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Understanding Floor Slip Resistance Standards

Preventing accidents and injuries in the workplace is one of the most critical priorities of every employer. Concern for the potential victims and their families, along with possible financial costs, are the stuff of managers’ nightmares. Unfortunately, slip or trip and fall events continue to rank high on the list of worker injury causation year after year.

Slip-and-Fall Incidents in Commercial and Industrial Facilities

Injuries specifically resulting from slip-and-fall accidents represent just under 30% of all workplace incidents annually, as reported by the findings of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet, according to the National Floor Safety Institute, slip-and-fall injuries are one of the primary causes of employee absenteeism. Hazards are particularly high in commercial kitchens, chemical laboratories and facilities in which there are likely to be oil, fuel, or other liquid spills.

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Slip-resistant Florock industrial flooring installed by the expert team at CIC of GA.

The Standards for Slip-Resistant Flooring

Given the severity of the issue, many are under the impression that OSHA provides clear and mandatory guidelines. It in fact does not. It is also widely assumed that there are published standards within the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but the Act does not outline rules or minimums for slip resistance or its testing. In actuality, while there is an informal, general agreement among a number of interested organizations, there are no firm standards imposed by regulations. With only loose agreements, no organization or agency tracks or regulates this critical issue.

How Slip Resistance Is Measured

There are many different slip resistance testing methods around the world that measure using a variety of devices and techniques. Depending on local customs and practices, the safety of common hard surface floor materials might get evaluated in terms of the Static Coefficient of Friction (SCOF) on wet surfaces or dry, or in terms of the Dynamic Coefficient of Friction (DCOF), wet or dry, on level surfaces or on ramps. Some are lab tests, others are performed in the field.

Given the myriad variables, measurement of COF has historically produced “ballpark”, rather than scientifically accurate or repeatable results. Today, the Horizontal Dynamometer Pull-Meter, or “drag sled”, and the Pendulum Slip Resistance Tester is two of the most widely used devices. However, reported results can vary widely, depending on the party performing the test and the standards they adhere to.

The Organizations, Standards and Tests – A Brief History of the Confusion

  • The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) was thought to have set a standard Coefficient of Friction of 0.60 for level floors and 0.80 for ramps. However, the US Department of Justice has pronounced that the ADA was never the creator of, nor is it responsible for, these standards.
  • The American Society for Testing and Materials ASTM C 1028, used widely by many industries, was eventually found to be unreliable in 2014 and was withdrawn. It required a minimum COF of 0.42. This rather low COF threshold is thought to have contributed to countless slip-and-fall accidents over the years.
  • Slip resistance standards and testing became part of the International Building Code (IBC) in 2012. Section 2103.6 is currently in effect in most states. It relies on the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A137.1/A326.3 slip test, but applies only to ceramic tile and no other type of flooring or finish. Despite being less than reliable, the test is nevertheless frequently utilized, since it’s specified by the IBC and is often a requirement for occupancy certification by building inspectors.

There are more historical examples, but in the end, we are still left with confusion about what level of surface traction is needed on a given floor.

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A Reliable Slip-Resistance Test?

To date, there continues to be lack of consensus among scientific communities, floor covering manufacturers and insurers as to what “slip-resistance” means. It remains highly subjective. Consider the influence of the following: The profile/bumpiness of the floor; the composition of the flooring material; whether the surface is level or sloped, bone dry or covered in a specific amount of water, oil or sand; floor maintenance practices; an individual’s weight, visual acuity, balance, level of concentration versus distraction, gait pattern and rhythm, speed and type of footwear. When one considers the endless variations involved in simply walking across a floor, it’s no wonder slip-resistance testing has produced such controversy.

What You Can Do

Florock resinous floors can be customized for slip-resistance during installation at your facility. In areas of high concern, contractors can install a test patch with different levels of traction, enabling workers to do a trial run under normal operating conditions. The preferred surface texture can then be used as the standard for installation of the remaining floor area. With a lack of formal slip-resistance standards, having a test area installed is one of the best ways to achieve a slip-inhibiting floor that suits your operation and needs. Call us today for a consultation.