Plant & Works Engineering
Avoid expensive slip-ups!
Published:  07 October, 2007

David Overton* offers some professional advice as to the importance of implementing an active anti-slip programme and ensuring that floor materials are suitable for the application and environment in which they are used.

Workplace, health, safety, and welfare regulations require that floors must not be slippery, however slips and trips are the single most common cause of accidents in the workplace and account for over one third of all reported accidents. 

The Workplace (Health and Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 requires that every floor surface should be constructed so as to be suitable for use therefore the floor surface needs to undergo a variety of tests to asses it's suitability which independent testing laboratory"s such as Ceram Research provide. There are many methods to measure slip resistance however the choice of test is dependent on the circumstances for which the tile is being used.

The main method of preventing slips is to maintain or increase the slip resistance of the floor. Under perfect conditions, floors may provide sufficient slip-resistance but when contaminated this may be severely reduced resulting in a potential accident.

The method preferred by the HSE and the UKSRG (UK Slip Resistance Group) is the pendulum test where the action of a slipping foot is simulated. The method uses a swinging arm which contacts, via a dummy heel (rubber slider made of a standard rubber), onto a set area of flooring in a controlled manner. The slip resistance of the flooring is measured by the over swing of the pendulum and is directly effected by the surface profile/ roughness of the floor.

The two main reasons for using this test are; firstly, the test is a good reproduction of the dynamics of an actual slipping foot and secondly, it has been shown over many years, to give good correlation between instrument results and actual pedestrian slips (information obtained from the HSE). Standards that use the pendulum include BS7976, used for ceramic tiles, EN1341, used for external paving and EN 14231, used for natural stone modular tiles. However, the standards vary slightly in their procedures and use rubber sliders of different types depending on the standard or the material under test. When using the pendulum the standards dictate the method and the rubber to use. There are two types of rubber used, the Four-S (slider 96) rubber which simulates a standard shoe sole and the TRRL (slider 55) rubber which can be used to test barefoot areas or unusually rough surfaces. 

The second method is the ramp test which is split into DIN 51130- Shod and the DIN51097 Barefoot. This method involves test subjects wearing standard soled boots (shod) on an oily floor surface or barefoot on a wet floor surface. The floor is inclined gradually until the test subject slips. The slipperiness is given a classification depending on the angle of the inclination of the slip. In addition to the standards listed above, there is a European standard, yet to be ratified, for PVC flooring, prEN13845. This involves the ramp, the use of shoes with a standard rubber sole of Four-S rubber, and a wet surface. The advantage of the ramp test is that a 'real personí is used (under controlled conditions) and actual barefoot testing on a surface can be carried out. The test can also be adapted to the customerís requirements and many different surfaces can be tested including; Natural stone, ceramic, glass and marble tiles, vinyl, metal, plastic grills and even baths.

As slips are the most common form of accident in the workplace it is imperative that floor surfaces such as tiles are tested in accordance with current health and safety legislation.  It is estimated that costs in compensation claims due to slips is in the region of £300 million every year however with the implementation of an active slip-control programme and successful management initiatives to control slips and trips, the level of accidents can be greatly reduced.

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*David Overton is sales director of Architectural Ceramics (UK) Ltd