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Guide to slip resistance levels for pedestrian surfaces from Safe Environments

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article image Slip resistance for floor safety

Slip resistance is a functional design issue. According to Safe Environments , ignorance of slip resistance compromises floor safety and insufficient specification, application and installation can expose those involved in the process, to litigious risk. It is thought that aesthetics must be sacrificed at the expense of slip resistance. However, with modern processing techniques, this is not the case.

Injuries due to falls are mostly due to a complex interaction of environmental and biomedical factors rather than a single cause. Slip resistance is an important aspect in floor safety by assessing the risk of slipping within the built environment.

The Australian Building Codes Board indicates that falls are the greatest health and safety risk in commercial buildings. The Royal Australian Institute of Architects suggest that falls are the most common cause of personal injury claims against architects. This is often due to inadequate specification and documentation.

At present, the Building Code of Australia (BCA) does not provide prescriptive performance requirements, however, many floors in new buildings must comply with AS 1428.1:2001, Design for Access and Mobility: General Requirements for Access – New Building Work, which requires that: 'All continuous accessible paths of travel shall have a slip-resistant surface', and furthermore, that ramps and stair treads or nosings are non-slip or non-skid.

The following information regarding slip resistance has been provided as a guideline to assist specification with regard to slip resistance and floor safety. Documenting this process assists in showing that due diligence has been followed during the selection process.

Standards Australia Handbook (HB) 197 (1999), An Introductory Guide to the Slip Resistance of Pedestrian Surface Materials provides best practice to determine an acceptable level of slip resistance for new floor installations. HB 197 provides guidance on the selection of pedestrian surface materials for specific locations, using the test methods outlined in AS/NZS 4586. Other design features, which are discussed within the text of HB 197, must be considered. When considering the initial slip resistance classifications, the following guidance may be of assistance.

Identify the level of slip resistance required within the building with reference to Standards Australia Handbook 197, An Introductory guide to the slip resistance of pedestrian surfaces.

Specify the slip resistance test method and document the classification required. Select the test method to be specified on the basis of the test method(s), which simulate the intended conditions during normal usage in terms of footwear and contamination.

The following criteria can assist in determining the most appropriate test (AS 4586) for the area being considered:

Appendix A:

  • Test: Pendulum (Z, Y, X, Y, Z)
  • Contamination: Water
  • Footwear: Smooth soled shoes
  • Example: Entry foyer (wet)

Appendix B:

  • Test: Dry FFT (F,G)
  • Contamination: None
  • Footwear: Smooth soled shoes
  • Example: Internal dry areas

Appendix C:

  • Test: Wet Barefoot Ramp (A, B, C)
  • Contamination: Water
  • Footwear: Barefoot
  • Example: Swimming pool surrounds

Appendix D:

  • Test: Oil Wet Ramp (R9, R10, R11, R12, R13)
  • Contamination: Oil
  • Footwear: Profiled safety boots
  • Example: Commercial kitchens  

There is no correlation between ramp and pendulum test methods. In general terms, the wet pendulum and dry floor friction (Dry FFT) slip resistance testing methods should be used in all situations with additional ramp slip resistance testing in specific specialised industrial processes or barefoot situations.

Accelerated wear testing can indicate limitations on products, and thus identify potentially dangerous products from being specified. A British Pendulum Number of 35 after 500 cycles provides an initial benchmark for level surfaces.

In addition to providing slip resistive flooring, other design features should be considered to reduce the extent and likelihood of a slip and fall. Such considerations include the installation of water absorbent matting, ergonomic handrails, high visibility stair treads and routine floor inspections.

For commercial projects where the performance of different surface preparation and sealers are considered, slip testing and tests such as stain resistance, gloss measurements and aesthetics should be conducted. This information allows a comparative analysis to assess the relative benefits of each finishing system proposed. It should be confirmed that the specified product meets the performance criteria by conducting onsite slip resistance testing upon installation and the process should be documented to provide evidence of due diligence. Identification of any subsequent reduction in slip resistance should be done by conducting regular onsite slip resistance testing and OHS property risk audits. This may be quarterly, bi-annually or annually depending on the nature of the environment.

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