A Review of Standards for Pedestrian Slip Resistance Testing

There are a number of floor slip test methods established by standards-setting organizations that assess pedestrian slip resistance. Here we’ll review the most widely known and current ones. They are distinguished by the devices used in the testing. Terms such as DCOF rating, coefficient of friction, slip coefficient, slip resistance rating, and friction coefficient all refer to the same thing – a scientific measure of the slip resistance of a flooring surface for pedestrians.

The Brungraber Mark II and English XL tribometers had provisional standards published by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). They never met the ASTM requirements for precision, and the ASTM withdrew them with no replacements after ten years of waiting for a precision statement to be submitted for either instrument. A more recent version of the Mark II, the Brungraber Mark IIIB, has never been the subject of an official published or peer-reviewed standard. These devices seem to be used mainly by “expert witnesses” (or “expert court liars”) who wish to somehow make a case for their client. The gadgets do not have applicable official standards in other countries either, and thus are not backed by any standards-setting organization anywhere in the world.

The BOT-3000E slip test device has standards issued by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Some have expired. The current one favored by the manufacturer of the instrument, and by Tile Council of North America (TCNA), is ANSI A326.3. We do not recommend using ANSI A326.3 or the BOT-3000E alone for assessing the slip resistance of a floor. The TCNA is famous for promoting slip resistance tests that are easy to “pass” so as to help American tile manufacturers, not building owners. Previous standards (still being sold) for the device include B101.1, B101.3, and A137.1. ANSI A326.3, it should be noted, does not yet have a standard using a softer rubber that would be helpful for measuring barefoot areas.

The most widely accepted test method is known as the “British” Pendulum tester, which was invented by the U.S. National Bureau of Standards and has been in constant use for pedestrian traction since 1971. It is the subject of ASTM Standard E303, has been endorsed by Ceramic Tile Institute of America since 2001, and was validated against human traction testing by the University of Southern California Medical Center’s Department of Biokinesiology & Physical Therapy.

Slip Resistance Testing for Tile/Floors
The pendulum slip resistance tester in motion, as well as the BOT-3000E tribometer by its side

The pendulum has for years been established as an official national standard for pedestrian traction in at least 50 nations including (but not limited to) Australia, Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dubai, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. The American test method for the pendulum slip resistance test device is called ASTM E303-22.

An advantage of the pendulum is that its safety standard — the minimum wet Pendulum Test Value that is considered safe — is not “one size fits all”, but has some 40 long-standing situation-specific minimums, for example for external level surfaces, external ramps (mild and steep), commercial kitchens, swimming pool decks, external stairways, hospital bathrooms, etc. What is safe for a 10th-floor indoor elevator lobby may not be safe for a communal shower room or pool deck. This is floor slip resistance testing for the 21st century.

The rubber the pendulum uses to simulate shoe heels or bare feet can be hard or soft, with appropriate safety standards for each. Hard rubber is obviously not a good medium for representing bare feet. Soft, flexible media (like skin) can flow around the micro-rough features of a surface that give it good wet slip resistance when hard media (standard shoe soles) are concerned. Therefore a swimming pool deck, for instance, should be tested with soft rubber as well as a hard rubber to see what the real-world slip resistance will be for people wearing shoes as well as people walking barefoot.

The pendulum is also used in the test for Sustainable Slip Resistance established by McDonalds Restaurants after years of research. This test assesses how durable wet slip resistance of flooring is likely to be after many pedestrians have walked it. Another use of the pendulum is for dry testing of gym floors used for basketball, volleyball, etc. in ASTM F2772.

It is extremely important to consider precision when deciding which slip resistance test instruments offer valid results for assessing real-world pedestrian safety. There are instruments that have been developed only to aid in legal defense in the USA, and these instruments allow the user to get whatever answer they are being paid to get for the lawyer who has hired the “expert.” Valid instruments will have international acceptance, have published, peer-reviewed official test standards, and will have been shown to have acceptable precision in interlaboratory studies. The pendulum slip resistance tester meet these criteria, whereas the Brungraber Mark IIIB and English XL devices do not.

Want to win a lawsuit at any cost? Hire someone with a Brungraber Mark IIIB. The device has no published standard anywhere on earth and can get you the result you need to put together an unscrupulous win-at-all-costs case. Want to know if your floor is actually slippery or not using real science? Use a device with an official published standard for its use, such as the pendulum slip resistance tester or the SlipAlert Tribometer.

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One Response to “A Review of Standards for Pedestrian Slip Resistance Testing”

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    HESKINS January 22, 2019 at 4:53 am #

    Great article, very useful!