When our clients ask for an ANSI/NFSI A137.1 test we often recommend that they order a pendulum test as well. The pair of floor slip resistance tests is popular, and we offer a discounted price of $387.00 (for lab testing) when they are ordered together. The reason has to do with the A137.1 standard — it doesn’t give nearly enough information to assure slip-and-fall safety.
Section 126.96.36.199.10 of ANSI/NFSI A137.1 states that,
“Unless otherwise specified, tiles suitable for level interior spaces expected to be walked upon wet shall have a wet DCOF of 0.42 or greater when tested using SLS solution as per the procedure in Section 9.6.1. However, tiles with a DCOF of 0.42 or greater are not necessarily suitable for all projects. The specifier shall determine tiles appropriate for specific project conditions, considering by way of example, but not in limitation,
“type of use,
expected wear, and
manufacturers’ guidelines and recommendations.
“… The presence on installed tiles of water, oil, grease, and/or any other elements which reduce traction, creates slippery conditions … Tile installations with exposure to such elements require extra caution in product selection, use, and maintenance. … When tested using SLS solution as per the procedure in Section 9.6.1, tiles with a wet DCOF of less than 0.42 shall only be installed when the surface will be kept dry when walked upon and proper safety procedures will be followed when cleaning the tiles.”
This standard has no recommendations for outdoor floors or for ramps.
The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) made major contributions to ANSI A137.1, although TCNA has recently issued its own version as a new standard, ANSI A326.3, independent of NFSI (National Floor Safety Institute). The new TCNA version also includes the 0.42 minimum for DCOF rating.
The phrase “expected wear” includes a statement that the DCOF rating can change over time. SDA offers the McDonalds Restaurants Sustainable Slip Resistance test to assess potential effects of wear. Periodic monitoring, e.g., quarterly or annually, can follow any changes in slip resistance after the floor is in service.
Elsewhere, TCNA states that the possibility a slip may occur can also be affected by:
“The material of the shoe sole and its degree of wear, the speed and length of stride at the time of a slip, the physical and mental condition of the individual at the time of a slip, whether the floor is flat or inclined, how the surface is used, how the tile is structured, and how drainage takes place if liquids are involved.”
What to do?
So — what’s a designer, architect or flooring specifier to do about all this?
Fortunately, there are detailed situation-specific recommendations in Standards Australia (SA) HB 198:2014, Guide to the Specification and Testing of Slip Resistance of Pedestrian Surfaces, which has been in use “Down Under”, with only minor modifications, since 1999. We at Safety Direct America (the floor slip resistance test experts) believe this provides the best justification for a specifier to set guidelines.
The Australian standard uses a different test instrument—the pendulum skid tester, which has been in use continuously for pedestrian slip resistance since 1970, and is now a national standard in at least 49 nations. It is employed for ASTM E303, Standard Test Method for Measuring Surface Frictional Properties Using the British Pendulum Tester, and has been endorsed by the Ceramic Tile Institute of America (CTIOA) for all types of flooring since 2001.
The Australian standard recommends minimum wet pendulum test values (PTVs) for some 40 different situations, such as:
- supermarket aisles (PTV ≥ 12); [these are expected to be kept dry in use, but may get slippery due to unseen dust or other lubricants]
- transitional areas intended to be kept dry (≥ 25);
- restrooms (≥ 35);
- wet treads or landings on stairs (≥ 45); and
- commercial kitchens or swimming pool ramps and stairs leading into water (≥ 55).
For reference only, the ASTM standard for indoor basketball courts—that is, Section 4.5 of ASTM F2772-11, Standard Specification for Athletic Performance Properties of Indoor Sports Floor Systems—specifies a dry PTV between 80 and 110. (Indoor basketball courts are very slippery when wet, which is why considerable effort is devoted to wiping sweat off the floor after a player falls.)
Safety Direct America (SDA) believes that using the Australian standards indicate that a designer has employed due diligence, best possible practice, and all that is reasonably practicable—in other words, he or she was not negligent. (“Negligence” is the key word in litigation.) Many of SDA’s domestic and international clients have been using this test method for years in the United States and elsewhere, including cruise ships, to choose appropriate flooring, due to lack of any similar domestic safety criteria.
By incorporating ANSI A137.1, the 2012 International Building Code explicitly put responsibility for floor slip resistance in the hands of the Specifier. It sets a rather low bar for minimum wet DCOF rating, but points out that meeting the minimum dynamic coefficient of friction requirement is not enough—numerous other factors must be considered. (Professional specifiers should make sure their insurance covers this added risk.) However, using SDA’s Recommended Slip Test Package can help prevent accidents and help build a strong defense against litigation.