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Slipping Up On Safety Can Land You In Court

David Cockhead, quality and compliance advisor at Altro, explores the dangers of taking safety at face value: 
DID you know that if you are involved in selecting flooring for a building, even if it’s just switching spec, you have a legal duty to ensure the safety of those using that building? That means you have a responsibility to ensure floors are not slippery, and if you get that wrong you could face litigation.
So, how do you make the right choices and select flooring that is fit for purpose? Start with a risk assessment to determine whether there is a risk of slipping. If there is a risk, then you know you must specify a safety floor, as smooth and rubber flooring are not slip-resistant when wet.
How to choose safety floors: Understanding how slip-resistance is measured and classified will help you make an informed decision here. There are two main tests used for measuring slip-resistance: the ramp test, which produces an ‘R Value’, and the pendulum test, which produces a pendulum test value also known as ‘PTV’.
Never choose safety flooring on the basis of an R Value alone – the scale runs from R9 (least slip-resistant) through to R13 (most slip-resistant). A major issue is that each banding is very wide, so within the R10 band, you will find some safety floors, but there will also be smooth flooring that registers as R10. Look to the PTV to make sure you meet your responsibilities: flooring with slip-resistance of PTV >36 is the HSE’s minimum standard for safety flooring.
So you have chosen safety flooring. ‘Job done’ you may think. But actually it’s not. This is the real danger area. Safety flooring may be suitably slip-resistant straight from the factory, but things can change. The really important factor is sustained slip-resistance: Will that safety flooring continue to perform year after year after year?
Alarmingly, when we put a variety of safety flooring products from different manufacturers to the test in an external, independent laboratory, we found that some products fell below the HSE’s minimum standard of slip-resistance with use.
This means that even if you choose flooring that meets the requirements when first laid, you could still find yourself facing litigation if that flooring loses slip-resistance with use – the tests show that the risks rise greatly in these situations.
For example, flooring with a lifetime sustained slip-resistance of PTV­­>­36 has odds of anyone slipping or falling of one in a million. Safety flooring that meets the HSE standard when fitted but loses slip resistance over time can make the odds of a slip or fall as high as one in two.
There is currently no legal requirement for sustained slip-resistance, or even an agreed industry standard on how to measure it, and we want to see this changed. We’re starting by adding labelling to all our products showing the number of years you can expect Altro safety flooring to provide slip-resistance to the HSE minimum standard, so you can have confidence in the products you’re choosing.
At the other end of the scale, there’s nothing to stop manufacturers launching products with a thin coating or emboss, which qualify them as safety flooring, but which can wear away with use. Anyone specifying such a flooring could be found liable as this type of flooring would, in time, put people’s safety at risk.
You can avoid this risk by making sure you check the detail on a sample card, and that you understand the significance of the figures. Always ask manufacturers to show you results for sustained slip-resistance. The duty to ensure floors are not slippery will still lie with those who specify, but the use of the right safety flooring with sustained slip-resistance will help you avoid costly slip ups.

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.