Designing a floor with the right slip resistance is a complex task. There are multiple factors that make a contribution and no amount of slip resistance in isolation will make any floor impossible to slip on.
Designers have to contend with two separate Handbooks making recommendations, and 6 different methods of testing procedures. In addition a designer must make a subjective judgement as to what general recommendation best fits their application and it follows that they must also consider not only the test result that they feel most relevant, but also other test method results that others may claim are relevant.
Finally there is ambiguity and even contradiction between and within each handbook. Ultimately most designers will quite correctly try to err on the side of caution and there is plenty of merit in taking this approach.
Slip trips and falls are the leading cause of accidental injury in Australia, with the cost in the $billions range every year. Claims from victims range from a few thousand dollars through to hundreds of thousands and even a claim being won in the High Court on appeal. Courts seem very prepared to rule in favour of claimants for consequential losses and damages. The large claims can have a serious impact on insurance premiums and conditions. The imposition of significant premium increases, and claim excess payments of tens of thousands have been imposed.
Apart from the financial cost, the human suffering especially among the elderly from such accidents is significant. Slip and fall accidents are the leading cause of accidental death in the elderly.
Detailed statistics on the number of substantial injuries (Trauma) are available from multiple government websites.
The burden on the health systems is enormous with an estimated 1.4 million patient days per year
The Australian Standards for slip resistance provide detailed information on how to perform a slip resistance test correctly via one of the several approved test methods. The standards however provide little, if any, actual guidance on how much slip resistance is required for varies applications being designed for. The latest versions of the standards released on 2013 now recognise the significant effect that wear has on slip resistance over time and with usage, and goes a step further in recommending that wear be considered as a factor when designing for a long term level of slip resistance.
There are two handbooks published by Standards Australia that prescribe a minimum recommended level of slip resistance. They are HB 197 : 1999 “An Introductory Guide to the Slip Resistance of Pedestrian Surfaces” and HB 198: 2014 “Guide to the specification and testing of slip resistance of pedestrian surfaces”.
Any design where the slip resistance has not achieved the minimums of either of these handbooks is almost certainly not able to be defended as suitable in case of a claim following a slip incident.
Both handbooks contains tables of recommended minimums as well as detailed text recommendations that require consideration.
A suspicion that all slip resistant tiles are difficult to clean is often considered as a reason to minimise the slip rating designed for various applications. With the correct tools a slip resistant floor can be easily maintained. With the wrong tools – even the smoothest surfaces are difficult to clean, smooth windows would difficult to clean with a bristle brush.
Metz recommend a brick mop, such as a 3M Doodle Bug. These clean effectively, require much less effort and are easier to keep clean and hygienic than traditional fabric wig mops. For further information please refer to Metz cleaning instructions information sheet.
The minimum slip resistance selected should always be what is advised by the Handbooks 197 and 198. A simple method of risk mitigation is to select the handbooks minimum category + 1. For example if an R10 is recommended – select an R11, if a P3 is recommended – select a P4.
This simple approach reduces the risks from individual batch variations, testing variables and site and usage contributing factors.
These can be further reduced by obtaining accelerated wear testing (AWT) and in-situ site testing.