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What Does The Future Hold For Slip Testing?

Since the 1920’s there has been a recognised need for a quantitative safety code for walkway surfaces. It had become clear that slips, trips and falls on walkways could cause more serious damage than just a bump and a bruise, especially to the elderly and children who experienced these the most. There were already a significant number of people experiencing disabling injuries from slips and falls caused by slippery surfaces, and even some fatalities.

Fortunately slip resistance testing has come a long way since then and has secured the safety of countless pedestrians from slips and falls. But there is still much that slip resistance researchers need to resolve, and these unresolved issues could very well define where slip resistance testing will be headed in the future.

Early History of Slip Resistance Testing

The National Bureau of Standards (NBS) has been involved in slip resistance research since the 1920’s, with their earliest work focussing on the measurement of coefficient of friction (COF). COF can be defined in many different ways, but can be understood as the value that shows the relationship between the force of friction between two objects, and the normal reaction between the objects involved. COFs that are 0.3 or higher are usually classified as ‘very slip resistant’, whereas lower values signify the opposite.

From 1924 to 1926 investigations led by R.B. Hunter helped to develop a process for preparing specimens and a procedure for measuring COF. Hunter also created one of the earliest slip test apparatuses: the Hunter Machine, the design of which was incorporated into later test devices.

By the 1940’s to early 1950’s an extensive program of slip-resistance research was led by a Percy A. Sigler, whose work included the analysis of photographs of people walking. Sigler developed a new pendulum-type tester, much like the pendulum tester being used today.

In 1961, the NBS contributed greatly to a study which established a rational framework for the development of quantitative slip-resistance standards. Considerable research was done, which involved the demonstrations of various slip resistance test machines; contacting of flooring product manufacturers and insurance companies; and working with research laboratories. At the end of the study, it was concluded that:

  • More research and development was necessary to develop a set of standard reference surfaces which could be used in the long-term for field or laboratory tests
  • A simple, portable device for measuring slip-resistance in the field was needed
  • Before any material claiming to be ‘slip-resistant’ can be installed, they should be tested under conditions which simulate actual usage conditions
  • No single criterion should be established for all pedestrain surfaces

Present and Future of Slip Resistance Testing

Fast forward to today and we find that the conclusions of those early studies are still quite relevant. While many developments have been made in the field of slip-resistance testing, there is still a need for more research and development, especially in terms of standard reference surfaces and test criterion.

Because of the complex array of factors that affect each slip incident, including gait dynamics, environmental conditions, footwear and surface makeup, a more standardised, constant and conclusive measure of slip-resistance for specific flooring types is still out of reach. While there has been considerable progress in the understanding of slip resistance properties, no one COF measurement can be regarded as the final and objective value for any combination of footwear, surface and contaminant.

Standardisation is one of the main hurdles in this industry, and is apparent in the fact that slip testing standards differ from one country to another. The standards for slip resistance testing in Sydney can vastly differ from slip resistance testing standards in New York, or China, or any other place. This means that any flooring material manufactured in one country and deemed slip-resistant may not actually be slip-resistant if tested according to the standards of the destination country.

It’s important then that slip resistance be measured according to the standards of the destination country, and beyond this– that there be an international standard to which all nations can adhere. While this may seem like a fantastical feat, it’s not impossible. With the unified work of experts and researchers around the world, an international organisation focussed on this field can be created, and global slip-resistance standardisation can become a reality.

To learn more about slip-resistance testing in Sydney, slip resistance requirements, floor safety and other related information, get in touch with Safe Environment’s slip testing experts today.