British Government Lab Rates Footwear Slip Resistance

For work environments where there’s a risk of slipping, it’s prudent to consider mandating slip-resistant footwear for employees, and possibly providing them with help in obtaining them. Some cruise ship companies have stores on board their ships where crew members can get slip-resistant footwear. Other companies provide financial assistance.

Footwear in a slippery floor environment can be compared to tires on a wet road. Without treads, danger is high. (Tread-less racing tires are for dry tracks only.) If the tread gets worn off in a crucial area, the tire or shoe (at least the sole) must be replaced even though the remainder looks fine. In a shoe, it’s the trailing edge of the heel that’s most critical. That part needs to be long-wearing.

The British Health Executive’s (HSE) laboratory in Buxton, England conducts sophisticated slip resistance testing of footwear using a flooring surface lubricated with either water or (to simulate oil) glycerine. They assign star ratings, with five star being the most slip-resistant.

“Footwear selection should be informed by a risk assessment,” HSE says. “For low hazard environments On Star or Two Star footwear is a sensible way to protect your staff from slips where slips are known to occur, Three Star or Four Star footwear will reduce the occurrence of slipping. In the most challenging workplaces, Five Star footwear may be necessary to adequately control slip risk.” Other footwear features such as toe protection might be required in some cases.

Some sample results are available from the British Health Executive. Some of the manufacturers may be unfamiliar to U.S. consumers, but they might recognize Shoes for Crews and Keuka. “Arctic Grip” by Maspica SpA (rating not shown) has a less detailed tread than the rest and might be more suitable for environments — such as construction sites — where finer treads might get fouled by hard-to-remove contaminants such as mud (or worse if you know what I mean).

The lab can evaluate footwear for any client. Contact mark.liddle@hse.gov.uk for details. Charges range from US $2086 for an “indicative rating” of one pair to $4060 for a “full rating.” Foreign clients don’t need to pay VAT. There are discounts of 30 percent or more for large numbers of samples. It’s not necessary for any manufacturer to offer anti-slip footwear with no GRIP rating!

GRIP test apparatus

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