Unfortunately, many swimming pool decks are slippery when wet as installed! This can and too often does lead to severe accidents for both children and adults. The deck that was supposed to supply fun for the family, club members, or the public becomes a liability that causes pain, suffering, expensive medical treatment, and income losses. Here’s how to avoid that situation.
Specify before the floor is laid that the level (or near-level) part of the pool deck must have a Pendulum Test Value (PTV), measured wet with a soft rubber (TRL rubber) slider, of 40 or higher. This is a dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF) test that is the most used on-site and most well-respected slip resistance tester on the planet. Ramps and stairs leading into the water must have a wet PTV of 45 or higher. Then make sure that post-construction cleanup and maintenance (for instance, using an abrasive pad on a buffing machine) does not destroy the wet slip resistance. A documented slip resistance test before turnover can help protect you and others.
Communal changing rooms should have a wet PTV of 35 or higher, and communal shower rooms a wet PTV of 40 or higher, again using a soft rubber slider for the test (which simulates bare feet and softer shoe soles). Safety Direct America can conduct the pendulum slip testing, either in the laboratory (if you can supply a representative sample) or on your slippery pool deck. In the case of ceramic tiles, it’s a good idea to test three independent pieces. Total charge for the lab slip test is $230.00, whether for one, two or three pieces.
The minimum PTV values quoted above are from a Standards Australia specification that has been in use with good results since 2009. It was slightly revised and reissued in 2014.
The ANSI A137.1 tile slip resistance test that is specified in the International Building Code is unfortunately not suitable for pool decks. The ANSI A326.3 slip resistance test is not suitable as well. It allows for some polished concrete pool decks and other incredibly dangerous situations. The slider used for that test is hard rubber, not representative of bare feet; and the BOT-3000E slip test instrument used travels at low speed that does not model the speeds at which children and some adults tend to travel at on pool decks. The old, now withdrawn ASTM C 1028 slip test is completely unreliable for testing pool decks and is no longer a valid test at all as of 2014.
A few tile manufacturers offer test results for barefoot surfaces using the German standard DIN 51097, which involves two people testing with bare feet on the wet surface. This is considered a very realistic slip resistance test. Suitable surfaces are classified either “A” (e.g. changing or locker rooms, and pool floors between 31 and 53 inches deep), “B” (pool decks, stairs, and pool floors where water is less than 31 inches deep) and “C” (inclined pool edge designs and stairs leading into the water, etc.). If you order tile based on these classifications, it’s best to have the tiles pendulum-skid-tested before they are installed. Again, Safety Direct America can conduct this slip resistance test. A number quoted by a manufacturer in a catalog is likely based on a single test (perhaps conducted years ago) that might not be representative of what’s delivered to you.
Here’s a brief word about another German test, DIN 51130, which applies not to barefoot areas but rather for industrial flooring. This is also a very realistic skid test, with two people walking in industrial-type treaded shoes on flooring coated with motor oil. It’s good for industrial situations. However, it’s not reliable for commercial and domestic situations where people may be walking on wet floors with untreaded shoes.
The treads used for the standard slip test are very good for grabbing projections on rough flooring that help prevent slipping on an oily floor. Untreaded shoes, which many people wear at work and away from work, may not work as well — even on a floor that’s just wet with water. Relying on DIN 51130 for a commercial area has caused some very expensive mistakes, including the case of a large tiled area at a major international airport. An epidemic of slips and falls started as soon as the first rainy day resulted in water being on the floor.