Surface (CHIMES)

To slip, you need something for your floor to touch, so the surface is clearly very relevant. Indeed, if you were to only take one thing away from CHIMES as a model, I would suggest that you took this:

 

If you have a slip resistant surface, you give yourself half a chance of avoiding slips. If you’ve got a floor surface which is inherently slippery, you’re always going to be fighting an uphill battle

 

This is important but just because the floor surface looks like it is slip-resistant, it doesn’t mean it actually is. This is perhaps the biggest misconception that I, consistently, find: people assume, incorrectly, that they have a safe floor because it looks like it’s an anti-slip finish. It’s got a texture, it’s got a profile, it’s got some bubbles, it’s not smooth, “I rub my foot across it and it feels okay to me”. All of these could well be flawed assumptions. So you really need to understand the surface.

 

This is something that is within your control and therefore should be higher up in terms of the things that you’re looking at. So how do we quantify if a floor is slip-resistant or not? There are lots of tests available that will claim to measure how slip resistant or not a floor surface is, but here in the UK, which is where I tend to operate, there’s only one test which cuts the mustard, in terms of the courts and in terms of the regulator (HSE). That is the pendulum test.

 

If you end up in court and you’re being prosecuted by a local authority or by the HSE about a slip accident, there’s a very strong likelihood that pendulum test data will be used. This is the only test you should be using for specification of floors. It’s the only test you should really be using to monitor the maintenance of your floors as an absolute measurement of slip resistance (other proprietary tests can be used for indicative monitoring). It’s the gold standard. It does give you that scientific and precise measurement. And that’s why people need to know about this test and need to be using it.

 

There are other tests available, as mentioned, and indeed we would recommend other tests to people in certain scenarios. For example, if you specify a new floor and you used pendulum test data to specify it plus had a pendulum test conducted upon handover, you wouldn’t necessarily need to use the pendulum to monitor that floor all the time. You could use other tests to monitor just see whether things are changing or not.

 

How would you do that in practice? You would get the other test method done, side-by-side on the same day as the pendulum results, and that would give you a benchmark. Now whatever that test method’s output number says, I wouldn’t necessarily put too much stock into it. But it would be a barometer. So let’s say the number was 100. If you then wanted to monitor the maintenance of your floor surface and its slip safety over time, if you kept testing that floor every single week and you kept getting a score of 100, then that would suggest that nothing’s really changed and therefore the maintenance is working.

 

If, however, you were testing it every week and you got scores of 100, 100, 100, and then 10… That suggests something quite significant has changed, and therefore you need to think about what you could do in terms of an intervention to rectify that situation.

 

Depending on the environment, and a few other factors. I would suggest a pendulum test between six to 12 monthly, just to really positively and proactively stay on top of things.

 

Leading law firm Keoghs agrees:

 

[David Scott]

 

So get the surface right and monitor it. But there are a couple of other things you need to bear in mind.

 

Firstly, we’ve seen the importance of controlling contamination and the maintenance cleaning of surfaces. This is doubly important on more slip-resistant surfaces because the more grip a floor has the more textured it is. Therefore the more it will attract dirt to cling to it. I have seen examples of floor starting life at PTV 45 rapidly falling to PTV scores of less than 25 due to contamination build-up and ineffective cleaning.

 

If you are seeking, let’s say, a PTV of 30 over time, you’re more likely to be able to achieve that with a starting PTV of 36 than with a starting PTV of 55.

 

So, the cleanability of a floor absolutely has a role to play in terms of floor selection. If you’re in a position of the construction or refurbishment projects and choosing a floor, make sure to opt for one that is not just slip-resistant but also one that can be maintained in an acceptably slip-resistant state.

 

The other thing to think about when it comes to the surface specification is of course its propensity to wear. A very highly profiled surface with lots of foot traffic over it is going to wear smooth more quickly than a surface with a less profiled texture. Again, therefore, you may see that a floor which starts life as a pendulum test value of 55 in wet conditions could in the long term, be less slip resistant than a floor which starts life at a pendulum test value 37 or 38.

 

When it comes to the surface, the vast majority of floors are, of course, not being replaced, refurbished or restored. They are what they are, to some extent, and therefore, one might argue that the surface is not something that can necessarily be easily controlled.

 

However, experience showed me that almost any surface can have a very effective remedial anti-slip treatment applied to it, which can make it sufficiently safe. Importantly, if done correctly, these treatments can be long lasting and easy to maintain. They can therefore present an effective and sustainable, long-term solution to any slip issues that you may be having.

 

In terms of what slip-resistance you require in what area, we strongly recommend a zonal approach. The foreseeability of a floor getting wet near an entrance to a building is very different to that of a floor in the middle of it, away from kitchens and washrooms. The more likely a floor is going to become wet or contaminated, the higher a slip resistance value you should seek. But do remember the Goldilocks Principle: just enough slip resistance is better than too much or not enough.

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