Getting slip resistance specifications just right

By Richard Bowman, Intertile Research
Monday, 02 June, 2014

Specifying appropriately slip-resistant surfaces has never been easy. For those architects who seek to specify traditionally used materials it is about to become even harder.

The National Construction Code (NCC) has commenced the process of quantifying slip resistance requirements using the new slip resistance classifications that were recently introduced in AS 4586:2013, ‘Slip resistance classification of new pedestrian surface materials’.

SAI Global is just about to publish a new Handbook 198, Guide to the Specification and Testing of Slip Resistance of Pedestrian Surfaces, which will enable the use of the new slip resistance classifications.

The NCC 2014 deemed-to-satisfy solutions for residential stairways require a higher level of slip resistance than the German occupational health and safety requirements for industrial buildings.

The HB 198 guidance outlaws the use of polished marble and granite floors in public buildings. HB 198 also fails to provide any guidance on how to assess the results of floors tested to the new AS 4663: 2013, ‘Slip resistance measurement of existing pedestrian surfaces’.

Slip resistance experts Richard Bowman (Intertile Research) and Carl Strautins (Safe Environments) presented information on 30 May at DesignEX to help empower architects to make appropriate slip resistance decisions. While slip resistance experts may disagree with the direction of recent developments, such as the detail of HB 198, the industry may have to seek expert judgements to enable alternative solutions that hark back to traditional design practices.

We need to specify flooring that is just right: not too hard to initially clean and sufficiently slip resistant for an economically reasonable life cycle.

Many current problems are based on a common naive belief that specifying increased slip resistance is sufficient to prevent falls. Applying multiple safety factors only compounds current ignorance of the existing environmental slip resistance. Some elderly persons require a certain degree of slip in order that they can ascend stairs. The most effective intervention to reduce stairway falls would be to increase the minimum length of goings to 280 mm.

All progress may be experimental, but there needs to be adequate proof testing before releasing upgrades onto an unsuspecting public. The Australian Tile Council NSW Division conducted a psychophysical slip resistance experiment at DesignEX to determine the level of slip resistance that attendees consider appropriate in liveable bathrooms.

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