Slips and falls are the most common causes of injuries in the workplace. In fact, one-eighth of eight million injuries in the U.S. happens due to slips and falls every year. Unfortunately, some of these injuries also cause fatalities.
Therefore, slip resistance becomes a critical factor when designing and maintaining surfaces in both indoor and outdoor environments.
In this article, we’ll explore the factors that affect slip resistance and the recommendations for maximizing slip resistance.
Understanding the slip resistance and its importance
Slip resistance measures the force required to move a person’s foot on a surface. Meaning how smoothly or roughly your foot drags on the floor. It is affected by many factors, including surface texture, surface contamination, footwear material, and environmental conditions. Consideration of slip resistance is critical in industries, corporations, and other places where a lot of people work and have the possibility to slip and fall.
Factors that affect slip resistance:
The texture of the surface is one of the most significant factors that affect slip resistance. You can feel it yourself; while walking on a rough surface, you feel a better grip on the foot than on a smooth surface. This is because the rough surface increases the friction between your shoe and the surface, making it harder for the shoe to slide.
Some people use the tiled floor with a high-gloss finish for their offices and workplace, as it looks aesthetically pleasing but can be extremely slippery and dangerous. On the other hand, a surface with a rough texture, such as a rubber mat or concrete, provides better slip resistance even when wet.
Substances like water, oil, grease, or dust on the surface reduce its slip resistance. These substances create a layer between your foot and the surface, reducing the amount of friction and increasing the chances of slipping.
For instance, kitchen floors usually get slippery due to spilled oil or grease. Similarly, floors in a public restroom that has not been cleaned regularly may have water and soap residue, making it more hazardous. To increase the slip resistance in these situations, cleaning the surface regularly is essential.
We can’t always blame the slippery surface or the debris on the floor; sometimes, our own footwear can be the cause of slips. For example, leather and plastic soles tend to slip on surfaces more than soles made of rubber.
Rubber sole is a popular material for slip-resistant shoes because it provides excellent grip and traction on a variety of surfaces, including wet and oily surfaces.
Businesses may decide the footwear types for their employees in the workplace. For instance, a chef wears shoes with non-slip soles that give better traction on a greasy kitchen floor. Likewise, construction workers wear steel-toed boots with slip-resistance soles that give better footing on uneven or slippery surfaces.
Reduced slip resistance could also be a result of environmental factors like temperature, humidity, and lighting. For example, a wet surface in the rainy season is no doubt more slippery than a dry surface, and poorly lit areas can make it difficult to see potential hazards.
To deal with this kind of situation, it is important to take steps such as adequate lighting and maintaining appropriate temperature and humidity levels.
Cleaning and maintenance
Regularly cleaning and maintaining the floors can reduce slip and fall accidents by removing contaminants, such as dirt or oil, from the surface.
However, keep in mind that some cleaning products can also leave a slippery residue on the surface if not cleaned properly.
In addition to cleaning, maintenance is also necessary. For example, even a rough texture can become smooth over time due to a lot of foot traffic. Again, regular maintenance can help identify and correct this issue before it injures someone.
Floor slip resistance testing methods
Several methods are available for floor slip resistance testing, including the pendulum and tribometer tests.
Pendulum testing is the most common test to be used. It measures the dynamic coefficient of friction between the surface and standardized rubber slides. A tribometer measures friction’s static and dynamic coefficient using a sliding sled or a rotating disk.
Slip resistance is crucial in ensuring safety in workplaces and public spaces. Understanding the factors that affect slip resistance, such as flooring materials, contaminants, and footwear, can help identify potential slip and fall hazards.
Additionally, regular testing, proper cleaning and maintenance, and the use of slip-resistant flooring materials and coatings can significantly improve slip resistance and reduce the risk of accidents. By taking these steps, employers and facility managers can create safer environments for their employees and visitors.