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Preventing Property Damage Before it Happens

October 19, 2000
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Without a good property damage prevention program and awareness, your chances for success in hard floor maintenance are decreased. By conducting pre-inspections, profits can be applied to the bottom line and not to repairs.

When you are performing hard floor maintenance, you take on the responsibility of the safety of the personnel in the facility as well as the protection of the property within. Protecting people from potential injury is extremely important and a topic that warrants an entire column in and of itself. However, property damage is a topic that often gets overlooked and shuffled into obscurity because it happens to objects rather than people.

Although there is nothing you can do about preventing the accident after it happens, there is a lot you can do to reduce the likelihood of property damage occurring before it happens.

Identifying Potential Problems

As a hard floor maintenance technician, you will be subjected to many different items that have the potential for property damage. These damages can be as trivial as small dings in a doorjamb to extremely damaged paint from stripper solution running down the wall in a stairwell. No matter how small, property damage costs cleaning companies and entrepreneurs hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

Identifying where property damage may occur is the first step in prevention. It’s important to remember that when you are performing hard floor maintenance, you’re working within the whole room, not just on the floor. That means you have to be totally aware of your surroundings at all times. Take the time to look around the area where the work is to be performed and identify the things that could possibly be damaged. If you think damage can occur, there is a good likelihood that it can and will.

A general overall inspection should take place at every level in the process of securing the account. During the initial meetings to discuss the service, the salesperson should perform an inspection and ask pertinent questions prior to estimating the cost of providing services. The operation manager will want to examine the area prior to sending crews to ensure potential problems are identified and possible solutions ascertained before turning the job over to the work force. The supervisor will look at the area more closely at the beginning of the service and set up preventative property damage measures. Finally, the technician will perform the area preparation function to remove all obstacles that may impede or be in danger of damage liability.

General

Property damage is not restricted to the interior of a facility. Damage can occur to vehicles, signage, curbs or even the exterior of the facility. When you are driving or unloading the vehicle on the customer’s property, be very aware of your surroundings. Transporting equipment into a building can cause damage to doors and doorjambs by bumping into them.

Additionally, some technicians wedge their putty knife between the door and the doorjamb, which causes the door to pull away from the hinges over time—an expensive repair cost.

Floor Coverings

All floor coverings are not the same. Damage caused by inappropriate chemicals, abrasives, or maintenance methods are far too common. Being able to distinguish and identify the floor covering will help to establish which floor maintenance methods can be safely used on that surface. If the correct procedures are followed, then damage can be reduced. In addition, it helps to have certified training and experience on the floor coverings that you will be servicing.

Floor coverings can be damaged relatively easily. Dragging items across the surface increases the possibility of having the surface scratched or gouged, which may result in expensive repair or replacement. Always use hand trucks or carts when moving large objects on the floor.

Walls

Walls are attached to floors and therefore become a part of floor maintenance. There are several ways that the wall can be damaged in the process of performing hard floor maintenance. Of course there is always the potential of damaging the walls with heavy equipment or carelessness, but there are also more subtle ways of damaging walls.

While applying stripping chemicals, it’s possible to splash or splatter stripping solution on the wall. Stripping chemicals are very strong and have the potential of etching into the paint. Coating chemicals can also be inadvertently splashed on the walls. Both of these chemicals can be near impossible to remove, which may result in repainting the entire area.

Water will seek the path of least resistance, meaning it will always travel to the lowest point. In some situations it may be absorbed into sheetrock or paneling. It may also accumulate behind walls, under carpeted thresholds or travel through the walls of the facility. If you see your water disappearing and unsure of where it’s going, it would be wise to investigate all surrounding areas. This is a very common problem when working on stairways.

Congestion

Removing congestion from the work area is done during the area preparation service function. Leaving congestion in an area during some service procedures, such as scrubbing and stripping, will almost certainly result in some property damage. The level of congestion to be removed will be dictated by the service procedure being performing and the potential liability that may be incurred.

Congestion is not limited to what is directly on the floor; it may include an expensive painting on the wall that needs to be removed. A crystal vase, art, or artifact on a shelf could easily be knocked off with a mop handle. Examine the area closely to ensure you protect yourself from these potential liabilities.

Summary

Each facility will be different and therefore each account should have its own profile and plan for protection. It’s up to you to protect the customer’s property by taking the time to conduct a thorough inspection. Try to find potential property damage problems and prevent them from happening by implementing protection for the property before it is subjected to damage.

Most importantly, be aware of your surroundings and everything in it. If you have a good property damage prevention program, then your chances for success are increased tremendously and profit will be applied to the bottom line, not repairs.

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