Slips and trips are, perhaps, the major cause of accidents in public buildings. In this CPD we look at the extent of the problem, the legal requirements and obligations, guidelines for risk assessment, flooring standards and slip-resistance measurement
This month’s CPD provider, Altro, takes pride in being the inventor of safety flooring. It was established as a family-run business in 1919 and now has a global network of offices.
The extent of the problem
Slips and trips cause more than 10,000 major injuries in Britain every year, costing employers more than £500 million and the health service more than £512 million. One third of all accidents are related to slips and trips and they cause over 55 per cent of all accidents in the education sector.
Under CDM regulations introduced in April 2007, the designer has a legal duty to make clients aware of their esponsibilities, and give due regard to health and safety in design work. The designer must also provide adequate information about the health and safety risk of the design to those who need it and cooperate with the planning supervisor and, where appropriate, other designers involved in the project.
Legal requirements and obligations
Because of the risks involved, architects designing flooring need to take a responsible approach and act as good citizens. They should consider the welfare of employees and visitors, the potential cost of lost time and claims and the need for healthy working environments. They should also be mindful that employers and employees can be prosecuted and remember that no one wants to be injured. There are two main drivers for controlling Health and Safety: the law, and risk assessment. Preventing slips and trips accidents is a legal requirement: the main underpinning legislation which applies is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. If health and safety is considered early in the design process, expensive alterations to building components can be avoided.
Specific requirements for flooring
In accordance with EU regulations, the construction of floor and traffic routes should be suitable for its purpose. There should not be holes, slopes, unevenness or slippery surfaces that would present risks to any person’s safety. There should be effective drainage where necessary. The requirement for floors not to be slippery is in Reg. 12 (2) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations, 1992. This is an exacting and absolute standard, which overrides the normally quoted ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’.
Risk assessment 1
Risk assessment involves identifying hazards, deciding who may be harmed and how, evaluating the risks and deciding whether existing precautions are adequate, recording significant findings and periodically reviewing the assessment. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999) the employer has a duty to assess risks to employees and others and to identify and put in place the necessary measures to reduce the risks to the required level.
The risk assessment of flooring, guidelines for specific building parts and the standards for conformance are recommended in Specifiers Handbook for Inclusive Design: Internal Floor Finishes (RIBA Publishing, September 2006). As part of the risk assessment process, designers will need to consider floor surface properties, contamination, the cleaning regime and microroughness.
Risk assessment 2
Flooring assessment involves evaluating controllable and predictable slip potential. Controllable slip assessment involves looking at the environment, floor material and contamination. Predictable slip assessment involves looking at use, behaviour and footwear. Cleaning regimes, barrier matting and spillage need to be considered. Every factor in your slip and trip risk assessment will affect your flooring assessment and visa versa.
Examples of specific measures that can be put into place are choosing flooring that is appropriate to specific work environments and regularly checking existing floors for damage and wear; clearly marking and adequately illuminating potentially hazardous locations, using suitable floor cleaning equipment and providing adequate training.
Measuring slip resistance 1: ramp test
Where there has been an accident, such as a spill, the HSE will visit site to assess the floor. This can happen at any time – even several years after the floor is installed. The ramp test (DIN 51130) is widely used outside Britain and its R values are quoted by most flooring companies. While the ramp test is a useful measure (R9-R13 use angle measurements on a ramp where the operator stands in oil) it cannot be replicated on site. The Health & Safety Lab does not recommend this standard, as oil is not the most common workplace contaminant and the test cannot be used on site to assess changes to initial surface properties following installation and subsequent wear. A commonly held misconception is that R9 is high. In fact, this is the lowest value in the scale, with slip angles from 6° to 10°. R10 slip angles range from 10° to 19°, R11 from 19° to 27° and R12 from 27° to 35°.
Measuring slip resistance 2: SAT
The HSE and HSL have developed a tool designed to help users risk-assess slip hazards in their workplace. The SAT is made up of two parts: A computer programme (which can be downloaded from the HSE Slips and Trips website) and a roughness meter. When used together, they will allow you to produce a quantitative estimate of the slip risk on different types of floor.
Measuring slip resistance 3: pendulum test
The pendulum test gives an accurate reading of the co-efficient of friction, measuring how much friction is applied by the floor to the sole of your shoe. It involves a swinging dummy heel, using a standard rubber sole, which sweeps over a set area of flooring in a controlled manner. The slipperiness of the floor has a direct and measurable effect on the pendulum value given, known as the ‘slip resistance value’, ‘pendulum test value’ or ‘British pendulum number’. Coefficients of friction below 24 are classified as high; 25-35 is moderate, 36-64 low and over 65 extremely low.
For more information on these tests, refer to the ‘Assessing the Slip Resistance of Flooring’ datasheet, which can be downloaded at the HSE’s website, www.hse.gov.uk.