out Jeanette.

The Spill Board addresses this problem. Fixed to corridor walls - ideally at four metre intervals (but we can make them at whatever appropriate distances work in each setting) – they are printed with the instruction: ‘Keep our corridors safe, please use this paper towel to clean up any spillages you may find’.

Fixed to the printed board is a paper roll holder; a bin with liner for disposal of contaminated paper; a plastic A-board warning sign marked ‘Caution: Wet Floor’; a rapid response number for the cleaning team, and an alcohol gel dispenser – the latter was added after employee feedback.

“We want to reduce those potential slips, and if we stop just one fall it is worth it,” insists Jeanette.

“We’ve already got a number of orders coming in from our clients. In six months’ time we hope to be able to carry out trend analysis by looking at the absence of falls following the introduction of the spill board.”

Unique perspective

This practical but inspired solution is typical of her outlook. As a former chef manager for Compass Group UK & Ireland, Jeanette was “used to doing all the operational stuff” which meant that when she decided to become an HSE assistant nine years ago, her previous experience gave her a unique perspective.

“I could see how to simplify things, and I could see what we needed to do differently,” she explains.

The opinion of frontline team members on new equipment, such as stair scrubbing machines, is actively sought.

“Listening to their feedback from regular team meetings and huddles identified suggestions that have helped ensure that solutions work.

“The feedback I get from the team is that I step into their world and walk it through with them,” she says modestly.

Find out more about the RoSPA Health and Safety Awards at:

Preventing falls is a key priority for RoSPA. See:

Jane Warren

Jane Warren is a highly experienced freelance journalist, feature writer and non-fiction author. She has written for the Daily Express newspaper for over thirty years.


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