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.