ANSI Issuing Another Standard Slip Test Method for Flooring Materials

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is issuing a new test method, with minimum dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF rating), for slip resistance of hard flooring materials, wet or dry, laboratory or field testing. No minimum DCOF is provided for exterior applications. The BOT-3000E digital tribometer is used for the testing.

The Secretariat for the new method is Tile Council of North America (TCNA), Inc., but 61 organizations from many industries participated in the promulgating of it. The TCNA famously was responsible for promoting bad test methods that said nearly all floors aren’t slippery, such as the now-withdrawn ASTM C1028.

Exterior applications. Perhaps the most surprising aspect is that for the elderly and disabled who slide their feet on the floor, flooring that has a low wet COF — i.e., is slippery when wet — is recommended by the standard (p.7). This would seem to preclude the use of slip-resistant ceramic tile, porcelain, stone such as marble and granite, etc., in all outdoor areas and pool decks that are accessible to the general public. (Using wet-slip-resistant flooring and then posting warnings for the elderly and disabled would be a poor choice, since it is considered bad safety engineering practice to purposely create a hazard and then just post warnings of the hazard.)

Existing ANSI slip standards. ANSI already had three floor slip test methods: B101.1, a static test method; A137.1, a dynamic method; and B101.3, a dynamic method with a different wetting agent from that in A137.1. They are all now expired. The TCNA keeps publishing new standards to help them sell slippery tile as their tests are continually exposed as not being based on any real science or real-world slip and fall research to help property owners.

Static methods such as B101.1 have long been considered by leaders in the field to be of little use in assessing pedestrian safety. They can tend to give deceptively high COF results for some very slippery floors, leading to investment in flooring that later causes slip and fall injuries and litigation as well as increased possibility of fraud.

The difference between A137.1 and B101.3 has been discussed elsewhere in this blog. Of the two, we don’t recommend either for assessing safety. Using A137.1 gives a higher probability of achieving the 0.42 minimum, and is preferred by some partly for that reason.

Considerations other than DCOF rating. Note that exceeding the 0.42 minimum does not mean that the floor is safe. The new standard mentions 13 variables that, in addition to DCOF rating, affect slip risk. There is no discussion of how to allow for them. How can the flooring buyer or specifier solve this problem? We have discussed that in an article in Construction Specifier’s Magazine. We recommend the use of pendulum skid tester test results, which have specific safety standards (minimum Pendulum Test Values of as low as 12 to as high as 55) for many different situations — not just “one size fits all.” Categories such as dry areas, ramps, bathrooms, commercial kitchens, and swimming pool decks are included.

Effect of normal inter-laboratory differences in DCOF. An error analysis in ANSI A326.3 of results of 126 lab tests from six laboratories on seven different samples seems to show that if a sample is tested by only one laboratory, a minimum DCOF of 0.47 is needed to assure, to a high probability, that the actual value is 0.42 or higher.

How to solve slip problems. Attractive floors of tile, stone, porcelain or any material can be used wet or dry by coating them with SparkleTuff™ transparent coating. Long-wearing (it has Sustainable Slip Resistance by the McDonalds Restaurants criterion!) and safe in virtually any wet or lubricated situation, SparkleTuff™ when dry has the same slip resistance as a dry NBA basketball court — not considered a stumbling hazard. SparkleTuff™’s dry slip resistance is also lower than that of almost all rugs and carpets.

Testing to the new standard. Safety Direct America offers fast, low-cost testing using the new ANSI A326.3 method. The laboratory test charge is $265.00 per sample and normal turnaround is less than three business days. But if you’re looking for the truth based on 50 years of international science in over 50 nations, then you’ll want a pendulum DCOF test. ASTM E303-22 is the American version of that test, and it was updated in 2022 to be closer to the test methods used across Europe and in Australia/New Zealand. Expedited testing (usually less than one business day) is available for a $100-per sample surcharge. If both A326.3 and the pendulum test (ASTM E303) are ordered, there’s a 10 percent discount and the total (for normal turnaround) is only $477.00. We also conduct field testing internationally from southern California on a time and expenses basis. We have tested in Canada, Mexico, Guam, Bermuda and in between, and on the high seas.

A copy of the ANSI A326.3 standard is available free of charge since the American tile industry would love to promote in any way they can this poor test that basically “passes” most slippery floors.

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