Over the years conducting slip testing for entry foyers we have been asked:
“Standards Australia HB 197 specifies wet entry foyers and dry entry foyers; how do I know whether the entry foyer I’m designing is wet or dry?”
This has serious implications where is the wrong level of slip resistance I specified it can be a significant safety issue for people and there may be legal consequences. While there is no threshold in which a surface becomes “safe” or “unsafe”, we believe that there is only more or less hazardous surfaces, as there will always be a risk of a slip and fall, regardless of the slip resistance.
Specifying adequate Slip Resistance Ratings during Design
The problem though is whether reasonable care has been taken, particularly during the design stage in conducting slip resistance testing on the planned floor surface. In many instances the client or final building owner will want a smooth polished floor. This inevitable leads to a surface with relatively low slip resistance that will not meet the wet slip resistance requirements of HB 197, when slip testing is conducted on the floor. The first sign of an issue with the design is generally when the building is first opened to the public and there is the first day of rain. The facility or manager will generally arrange for slip testing to be conducted with the results usually being relatively low.
The first attempt to reduce the risk is to provide water absorbent matting to reduce the amount of casual water that may be traipsed into the building. Other immediate measures include signage to warn people of the risk of slipping and to take care, along with umbrella wrapping machines.
How long should a length of matting be to eliminate water
The main question with regards to matting is “how long should a matt extend into the foyer?” This is a bit like asking what the length of a piece of string is. Essentially the matting should be as long as required to ensure when people step onto the floor at the end of the mat, that the floor surface is dry.
Practically, this may never be able to happen, but it assists in reducing the risk of slipping. To assist in reducing slip and fall risks, this may include changing the mat during the day, or extending the length by adding additional lengths of matting.
Take care to ensure that your mats do not become trip hazards!
In essence the designer will have the best knowledge as to whether the surface is going to be considered wet or dry, based on the particular environment. Factors include, the length of external cover before entering the building, any air locks and the extent and efficacy of matting. Property managers will also have this information through practical experience of similar buildings. Both the client, facility manager and designer should discuss the lay out and management options that will be required to maintain a smooth floor, and also be accepting of the risk, should they want the smooth floor surface that is easier to clean.
For more information on control measures to reduce the risk of slip and falls, including slip resistance testing of mats and matting, please contact the Slip Check team at Safe Environments in Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne.
Author: Carl Strautins
As a principle at Safe Environments, Carl Strautins first started his career at CSIRO conducting research in slip resistance and developed the accelerated wear slip resistance test. He holds a degree in materials science, masters in occupational health and safety and a masters in science in occupational hygiene, Carl provides guidance to industry to minimise the risk of slip and fall incidents. He is engaged on a regular basis to provide expert opinion for disputes and legal proceedings.