Renting a Pendulum Floor Slip Tester: A VERY BAD IDEA!!

At Safety Direct America, we have been experts in pendulum floor slip resistance testing for well over two decades. We calibrate pendulum slip resistance testers for companies and government agencies around the world, and we made most of the updates to the latest version of the American test method for use of the pendulum dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF) floor and road slip test device (also known as a tribometer) – ASTM E303-22. We’re also a member of the United Kingdom’s Slip Resistance Group (UKSRG) who has been doing extensive research into making the pendulum tester more and more precise and useful in preventing slip and fall accidents over the past several decades. To rent one of these delicate machines out to any stranger with a credit card is a VERY BAD IDEA.

First of all, using the pendulum tester requires a bit of expert training and experience. There are a lot of sensitive parts that can be easily damaged and put out of alignment by inexperienced users, meaning your results will almost certainly be unreliable and meaningless with a rented pendulum tester since the machine has only been used by inexperienced and untrained users over its entire lifetime. To rent a pendulum floor slip tester from a company who doesn’t understand just how delicate these expensive engineering devices are is an equally BAD IDEA. You’re likely getting a machine that is no longer reliable since it’s been spending its entire life bouncing around from FedEx facility to inexperienced stranger and back again, on and on and on…

Pool Deck Pendulum Slip Resistance Test

Testing a Pool Deck for Slip Resistance at UC San Francisco

To be renting out a pendulum tester that has previously been rented out to anyone who thinks they can “wing it because they saw a YouTube video” means that YOU are now renting out a delicate scientific instrument that has been abused its entire life. It’s almost like renting a used condom from a stranger on a street corner in Amsterdam. You rent a condom that comes in a ZipLock bag and then you return it to the mysterious guy in the hoodie when you’re done with it?! Where has that condom been?!?! You feel like you can trust that thing!?!

Let’s imagine: your kid is having twenty-five of his best friends and their parents over for a birthday party in your back yard around the pool. Will you hire a clown if your kid wants a clown at the pool party? Or are you the guy that’ll rent a cheap clown suit and handle the clowning yourself to save a few bucks? Did you once take an improv class in Jr. High School, so you can handle the clowning yourself? I’m sure the kids are gonna love that!

Did you take some science classes in college, so now you’re an expert in all things science? If there’s a serious slip and fall injury that leads to a serious slip and fall lawsuit at this pool party (think permanent brain damage and a lifetime of wheelchairs and round-the-clock care), we bet you’ll wish you’d hired a professional clown (so you were available to call an ambulance as soon as the slip injury happened on your property) and a professional floor slip resistance testing expert before you installed the pool deck to make sure the floors around your pool were safe before you had a large party around it. Don’t you think?

Lawsuits often last years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend (if not millions) and lead to many nights of lost sleep. Saving a few hundred bucks by renting a clown suit and a pendulum tribometer might seem like a really bad idea at 3am two years after your pool party while you lay awake pondering your previous decisions before that fateful day. Money comes and goes. Loss of limbs and life is permanent.

Just because there’s a recent calibration sticker stuck on this rental machine doesn’t mean this device is still giving reliable results. One rough trip with FedEx or one tumble down a stair means the machine needs to be fully re-calibrated, or at the very least re-verified. Is the company renting you this delicate machine including with the machine the verification surfaces supplied by reputable pendulum manufacturers these days? These verification surfaces include float glass, pink polishing paper, and what is called a “conditioned Pavigres tile”. These are all mentioned in ASTM E303-22. Experienced, professional pendulum slip test experts test these surfaces regularly before beginning professional testing to make sure the pendulum is giving the correct results. If you’re just getting a pendulum with a calibration sticker stuck on it, then you’re not doing science. You’re likely just faking it and making it look like you’re doing a real pendulum test. But you’re not. You’re almost certainly not getting reliable, trustworthy results.

Calibrations from experienced pendulum calibration labs around the wold cost around $700-$900. So if you rented a pendulum for 800 bucks, do you think they sent it out for an $800 calibration when they got it back from you? Or did they ship it right back out to the next sucker with a credit card who had the desire to play “coefficient of friction expert” for a day?

The pendulum floor slip resistance tester has a peer-reviewed published test standard in at least 50 countries and has been in use for over 50 years now, but we only know of one company in the world (and wouldn’t you guess? It’s an American company that just recently became familiar with pendulum testers) that would do such an irresponsible thing with a delicate engineering device. We’re absolutely sure the practice of renting pendulum testers leads to unreliable and poor results. This in turn makes the pendulum device look like it’s unreliable, when clearly the problem is an untrained user using an unverified and improperly calibrated pendulum tribometer.

SEA airport floor slip resistance testing

Testing Floor Slip Resistance for the State of Washington at their Seattle/Tacoma airport

The old and outdated calibration method written into ASTM E303 was found to be entirely insufficient in a study called “Evaluation of Calibration Procedures of British Pendulum Tester” by W. Guo et al several years ago. It’s a flaw within the present ASTM E303 test method that the calibration method isn’t up to date with this definitive study, so reputable and experienced pendulum calibration labs around the world know this and use the calibration procedure described in EN 16165:2021 to properly and precisely calibrate pendulums. If your pendulum was calibrated by some American lab that just became familiar with the pendulum DCOF tester in 2022 when Safety Direct America updated ASTM E303-22, then you’re likely renting a device that isn’t working properly.

There are experts around the world in the field of measuring the dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF) of floors and roads using internationally accepted devices such as the pendulum tester, and then there’s some guy who wanted to save a few bucks by renting a cheap unverified rental unit they found on the internet. This rental company is clearly not familiar with this device enough to know that it needs to be cared for carefully and needs to be verified regularly.

Did the rental come with a copy of the test method ASTM E303-22? That’s a copyrighted test method that would be essential for running the test. If it came with copyrighted material, that’s copyright infringement and breaking the law. If it didn’t come with the test method, then is the renter supposed to follow some basic instructions and NOT follow the published test method? Either way, this seems like either a shady company or a shady way of running a scientific test.

Being familiar with the pendulum test methods from around the world helps experts in the field of floor slip resistance testing become experts. In Europe and the UK, they use EN 16165:2021 Section C. This is perhaps the world’s most detailed pendulum test method, and answers many questions that ASTM E303-22 (a much more basic pendulum test method) does not. Australia’s AS 4586 and HB198 is also a very well-written pendulum test method that gives detailed and excellent recommendations for pendulum test value (PTV) results.

Not being familiar with these test methods wouldn’t be a good idea for someone attempting to get reliable results. Pendulum floor slip resistance testing should be left to people who have been trained in pendulum testing by experts and have had extensive practice verifying the instrument is working properly by testing the pink polishing paper, float glass, and conditioned Pavigres tile supplied with pendulums from reputable manufacturers.

If you rent one and you didn’t receive the verification surfaces, you can have no idea if your pendulum was damaged in transit, hasn’t been properly calibrated, or just isn’t working properly because it was rented to you by a company who has no respect for these expensive machines and aren’t familiar enough with them to be able to regularly calibrate and/or verify them after each rental returns to their shop.

Do yourself a favor – if you want to help stop slip and fall accidents on your property, hire an expert who does pendulum DCOF testing to help identify problem floors. Don’t rent a faulty device from people who don’t understand how delicate the device is. You’ll just be “pretending” to do science. And “pretending” to do science leads to life-changing slip and fall injuries, lawsuits, and deaths. We here at Safety Direct America do reliable pendulum slip resistance testing of flooring samples in our lab and in the field all over North America and beyond. Email John for more information and a quote for testing in your facility.

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