The “Disclaimers” that ANSI and TCNA wrote into the A326.3 and A137.1 slip tests that make you negligent
The ANSI A326.3 standard states that, “Tiles with a DCOF of 0.42 or greater are not necessarily suitable for all projects. The specifier shall determine tiles appropriate for specific project conditions, considering by way of example, but not in limitation,
- “type of use,
- expected contaminants,
- expected maintenance,
- expected wear, and
- manufacturers’ guidelines and recommendations.”
Tile Council of North America (TCNA), who helped create this test, goes on to give even more disclaimers for this unproven test method. They state that the possibility for a slip and fall accident may be affected by
- “The material of the shoe sole and its degree of wear
- The speed and length of stride at the time of a slip
- The physical and mental condition of the individual at the time of a slip
- Whether the floor is flat or inclined
- How the surface is used
- How the tile is structured
- How drainage takes place if liquids are involved”
TCNA and ANSI give no guidance at all as to if any or all of these factors should require higher DCOF or slip resistance, or if so how much higher. To make matters worse, most flooring manufacturers give no slip resistance guidelines or recommendations whatsoever on their packaging or websites.
The latest version of the test, ANSI A326.3, adds additional disclaimers. One of them states “The coefficient of friction (COF) measurement provided in this standard is an evaluation of hard surface flooring materials under known conditions using a standardized sensor material prepared according to a specific protocol. As such it can provide a useful comparison of surfaces, but does not predict the likelihood a person will or will not slip on a hard surface flooring material.” So therefore this test is designed to tell people if the polished version of a stone tile is more slippery than the rough-honed version of the same stone, for example, but this test is NOT intended to be an assessment of slip risk. The 0.42 DCOF number, therefore, does not in any way mean your flooring will be “safe” from slips.
There is no guidance as to how to consider any or all of the above “disclaimers” when you buy flooring. So this leaves you, the purchaser or specifier of the flooring and the builder owner/manager/etc. vulnerable to accusations of negligence. Negligence is the key word in personal injury lawsuits.
How can people know that their flooring is appropriate for its intended use? For a swimming pool deck, for instance, should it be 0.42, 0.60, 0.80? SCOF or DCOF? There are no guidelines at this time to apply to ANSI A137.1/A326.3 DCOF data.
What we suggest is using pendulum DCOF test data and well-proven (Australian) standards that apply to more than 30 specific situations. This is discussed in some detail on Safety Direct America‘s blog entry about “Situation-Specific Floor Slip Resistance Testing Standards.”
ANSI A326.3 goes on to give a myriad of disclaimers and warnings, such as, “Because many variables affect the risk of a slip occurring, the measured DCOF value shall not be the only factor in determining the appropriateness of a hard surface flooring material for a particular application.”
Footnote 1 says, “No claim of correlation to actual footwear or human ambulation is made.”
An informative note says, “Normative measured DCOF limit values are not provided in this standard for exterior applications, interior ramps and inclines, pool decks, shower floors, or flooring that is contaminated with material other than water or where minimal or no footwear is used.”
For some areas labeled as “Interior, Wet Plus”, such as locker rooms, public showers, self-service restaurants, etc., “…it is generally accepted that hard surface flooring in this category should have AT LEAST A MINIMUM wet DCOF of 0.50*, with factors other than wet DCOF also taken into consideration. Such factors include, but are not limited to, expected contaminants, drainage, surface structure, effect of structure on the DCOF measurement, number of grout joints, traction-enhancing features, and intended use in addition to the other criteria in this standard…[so]…a single normative DCOF limit value is not provided.”
For areas defined as “Exterior, Wet” (which only include outdoor areas that are “clean” and “maintained”), and areas with “Oils/Greases”, similar disclaimers, warnings and other factors to consider besides the DCOF measurement are given. It states again here that “…it is generally accepted that hard surface flooring in [these] category[ies] should have AT LEAST A MINIMUM wet DCOF of 0.55*, with factors other than wet DCOF also taken into consideration.”
The asterisk (*) behind each minimum DCOF given refers to a footnote that states these minimum values only correspond to those obtained by the BOT-3000E device.