Flooring Specifiers Are Slipping Up
Historically it has been the case that too few of those deciding on flooring products considered slip resistance. Slippery when wet floors were being specified for areas where it was unreasonable to effectively prevent water contamination, leaving building managers with a headache in terms of risk management.
More recently, and perhaps thanks to the HSE’s efforts in targeting flooring specifiers, we have seen a significant and very welcome increase in those specifying floors with the appropriate BS 7976 ‘PTV’ of 36 or greater in the conditions of end use. Unfortunately, it also seems many still don’t understand slip risk and to ‘play it safe’ they are instead causing significant expense in terms of money, time and effort, and are making it more likely a slip will occur.
For the avoidance of doubt, floor surfaces must achieve a PTV of 36 or greater (when tested to BS 7976) in the conditions of end use. If end use sees shod pedestrians this means the shod slider, #96/4S must be used. If end use sees a wet floor this means values must be of 36PTV or greater in wet conditions.
Sometimes it seems this message has not been understood or interpreted correctly, often the message has been confused by those hawking their anti-slip products or services, claiming all surfaces must be 36PTV or greater, everywhere. Some organisations deem to hold themselves to a higher safety standard, and so add an arbitrary figure to the required 36PTV, often specifying 40PTV, 55PTV, or even higher.
“What is the problem if my specified product exceeds requirements?”, some may question. The answer is a combination of factors.
Easiest to explain is the unnecessary expense, especially if products are laid and then processed or treated to improve wet slip resistance.
More convoluted, but more important, is the safety factor. Once a surface provides sufficient grip, any additional grip has negligible impact on the risk of that person slipping. Someone is similarly unlikely to slip on a 36PTV and 70PTV surface. However, the slip resistance of flooring changes over time with wear and dirt deposits. Higher wet PTV’s tend to occur on rougher surfaces, and rougher surfaces have a greater propensity to both wear and collect dirt, and so are more likely to decline at a higher rate, leading to a reduced PTV (and potentially slippery floor) faster. At the same time, the floor, having been specified as (unnecessarily) anti-slip will be considered safe in all conditions, leading to a relax in contamination controls. A slippery surface, assumed to be safe, in an environment where controls are not effective, is almost certain to result in one, if not many, slip accidents and one, if not many, subsequent successful compensation claims.
Over specifying slip resistance is then both more expensive, more time consuming and less safe, but how much of a problem is it? How often does it really happen? Well it is seemingly extremely common if our sample of the market is anything to go by. All the following occurred in the last month;
In conclusion, whilst initial PTV’s are of crucial importance in floor safety, long term compliance simply cannot be bought with higher initial numbers. Seeking higher initial numbers is unnecessarily expensive and can increase the risk of a slip.