Keoghs Insight

Author

Christian Harris

Avoiding a costly slip up

AWARE05/02/2019
Let's Talk Shop

A common misconception  

During one of our Slip Safety Strategy Sessions, or when on-site with clients, I am constantly hearing statements such as “I don’t need a slip safety survey because I have anti-slip tiles” or “I’ve chosen a floor with some anti-slip profiles so I won’t have any issues with slip accidents”.

Whilst health and safety is obviously at the forefront of companies’ minds, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Probably the single biggest misconception I’ve noticed regarding textured or profiled surfaces is the presumption that this type of floor promotes slip safety. This is not necessarily the case.


If you only take in one line of this article, it’s this:
 

The fact that a surface has a texture or profile does not necessarily mean that it provides good slip-resistance.

Slip resistance is created by the interaction between the heel and floor meaning different surface profiles give different results, which can also change over time.

Consider the representations of textured surfaces below. Each may look anti-slip to the uninitiated eye, however, they all provide very different slip-resistance due to the level and type of friction they produce.

A rounded edge, for example, will give you a different level of friction to a spiky or square edge which makes perfect sense when you consider how well your heel can grip a rounded edge compared to a square one.

A universal example would be checker plate. Commonly seen on fire escapes, this is a textured surface we can only assume has been chosen for its anti-slip properties. However, a slip test of this type of floor demonstrates that it provides very poor wet slip resistance. Not ideal if you were exiting a burning building on a wet day!

Get your floor choice right and you give yourself a chance to keep it safe. Get it wrong and you’re fighting an uphill battle.

Scientific research has shown slip resistance of new floors can change quickly. We recommend an annual slip test, at least, as best practice.

The importance of cleaning and maintenance

The other key factor that influences a floor’s ongoing performance is cleaning and maintenance. We’ve all been in a swimming pool or leisure club shower where we find a textured floor surface, however these often feel slippery. This is due to a build-up of contamination on the surface such as body fats or soap. You can have the best floor in the world but if it’s not cleaned well, a barrier of contamination will form and your foot will strike the contamination and slip, rather than touch the safe floor.

The challenge here is that contamination is not always visible meaning your cleaning process is missing contaminants or residues you cannot see. I could show you a handful of different ways to clean a floor, all of which result in significantly different slip resistance. As a rule, effective cleaning will help mitigate slip risk; you just need to carefully define what constitutes effective cleaning.

Make sure the pendulum swings in your favour

The only way to really be certain if you have a slip-resistant floor is to test it. Don’t assume.

The HSE uses the pendulum test, which scientifically quantifies the friction provided by your floor and categorises slip potential as high, moderate or low. This test method is great because it can not only be used to specify floors if you are building or refurbishing, but is also a good on-site test to help assess the effectiveness of your cleaning regime.

Furthermore, the test results correlate with accident risk exposure: a Pendulum Test Value (PTV) of 24 gives a 1 in 20 risk whereas a PTV of 36 gives a 1 in 1m risk.

Improving from 1 in 20 to 1 in 1m is possible in most cases and in our experience leads to a reduction in accidents of 50-90%. Recently we visited a food preparation facility which had ostensibly the same anti-slip resin floor in three separate buildings. But whilst the floors in two buildings performed with a wet slip resistance risk of around 1 in 1m, the other had a risk of 1 in 20. Without doing the testing this client would perhaps have never known there was an issue until it was too late.

Knowledge is power

Measuring your slip resistance means you can manage it, taking steps to improve the PTV and reduce your risk. We commonly find textured floors that only achieve a 1 in 200 risk factor or worse, but it is possible to achieve 1 in 1m risk, even on smooth surfaces.

By putting in place relevant checks, you can:

  • Scientifically understand your risk

  • Reduce that risk with proven, measurable steps

  • Monitor changes over time to ensure ongoing compliance

  • Lower accident numbers, meaning, less claims

  • Prove and document that you’ve taken practical steps

  • Defend any claims that do arise using the evidence above

 

Scientific research has shown slip resistance of new floors can change quickly. We recommend an annual slip test, at least, as best practice. 

Slip Safety Services helps clients to reduce the number of slip accidents they endure, to improve claims defensibility rates on any accidents that do arise, and thereby to save money and make their workplaces safer for their staff and customers.

Christian Harris, the company’s MD, has several years’ experience helping blue-chip clients to understand slip risk and to reduce accidents through improvement in surfaces and surface maintenance. He is the slip safety expert of choice for most of the leading insurance companies and tile suppliers.