Friday, January 12, 2024
SPILL ON AISLE 2
Red Alert Wax Floor Safety Coating is the next step to eliminate slip and fall accidents.
By Robert Gad for The National Business Post
April 28, 2023
If you’ve ever walked through a supermarket or retail store, chances are you’ve heard these words:
“Spill on aisle two… spill on aisle two… needs clean up, help.”
If the store fails to clean up those spills immediately, the likelihood of a slip and fall — along with a lawsuit — may be close behind.
The National Floor Safety Institute reports more than one million people experience “slip and fall” accidents in retail stores and restaurants each year. That number doesn’t count falls in airports, train stations, entertainment venues and medical facilities. In the U.S., 800 people die annually from a simple slip and fall incident, usually due to a head injury.
The cost to those establishments is more than $9 billion annually. The lawsuits that follow exceed an average of $100,000 per case.
Louisville, KY natives, Bob Doucette and Mike Ursini, had done a few commercial real estate projects together and were aware of this situation. They began thinking that there must be a way to substantially reduce those numbers, perhaps preventing potential slip and fall incidents altogether. Those yellow placards warning people of a slippery floor were truly not enough warning.
MikePortraitBob
Founders: Mike Ursini and Bob Doucette
In 2010, while painting the cafeteria of their children’s school, the thought surfaced — no pun intended.
Being witness to a slip and fall incident at their church, Ursini and Doucette were determined to find a way to make it work.
“Maybe there is a way we can warn people as they are walking so they will somehow see the spill and not walk in it,” Doucette remembers. “If I can tell you where the water is, maybe people will walk around it.” The result: no slip and fall.
Ursini thought, “There has to be a way to make the water change color, so the spill becomes apparent.”
They decided to partner on the idea and find a chemist.
“I knew he would be the driver,” observed Ursini, commenting about Doucette when they initially shook on the deal. How right he was.
They found a paint chemist in town, but this expert was unable to make the water transform to a visible color. This aspect was critical, since having a color appear after a spill would clearly define where not to walk.
So, Doucette tried his best “Breaking Bad” routine, found a lab coat, and with only his college chemistry class as a starting point, turned his basement into a lab.
“We tried everything. We discovered that you should never use anything with ethyl alcohol combined with floor polish…it will burn. There were hundreds of other things not to do.”
What they needed was the elusive perfect PH balance in the formula of the wax to reap their desired results.
Their challenge was when the product was used, it had to be everything the maintenance team normally does when mopping and waxing a floor.
“Our floor safety coating had to be just as easy to use as any of the other products they had been working with,” claimed Doucette.
While they incorporated in 2013, the team still had to tweak the product for 18 months.
They took it back to a real chemist.
“There is no way this is going to work,” the chemist proclaimed.
That alone riled Doucette. ”Don’t tell me I can’t do something, it just motivates me even more to prove you wrong.” Doucette took out the tile and proceeded to douse it with water.
Watching it turn red, the chemist had a change of heart.
Back to the lab they went, conducting experiments for the next 18 months. Failure is an everyday occurrence in chemistry, which Doucette and Ursini quickly learned and endured.
They ended up testing 90 formulas at Louisville’s Saint Andrew Academy cafeteria. It became the home of the “official” test site of Red Alert Wax.

“An inventor fails 999 times and if he succeeds once, he’s in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots,”
Charles Kettering
(Inventor, first electronic car starter.)

They applied for their patent in 2016, and received the good news late Christmas Eve, 2019. It arrived in an email dated 12.24.19 at 11:59 p.m., which Doucette saw as a good omen.
He admits they got “lucky with their chemistry.”
“So it finally turned red with pure water, and then we figured out what would turn red and dry back to its original color…and then again turn red with additional water. That alone took six to eight months.”
Then in August of 2017, a fierce rain storm hit Louisville, KY, and dumped 2.5 inches of rain on the city in 30 minutes. The storm flooded Saint Andrew Academy’s cafeteria, the official test site of Red Alert Wax.
A maintenance man leaving the school — where the tests were underway for the day — spotted red water coming out from under a doorway. After doing a double-take, he decided to head back into the school and help clean up what looked like a flood of some sort. It was the red coloring that grabbed his attention. Interestingly enough, without the janitor’s ability to see the red water, damage to the school on that day would have been disastrous.
“We knew we were onto something when Saint Andrews usually had one to two slip and falls a year, usually the grandparents of students. The total slip and fall incidents for Saint Andrew’s — since they began using our product five years ago — is zero.”
Doucette and Ursini recently scored an important “Proof of Concept” test with United Airlines at Newark Airport — an airport where they were experiencing more than 125 “slip and fall” incidents a month.
Rolling out the product around the United Airline gates, the company found that they had completely eliminated any “slip and fall” incidences – whereas the rest of the airport floors continued to experience accidents and lawsuits.
However, Ursini and Doucette’s momentum was halted when COVID-19 struck in early 2020 — shutting everything down.
Like so many businesses, the virus stopped the pair in their tracks. No one cared about these types of issues for two years. Nursing homes, a potential partner, totally shuttered their doors to any visitors during that time.
It wasn’t until 2022 when the team started to get back in front of prospects, demonstrating the wax. It became their “second start-up phase.”
Now that phase and its momentum has carried over into 2023.
Back at the Airports, Red Alert Wax re-energized their relationship with United Airlines. The success has led to discussions about expanding the product into United’s eight other airport hubs.
They have also begun conversations with the Louisville Archdiocese, the cities correctional institutions and the fire department.
After a good meeting in Chicago with the third largest school district in the United States, a potential commitment for proof of concept has been reached, which could lead to RED ALERT WAX being used in the school system.
And the latest win? A meeting has recently been set up with one of the largest fulfillment centers in Chicago. The center was averaging 50 falls per year due to water spills. This Fulfillment Center is now on board, and there is a discussion of expanding this “spill alert system” out to a potential 350 additional centers.
Video software is now part of Doucette and Ursini’s playbook. Security Camera systems, which have been used for years in the retail environment, can now be used to pick up the color changes at a potential spill site, alerting staff immediately with a text message of the incident. As the floor turns red, texts are automatically sent to everyone working in the store, from the manager on down. Quite an asset for the manager, whose bonus may be tied into the safety of their store.
This technology is a huge step in managing “non-spill” incidents as well, such as ceiling and refrigerator leaks. Quick response to these issues can avoid expensive further damage beyond a slip and fall.
It is all about “risk management” for Red Alert Wax who – this year – will be attending the upcoming 9,000-strong RIMS Risk Management Convention. They hope to educate management leaders, attorneys and insurance companies about the benefits of the product and its protective floor covering system, illustrating how it has been used to eliminate “slip and fall” incidents inside various commercial and educational environments.
Plaintiff lawyers will soon be asking the question, “Why didn’t the defense have the product on their floor?”
Deniability may no longer be an option in a lawsuit as companies can now warn consumers about potential spills using the Red Alert Wax floor covering system — changing a spill to a red color when the floor is wet and affected. Co-inventor, Bob Doucette is now being subpoenaed as an expert witness for testimony in these types of cases.
For stores, schools, hospitals and venues, there is now a better alternative to protect the safety of their customers and employees.
Ursini and Doucette worked tirelessly for ten years to successfully create Red Alert Wax with the hope of improving safety and minimizing liability for commercial and public environments. Thinking back on their journey, Doucette succinctly describes their invention.
“We are basically a clear paint that changes color upon spilling a liquified substance, which warns the consumer where the incident has occurred. Once the liquid is mopped up, the floor dries and then returns back to its original form — back to the shinny floor it once was. That’s what people love about this product. It’s simple and continues to work, over and over again.”
It seems so simple — until you have to figure it out. Doucette and Ursini would not be denied, and their perseverance truly paid off.
Since the 1970s, attempts had been made to develop better floor safety systems. The Red Alert team finally got it done.
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