Water Safety Month: Slip-Resistance

Life-Floor-Slip-Resistance.jpg

In aquatics, we talk a lot about slip-resistance, slip-resisting surfaces, and reducing slip-and-fall injuries. Wet areas can be slippery: it’s why we have bath mats, and slippery-when-wet signs, and Bon Jovi albums.

While it’s pretty easy to tell when something is slippery, defining slip-resistance has been an ongoing discussion. We believe a clear standard can not only help clarify what slip-resistance is, but create a better standard of living for the people who use and love aquatic areas.

What is Slip-Resistance?

The greater the coefficient of friction created between a floor and a foot, the better the slip-resistance is. That being said, people still need to be able to walk on it- since wet areas usually have barefoot traffic, the amount of grit needs to be comfortable and safe enough that it doesn’t abrade bare skin. Sandpaper, for example, has a great coefficient of friction, but it isn’t something you’d want to sit, stand, or walk on for too long.

When Life Floor first came to market, the standard reference in the ADA and most building codes was the ASTM Standard 1028-C. While this test did measure a coefficient of friction for wet flooring, it only measured a static coefficient of friction, which is the amount of force it takes to get an object to move from a point of stillness. Unfortunately, this standard wasn’t exactly related to real-world conditions.

Over time, it became apparent that surfaces which passed this test still witnessed significant slips and falls, especially in areas where kids were active in and around water. ASTM standard 1028-C was pulled in 2014.

How Should We Test For Slip-Resistance?

That’s the trick. Finding a good test that mimics real-world conditions needs careful consideration, which is why we compiled a list of factors that a slip-resistance test should include: 

Running

Kids use splash pads because splash pads are designed for kids. Multi-level play structures and recreational pools also see use from the smallest patrons. In all cases, the challenge is the same: posted rules, parents, and lifeguards can only do so much to restrain the energy of young children. Kids will be kids, and aquatic facilities are designed to encourage this simple truth. Which means that any test for a slip-resistance standard should use equipment that measures dynamic coefficient of friction to simulate running feet and active play.

Water

It’s pretty straight-forward that any aquatic surfacing standard should anticipate surfaces that are constantly wet. The dynamic coefficient of friction should be measured wet, and should take into consideration both treated water (pools and recirculating splash pads) as well as potable water (flow-through systems).

Most slip-resistance tests use soapy water. While soapy water makes sense in shower areas and may apply to locker rooms, soapy water is never used on actual splash pads and is very rare on pool decks. Tests should be completed with the type of water with which the guests actually come into contact.

Bare Feet

While shoes and flip-flops do occasionally come into play, the majority of people using splash pads and pool decks do so barefoot. Only one slip-resistance test, the variable ramp, uses an actual barefoot person. Every other test merely simulates bare feet. Using a rubber “foot” as a slider matters, as it most closely simulates a bare foot or a soft-soled shoe.

Test in Multiple Directions

Pool decks, splash pads, and other aquatic areas can expect traffic coming from all angles, which means that any test measuring the slip-resistance of a surface should test the surface at multiple angles. Testing from multiple angles will prove which surfaces with different grains are either slip-resistant or slick.

Testable in the field

Finally, while lab tests are important, to insure that existing surfaces adhere to the standard, any test that works in the lab should also work in the field. In most cases, it’s simply not practical to remove a pre-installed surface from an existing application and ship it off for testing.

Which Test is the Most Accurate Slip-Resistance Test?

Over the last four years, we have worked with a variety of safety testing companies to find a test which we felt would actually hit all these criteria. We wanted to demonstrate Life Floor’s slip-resistance while wet in real, aquatic-recreational situations. We even created our own test to start this process. As you can see, however, this test didn't hit every need we identified, specifically being testable in the field.

In the end, we did find an existing test that was both reflective of actual performance and most correlated with reduction of injuries: the British Pendulum Test. We use this test because it has a clear measure of both slip-resistance when wet and the degree of slip-resistance. According to the British Pendulum Test, anything with a rating of 36 is deemed slip-resistant when wet. For example, when our tiles are wet, their BPT ratings range from 39 for our Slate texture to 58 for our Ripple 2.0 and Boardwalk textures

Tellingly, most of the developed world already uses the British Pendulum Test. We also found that the Australian standard was the most thorough in establishing criteria for just about every application (pool decks, zero depth entries, locker rooms, being separate areas requiring different levels of slip-resistance).

To learn more about our work on safety testing and standards, you can read our white paper, “Splash Pads Need Safety Surfaces,” here.

The Sand Paper: Shortage, Supply, & Safety

 Atlantis The Palm Splasher Play Area

Atlantis The Palm Splasher Play Area

At Life Floor, we've seen a lot of sand in and around water parks, other aquatic installations, and in other human-made environments. That may not be a good thing. To paraphrase a philosopher, "We don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere." (seen here) Digging into the problem a little deeper, we realized that trucking sand into these places from mines, beaches, and riverbeds isn't just annoying, it's potentially dangerous. Here are a few reasons we think the aquatic recreation industry, and any industry, should rethink sand usage:

Issue #1: We’re Running Out of Sand

According to Dr Pascal Peduzzi in a UN report titled Sand, Rarer Than One Thinks, “Sand and gravel are mined world-wide and account for the largest volume of solid material extracted globally… [T]he world consumption of aggregates may exceed 40 billion tonnes a year. This is twice the yearly amount of sediment carried by all of the rivers of the world, making humankind the largest of the planet’s transforming agent.”


Most of the sand used in construction and on beaches is quartz sand (x), which is used because it has large enough grains to bind into concrete and is sturdy enough to withstand weathering. This type of sand isn’t manufactured yet. In fact, quartz sand starts in the mountains, breaks down from time and weather, and slowly makes it way to the ocean and beaches by way of rivers. Most of the earth’s sandy beaches were formed naturally over centuries, which is why our growing demand is starting to outstrip supply.

But, what about the deserts? The finely ground sand of the world‘s deserts may stretch as far as the eye can see, but is too fine for construction (while people are working on a solution, it isn’t in the bag yet).

According to the Independent’s 2017 article Sand Mafias and the Vanishing Islands: How the World is Dealing with the Global Sand Shortage, riverbeds are being emptied, beaches are being stripped, and “[I]n Indonesia, islands have literally vanished due to excessive mining.” (x)

The boom of developing countries has created the greatest demand for sand with the development of infrastructure. Countries such as India, China, Vietnam, and Indonesia are among the largest users of sand (x). “So enormous is China’s appetite for construction, in fact, that between 2011 and 2013 it used more concrete than the US got through in the entire 20th century.“ (x)

Aside from concrete, the demand for sand is also caused by natural phenomena. Singapore, for example, is one of the world’s biggest importers of sand as they attempt to protect the low-lying island from rising sea levels (x).

In places like Florida, where tourist communities are desperate to keep their eroding beaches from falling into the waves, beaches are replenished by the truckload. With the high costs of offshore sand dredging (sand is a heavy, therefore an expensive material to freight around) driving truckload after truckload of sand is becoming the go-to answer for community renourishment projects (x). Which brings us to issue #2...

Issue #2: Safety for Vulnerable Communities

Removing sand from its natural state influences the safety of individuals as well as entire communities. According to the article The World is Facing a Global Sand Crisis, “Sand mining has serious impacts on people’s livelihoods. Beaches and wetlands buffer coastal communities against surging seas. Increased erosion resulting from extensive mining makes these communities more vulnerable to floods and storm surges.” (x)  As countries struggle to protect their beaches from the sand shortages and global demand, “sand mafias” have formed and have created a black market founded on illegal sand mining operations. These illegal mining operations take advantage of vulnerable beaches were sand is a vital protective barrier for communities and they also pose immediate criminal implications for the area. (x)

Now that we’ve addressed the issue of sand on a global level, let’s take a look at how sand affects the aquatics industry on a day-to-day operating level...

Issue #3: Reduced Accessibility

One of the reasons many playgrounds have moved away from sand, and loose fill materials in general, is that these surfaces don’t meet ADA standards for propulsion or turning.

Modern amusement and water parks have developed initiatives to make parks and destination locales more accessible to people with mobility assistance needs, but when water parks take the term ‘beach entry’ literally and use sand as the surfacing around activity pools and wave pools, this hinders wheelchaired guests from getting to the waves.

When sand is also used around splash pads and next to concession areas, guests in wheelchairs may be separated from the simple pleasure of sitting next to their family for fear of getting stuck in the lurch.

Issue #4: Hygiene & Maintenance

The first and most obvious problem with sand, or any loose fill surface, is that you can bury things in it and it is harder to clean. Everything from glass shards, leaked “accidents”, or animal droppings can hide just below the surface (x) And the cleaning problem (and thus the hygiene problem) doesn’t just involve the sandy shores. Sand can’t be completely contained by retaining walls, which means it (and whatever else is in it) gets into pools and filters.

We’ll give you this: sand has better impact cushioning than concrete, and can help reduce fall injuries (of up to 4 ft). It also cools down more quickly than concrete (or, at least, you can dig your toes down to cooler layers).

Sand also requires daily maintenance to sweep and keep it around areas with a fall height specification (which is also a huge time burden for staff). Sand also tracks easily from one area to another, which spreads the hygienic problem to an even wider area and can even cause other surfaces to break down faster.

What Can We Do As Global Leaders?

We compiled this summary of data and research in honor of Earth Month to bring to light an environmental issue in surfacing that many of us here at Life Floor didn’t even know the extent of.  Our hope is that this post will also help educate other aquatic leaders around the world to choose sustainable options that do not further marginalize vulnerable global communities. At Life Floor, we believe as leaders we can choose to set the precedent that manufacturers and operators can partner together to alleviate and eliminate the environmental burden our current planet faces. More on our new recycling program in the next few months… but in the meantime, we wish you a safe, green, and happy Earth Month!

Life Floor Product Line Announcement

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Life Floor Product Line Announcement

At Life Floor, we hear this all the time, “I want more Life Floor but I’ve run out of aquatic areas to cover... how can I get more Life Floor without more floor? Can you start a fashion line? A pop star music career? Maybe a cosmetic company?”

We have a lot of design ideas, but we are morally against shoes, and the average day at the office has our staff rocking a Life Floor polo and khaki shorts, which, frankly, is already the height of fashion. We can’t launch our pop star careers with infectiously good earworms because we don’t support microbe growth, and while the market for waterproof and brightly colored cosmetics is booming, our focus on geometric and impervious designs didn’t get us too far past the fashionista focus group.

But we heard these concerns loud and clear, which is why we’re proud to announce Life Floor’s new brand: Life Flour.

That’s right.

We’re starting a recipe blog. You may be thinking, “How on earth will Life Floor switch from writing about flooring tiles to writing about baked goods?” We think we’ll get the hang of it…

Soft Chocolate Modular Cakes

Life Flour SDS

(All measurements in imperial and metric to support our international customers)

1 1/2 cups (210 grams) of sifted and whisked co-polymer flour. That is, 1 part cake flour, and 2 parts all purpose flour. (the best way to avoid abrasive, sorry, lumpy cakes is to whisk and sift all the dry ingredients together.

1 cup (190 grams) of granulated Porcelain, sorry, white sugar. (If you side with the Correct Side Of History and hide your sugar in the fridge to prevent ants, you’ll want to bring this to room temperature for better seams blending.)

½ cup (95 grams) of Gobi Light brown sugar

½ cup (70 grams) of good quality cocoa powder (Sourcing good raw ingredients is the best way to achieve the longest lasting and most durable, aww jeeze, tastiest and richest cake.)

¾ teaspoons (3ml) baking soda (not be confused with baking powder)

1 teaspoon (5ml) baking powder (not to be confused with baking soda)

½ teaspoon (2ml) kosher salt (or iodized salt if you feel a goiter coming on)

1 cup (2 sticks) (200 grams) unsalted butter, softened (Not melted! Melted results in flatter and less cushioned cakes.)

4 (200 grams) large eggs (The eggs, like all the other ingredients, should be room temperature for easy installation. To check egg freshness, make sure to bounce on Life Floor.)

1 cup sour cream (200 grams) (Afterall, our tiles are designed for the aquatic environment... we can’t publish a recipe that’s going to end up dry!)

2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract

Sprinkles (for the non-abrasive, slip-resistance on top of the cupcake)


Life Flour Installation Manual

  1. As everyone knows, the best things come in squares. So you’ll want to use square cupcake pans.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) for an even cure cook and an equal amount of impact distribution.
  3. Site prep is very important for cupcakes. Use muffin liners so the cupcakes don’t stick… wait, this has to be a mistake. We want to make the substrate slippery??!
  4. Alright fine! You caught us...
  5. Happy April Fools!

Aquatic Concussions: Anecdotal Problem Or Widespread Issue?

 No Diving Signs

No Diving Signs


The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) uses March as part of their awareness campaign to educate and expand the conversation around traumatic brain injuries, including helping the general public understand both the incidence rate of brain injuries, as well as how to support the brain community and their families.

Five to 10 percent of athletes will suffer from a concussion during any giving sporting season; the highest demographic being athletes between the ages of 15 and 17 years, according to the Southwest Athletic Trainers Association (SWATA). While many of these injuries will happen to the usual suspects (football, hockey and soccer players for high impact sports; cheerleaders and gymnasts for  high fall potential), one area in which head injuries occur that doesn’t get nearly enough attention is in and around swimming pools. Competitive swimming, synchronized swimming, and diving are sports where concussions and head injuries are understudied and often overlooked.


First, what is a concussion?

A concussion is considered a “mild” head injury by medical providers, in that (in the range of potential head injuries) it is usually not life-threatening. However, the effects of a concussion can be serious, long-lasting and invasive just as easily as they can be a temporary inconvenience.

A concussion is, according to the CDC “caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.” (x). Essentially the brain is normally protected by veins and fluid to stop it from jostling against the skull. However when the head, or body, are jostled too fast or sharply the “sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells.”

Different parts of the brain can be affected depending on the specifics of the injury and how different people will recover. “Most people with a concussion recover well from symptoms experienced at the time of the injury. But for some people, symptoms can last for days, weeks, or longer.” (x)

Immediate symptoms include (severe symptoms requiring immediate emergency attention in bold):

  • Loss of consciousness (even brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously)

  • One pupil larger than the other

  • Confusion (Unusual behavior, restlessness, agitation)

  • Headache (Which gets worse, or doesn’t go away.)

  • Slurred speech (Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination)

  • Dizziness

  • Ringing in the ears

  • Nausea (Vomiting, convulsions, seizures)

  • Amnesia

  • Tiredness (Inability to wake up or drowsiness)

Of these symptoms, the loss of consciousness in water presents the most immediate danger to swimmers and divers. The good news, though, is that 90% of concussions occur without loss of consciousness.  However, many swimmers who experience concussions in the pool often do not immediately notice their condition, continue the activity, and do not check in with a doctor because of the lack of awareness around concussions in swimming.

How widespread is the issue?

Today, facilities protect divers by regulating the depth of diving wells, posting ‘No Diving’ signs and Swimming Etiquette around commercial pools, and lifeguards monitoring the activity in and out of the pool. Swimmers, for the most part, however, have little to no safety equipment in and around the pool to protect against concussions, which is possibly why we are seeing 70% of pool injuries related to the head and neck.

In December 2016, Washington Post published an article titled ”Swimming is supposed to be low-impact, so why the concussions?” (x) in which writer Marlene Cimons details the experiences of two swimmers who had recently suffered concussive blows to the head from other swimmers. “We just don’t know what’s going on outside organized school sports, including among adults, although we believe the risk in swimming and diving to be fairly low,” says behavioral scientist Matt Breiding, who leads CDC’s traumatic brain injury team, part of its division of unintentional injury prevention. “We are trying to put together a national concussion surveillance system to get a better estimate.”

How are swimmers getting injured?

There are a few distinct situations where we see concussions taking place in swimming:

  • Diving into shallow water

  • Bumping against the pool wall during lane turns

  • Colliding with other swimmers (swimming the wrong direction, swimming too close in another lane, not following swimming etiquette)

  • Slipping on the pool deck

  • Dryland training (x)

While swimming has less occurrences of concussions than other sports, we see the added element of risk in a few places. For one, many injuries that happen to swimmers occur out of view and underwater so it can be difficult to isolate a moment of injury and swimmers can continue practicing or competing out of muscle memory, and by misattributing their symptoms. According to SwimmingWorldMagazine: “Swimmers are sometimes slow to recognize they have a concussion because many of the symptoms, like dizziness and blurred vision, can be caused by swimming upside down and holding their breath for long periods.”

What can we do?

As pointed out by the Washington Post article, a significant danger to swimmers is other swimmers. Swimmers pose a threat to each other when they do not follow proper lap swimming procedures, which is why posted signs detailing the proper lap swimming etiquette can prevent someone from significant injury (imagine a full-force kick to the head).  Facility staff can also monitor lane behavior, educate beginner swimmers, and enforce proper lap swimming procedures to prevent collisions.

As far as equipment and facility safety, helmets have been proposed for swimmers to absorb impact (such as with crashing into a wall, the force of water during a dive, a direct kick to the top of the head). While helmets reduce injuries and concussions in these situations, the NFL knows only too well that helmets are not concussion proof and do little to protect athlete’s brains from rotational or side impacts. (x)

To continue the NFL parallel, the association has created safety standards to prevent concussions that includes both personal padding and surfaces with Gmax impact absorption. One could argue that having impact surfacing on the walls of a pool as well as on the deck to reduce slip and falls (which are one of the leading causes of injury in most applications, not just aquatics) could prevent concussions in and out of the water. This doesn’t solve the problem of in-water collisions but does potentially address one piece of the puzzle.

As part of our company mission to help create safer aquatics facilities, we are writing about this issue to support the most universally helpful solution, awareness. Because we all know, there’s no such thing as risk elimination, but we can work together to provide risk mitigation. To learn more about awareness and concussion prevention, visit the BIAA website to see how you can get involved and bring awareness to your community and aquatics programs.