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Slips, Falls, and Slip Resistance
Our firm has had numerous cases involving the measuring of slip resistance under both dry and wet conditions. Most were settled before trial; however, some were tried, which resulted in us successfully demonstrating the English XL before the jury.
The most recently published injury statistics concerning falls are from the National Safety Council. Based on statistics compiled in 2006, an estimated 12,000 fatalities occur annually in the U.S. from falls involving level or near level walk surfaces.
Many of these fatalities happen to individuals who are 75 years and older.
Walk Surfaces and Fall Prevention
Preventing falls on walk surfaces requires us to address characteristics of floor materials and finishes, shoe bottom materials and textures, possible floor surface contaminants and individuals’
Obviously, there is no practical way to control a person’s walking gait or type of shoe worn in a public facility. However, floor conditions and maintenance are very controllable factors.
Most falls on a level surface occur when a person slips on a wet area made slippery by water or other contaminants. Slip-resistant floor surface materials are important in preventing falls, as is proper floor maintenance.
Application of a non-slip wax is the first step in good floor maintenance. Most major janitorial supply vendors have cleaning and wax products, which can help to provide greater slip resistance to various walk surfaces such as wood, concrete, vinyl and ceramic tile.
Remedial floor maintenance, including clean-up of spills or removal of ice and snow, may require a formal safety program involving, for example, on-going inspections, a written log, and use of temporary warning signs.
It needs to be stressed warning signs posted near spills or hazardous floor surface conditions are only a temporary measure; they are not a substitute for taking the necessary actions to eliminate or control hazards.
Floor mats are also useful in controlling slippery walk surfaces. Mats assist in cleaning and drying pedestrians’
Different locations, which may be an entryway to a department store or the floor surface under an ice machine in a motel lobby, may require different kinds of mats.
Most vendors will assist their customers in purchasing the type of mat that fits the intended application.
Coefficient of Friction (C.O.F.) (Dry Conditions)
Most pedestrians are usually aware of C.O.F. as being the resistive experience between a floor’s surface and one’s footwear.
A very slippery floor, such as polished marble, would then have a low C.O.F., while a recently sandpainted floor would not be slippery or would have a high C.O.F.
A widely accepted definition, currently used by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), defines coefficient of friction, under static conditions, as the horizontal force required to initiate relative motion between an object and the horizontal surface it is resting on.
Slip Resistance (Wet Conditions)
By definition, C.O.F. of a walk surface can only describe the slippery condition between an object, such as a person’s shoe, and the walking surface, such as a floor. A contamination, like water on the floor, thus prevents us from measuring C.O.F. and therefore, we are only capable of measuring a floor surface’s slip resistance under wet conditions.
To measure slip resistance under wet conditions, portable variable angle tribometers (VAT) were developed (tribo in Greek means to rub). These instruments are mechanical and use a test foot attached to an articulated strut. When this test foot is in motion, it contacts the testing surface in a manner similar to one’s shoe contacting a walk surface.
The test foot’s contact angle, which is a ratio of the horizontal force to the vertical force, is adjusted by the instrument’s operator. This adjustment changes the angle of the test foot hitting the floor’s surface until a slip occurs, at which point that angle is read from the instrument’s scale.
This scale ranges from a minimum of zero to a maximum of one and is divided into one-tenth intervals. Values closer to zero relate to less slip resistance for the walk surface while higher numbers, which approach one, relate to a walk surface with greater slip resistance.
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) recognized the need to establish standards for two VATs. ASTM standards for testing slip resistance under both wet and dry surface conditions were issued in 1996; F1677-96 and F1679-96. The F1677 standard determines slip resistance using the Brungraber Mark II.
The F1679 standard determines slip resistance using the English XL.
Both of the above instruments measure coefficient of friction, C.O.F., on dry surfaces under static conditions. Their measured data, for the most part, correlates with data generated by other portable and static coefficient of friction testers.
The main advantage to these two instruments is the capability of measuring slip-resistance under wet surface conditions. Other surface testing meters can produce faulty readings due to adhesion conditions between the instrument and the wet floor surface, which is similar to the situation that occurs when sliding two pieces of glass together with wet surfaces. However, the Brungraber and English instruments can measure slip resistance effectively under wet surface conditions.
Mincy vs. Parsippany Inn
The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, decided a case on Nov. 8, 2010 in favor of the defendant in which the plaintiff, Ms. Candi Mincy, fell in the bathroom at defendant’s motel, Parsippany Inn. The Court affirmed the lower court’s summary judgment, which was in favor of the defendant.
Plaintiff and her husband arrived at the defendant’s motel on July 16, 2007 and stayed at the motel until the date of Ms. Mincy’s fall, July 22, 2007. On that morning, Ms. Mincy was in the bedroom and proceed to the bathroom to wash her hands; she was barefoot.
As she walked towards the sink, she took a couple of steps and fell on something she stated felt like ice.
She testified she did not observe any water on the floor and the last time she or her husband took a shower was the previous morning.
Using a photograph, he was able to point to the water’s location on the floor, but could not testify how the water got on the floor. Ms. Mincy suffered severe injuries.
There are only two instruments recognized by ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials), the English XL and the Brungraber Mark II, to conduct such testing.
The inventor of the English XL, Mr. William English, authored a book, Pedestrian Slip Resistance, How to Measure It and How to Improve It, published in 2003.
In his book, Mr. English discusses 0.50 as the safety threshold for slip resistance on both wet and dry surfaces and further substantiates this number with many reference resources.
One would assume most users of the English XL would have read Mr. English’s book. As previously discussed in this article, ANSI/ASSE TR-A1264.3 cites the use of the English XL and the Brungraber instruments along with the recognized safety threshold of 0.50 slip resistance.
Based on the above information, it does not appear this expert used the English XL or had any knowledge of the English XL or Brungraber instruments or 0.50 as the safety threshold for slip resistance.
ANSI/ASSE TR-A1264.3 in essence, validates the use of the English XL and the Brungraber Mark II/III as reliable VAT instruments for measuring slip resistance on both wet and dry surfaces. Also, TR-A1264.3 states many slips and falls occur from pedestrians’
Our firm has had numerous cases involving the measuring of slip resistance under both dry and wet conditions. Most of these matters were settled before trial; however, some were tried, which resulted in us successfully demonstrating the English XL before the jury.
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Russell Fote & Associates, Inc. provides expert witness, forensic consulting and testimony services for plaintiff attorneys, defense attorneys and insurance company claims departments. Expert Safety Engineer. At Russell Fote & Associates, our purpose is to provide our clients with the very best safety engineering and expert consulting services.
Since starting Russell Fote & Associates, Mr. Fote has given over 150 depositions and has testified at 25 trials. He has been recognized as an expert in the state courts of: Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, plus U.S. District Courts in Atlanta, GA and Central Islip, NY.
We have two offices to serve you. Our Chicago office, ocated at 8770 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Suite 1300, Chicago, IL 60631, which is about three miles east of O'Hare International Airport, and our Wisconsin office. At Russell Fote & Associates, we continue to remain current on all safety engineering-