Slip resistance improvements
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The risk of pedestrian slipping is the result of a complex combination of parameters. The modification of many aspects of this combination can have a profound effect on slipperiness. The risk of slipping may be reduced by following the accepted HSE hierarchy of control measures, as outlined in HSE Guidance Document HS(G)156. These measures include:
- Elimination of floor surface contamination (e.g. maintain equipment to prevent leakage).
- Limitation of the effects of contamination (e.g. immediate treatment of spillages).
- Use of specialist anti-slip footwear (footwear performance should be assessed by an independent body due to the lack of a recognised European Standard).
- Increasing the surface roughness of the existing floor surface (by use of etching treatments, sand-blasting or grinding). Note that treated surfaces must be carefully maintained, and that treatment may decrease the service life of flooring materials.
- Installation of a more slip-resistant flooring surface, ensuring that the performance of the flooring is assessed [a] using the correct techniques, and [b] after a simulated installation process (the slipperiness of many flooring materials can change drastically immediately after installation).
Cleaning regimes differ depending on floor surface type, floor surface contamination and the time taken for contamination to reoccur. As a result of the considerable number of discrete cleaning regimes currently in use, it is suggested that manufacturers' recommended cleaning regimes are adhered to where appropriate. If floor surface contamination is apparent after the use of a recommended cleaning regime, then specialist assistance should be sought. Contact [email protected] for further details. Further information is available from the case studies section.
The application of acid-etching products to ceramic tiles, terrazzo or natural stones (granite, marble etc.) can result in significant improvements in slip resistance. However, such improvements rely on correct application of the etching fluid for an appropriate length of time, at an appropriately high concentration. The most dramatic improvements are often observed after the application of etching solution (normally based on hydrofluoric acid, or ‘HF’) to very smooth materials, such as highly polished granite / marble or to glazed ceramic tiles. Unfortunately, to achieve the level of roughness required to allow slip resistance in wet conditions, it is almost always necessary to etch smooth surfaces in such a way as to destroy the gloss, reflective upper surface, and leave a matte, dull surface. This is often seen as unsatisfactory in situations where materials have been used for aesthetic purposes. Unfortunately HF, even at very low concentrations, presents several significant risks to the health of those exposed to it. Exposure through skin contact and via inhalation may lead to skin and bone necrosis and major, cumulative organ damage. The presence of HF in etching solutions should be confirmed from the material safety data sheets (MSDS) supplied. It should be noted that the presence of ammonium bifluoride in etching solutions indicates the presence of HF.
Many commercially available products claim to enhance slip resistance, but also claim NOT to be etching products. Viable techniques are available, such as diamond grinding and shot blasting, which roughen the surface of hard flooring materials without etching. However, HSE / HSL are yet to encounter an effective chemical treatment which enhances slip resistance WITHOUT the presence of etching chemicals such as HF. Some contractors / suppliers may deny that products contain HF. Often in such circumstances, treatments are based on ammonium bifluoride, which has properties extremely similar to those of HF when added to water.
Several pieces of priced and free HSE Guidance are available.