Poor floor specification threatened opening of museum

Slip risk due to beverage spills in museum

The design and specification of floor surface materials for use in high profile public areas often focuses on the aesthetics of the flooring material to be used. However, floor surface slipperiness is seldom considered, despite the high incidence of pedestrian slip accidents.

A local authority environmental health officer raised concerns about the potentially slippery floor surface at a prestigious new museum that was due to open shortly.

Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) scientists were called in to carry out a range of slipperiness assessments using industry standard pendulum and surface microroughness analysis techniques.

Results showed that the floor was extremely slippery under low levels of wet contamination. This was of particular concern because several areas within the museum, such as the licensed bar/café area, would be contaminated with fluids under normal working conditions. This showed that the flooring had been incorrectly specified for its intended use.

HSL concluded that a proprietary acid-etching process could be used to increase both the Coefficient of Dynamic Friction and the surface microroughness of the flooring in all 'foreseeably wet' areas. Laboratory-based tests were undertaken, funded by the contractor responsible for the construction of the site, which led to the identification of a suitable acid-etching treatment. Etching was subsequently carried out in all 'high slip risk' areas throughout the Museum.

Further on-site testing was carried out after treatment and showed a significant reduction in the slipperiness of the floor surface in all high slip risk areas. The treatment had however incurred significant cost, changed the appearance of the floor and probably reduced the lifetime of the floor considerably. Correctly specifying the flooring in the first instance would have been far more effective.

The Museum still opened on schedule.

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