Understanding Slip Ratings in Residential Buildings
Since the introduction of the new ‘P’ rating system to measure the slip resistance of hard floor coverings, some specifiers have been unnecessarily specifying or over specifying a slip resistance rating to floor tiling in residential homes.
This may be due to insufficient understanding of, or misunderstanding of, the rating systems intentions, or specifiers simply being too overly cautious when making flooring recommendations.
Nerang Tiles is committed to ensuring clarity for people on the National Construction Code, Building Code and Australian Standards mandate slip resistance rated flooring in residential buildings. We also aim to improve awareness and educate all customers on slip resistance assessments that should be undertaken for those that are considering using such products in their home.
Slip Resistance Requirements For Residential Flooring The Australian Building Code and Australian Standards mandate slip rated flooring in residential buildings only apply to the following areas:
Ramps (rarely used in residential homes)
A residential building that does not have tiles in any of the above areas has no requirement for slip resistant flooring.
The Right to Choose – Your Freedom of Choice. This position supports the principle that the publics’ freedom of choice is paramount in ones own private (residential) home. To preclude that choice would remove your right to use whatever flooring product you deemed suitable for your particular purpose.
For many years all types of tiles including glazed high gloss and polished finishes in ceramic and porcelain tiles have been used throughout residential homes without any significant issues. This still remains the case today.
Your Home – A Place You and Your Family Know Another reason why slip resistance requirements are not mandated in residential buildings is that it is your home and a place you know.
As such, if you have used a high gloss or polished product in a bathroom for example, you know that you have that particular finish in that area and so are more cautiouswhen walking in that area, especially in wet areas where water could be on the floor.
In those cases people normally adjust their gait to suit the surface upon which they are walking on – just as your would do if you were walking on ice.
Choosing slip resistant flooring for your home
Assess the Need Slip resistant flooring would generally only be used in a residential home if there is a particular need for it. If you do not have a need for slip resistant flooring, there is no obligation on you to use it.
Proper Assessment If you do have a need to use slip resistant flooring in your home then any recommendations by specifiers advising you should take into account your personal circumstances and then the recommendations should be both practical and sensible.
Care should be taken that the specification is the correct rating and not over specified or too restrictive.
Possible Consequences of Over Specification It is widely accepted that floor surface contamination with liquid or solids is the main cause of slipping. As such, cleaning and maintenance of the area in question are very important elements to consider when addressing the final outcome.
It should be noted that the ease of cleaning of a floor cladding is in inverse proportion to it’s slip resistance.
‘Over specifying’ of a product can be just as detrimental to ultimate safety as ‘under specifying’ as a floor with a very high resistance may be virtually un-cleanable in normal circumstances and could deteriorate into an unsafe surface over time. This bears more significance the older the occupant is.
It is also quite probable that enhanced slip resistance will increase the number of stumble induced falls, particularly those more elderly. As mobility decreases with age the likelihood trips and falls will increase due to friction demand, reduced toe clearance, a loss of balance and modified gaits.
Taking the above mentioned information into account, if specifiers still feel the (unnecessary) need to over specify slip resistant products then they should provide an addendum to the specification stating – ‘The flooring specified may be difficult to clean and/or require extra ongoing or professional cleaning maintenance’.
Specification The role of the specifier must be to assess all the elements affecting slip resistance, together with the area to be tiled, its function and the particular needs of the end user or owner, and then recommend what they believe is the most suitable solution for the situation on hand considering all of those factors.
Specifiers should factor in that occupants of residential buildings do live in the particular building and as such are familiar with the floor coverings and most other factors that could affect slip incidents.
In addition floor covering is just one element to consider, there are a number of other elements that can also greatly affect slip resistance. It is a mistake to consider just the floor covering alone.
Whilst making their recommendation, it is highly likely that the specifier will refer to the Australian Standards Handbook HB-198:2014 which contains guidance on the values obtained by the various slip resistance test methods, it refers to ‘pedestrian surface materials’ and relates specifically to commercial and public installations where very different criteria are involved in domestic installations.
As such this can lead to over specification when applying this in residential areas if the specifier does not fully follow the guidance of the handbook, relevant NCC, BCA and Standards.
Slip Resistance Ratings The following are the ratings for the wet pendulum test.
As a general guide it would be reasonable to say that the lower rated products would be considered ‘safe for normal stride and pace’ and ‘non slip with reasonable care’ and the higher rated products ‘safe for a rapid stride and pace’ and ‘non slip at a rapid pace’.
It should be noted that there is no lower limit on classification P0.
Notwithstanding that, some smooth and polished floor surfaces which do not achieve classification P1 may still be considered to provide a safe walking environment for normal pedestrians walking at a moderate pace, provided the surfaces are kept clean and dry; however, should these surfaces become contaminated by either wet or dry materials, or be used by pedestrians in any other manner, then they may become unsafe. Therefore, the type of maintenance, the in-service inspection of floors, other environmental conditions and use should be taken into account when selecting such products.
As noted above, these ratings essentially relate to commercial applications for pedestrians in public places like shopping centres or commercial kitchens where:
The usage differs from private residences;
The foot traffic is much higher than in private residences;
The area or type of surface being walked is likely to be unfamiliar;
The maintenance and level of cleaning is unknown; and
The removal of contaminants on the floor, which is the most common cause of slipping, is also unknown.
There are no regulations or standard slip rating requirements applicable to residential premises.
Post Installation Treatments
The Use of Treatments or Coatings The major advantage of hard floor coverings is that at any time post installation it is possible in the event of changed circumstances to modify the slip resistance characteristics of the product.
Proprietary treatments are available which can enhance the slip resistant properties of most hard floor coverings claddings and in the ‘wet areas’ non slip matting is also readily available.
Slip resistance treatments and coatings can normally be simply applied to almost any product, in any location to increase slip resistance wherever necessary.
As such they provide both a solution in their own right as well as a post installation solution. They are usually:
Cause no visible change to the floor surface; and
Require little or no extra maintenance.
As such, the utility of a room can be changed if circumstances change at a later date.
Ultimately whilst the client will decide what they wish to use, consultants should always be able to explain the relevance or otherwise of slip resistance to whatever choices are being offered including advice on maintenance, cleaning and aspects which impact on the long term serviceability of flooring.
Empirical data our industries have gathered over many years Australia wide shows it is clear that slipping on ceramic and porcelain tiles or natural stone flooring of all types does not represent any greater hazard than any other flooring products.
Such materials have unmatched durability, non allergic, antistatic and ease of maintenance properties will not emit VOC’s providing the client with the most environmentally friendly flooring options for any domestic situation.
Ultimately, slip hazard is affected by a large number of factors, including the slip resistance of a pedestrian surface mater, its wear characteristics, maintenance and contamination, the presence of water or other lubricants on the surface, in conjunction with the nature of the pedestrian traffic, the footwear, slope and environment factors such as lighting and handrails.
When specifying particular pedestrian surface materials, designers, specifiers and purchasers should also consider (in addition to the slip resistance) potential trip hazards, abrasion resistance, ability to be maintained and cleaned, permeability and the susceptibility to pooling water, and structural integrity of the material. Manufacturers and supplies can provide information on some of these issues.
Occupational Health & Safety Slip Resistance Requirements The various state based Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation regulate general duties for employers and controller of premises to identify, assess and control risks to employees and others at a place of work. This includes the provision to identify any foreseeable hazard arising from the premises that has the potential to harm the health or safety of any person accessing, using or egressing from the premises such as people slipping tripping or falling. Additionally there are duties for safety in design, which extends to those who design, specify or supply floor surfaces intended for places of work.
Building Code of Australia (BCA) Slip Resistance Requirements The Building Code of Australia (BCA) include safety performance requirements for safe design which requires most commercial buildings to provide slip resistive surfaces for safe movement, specifically emergency access and egress. The slip resistance requirements of Clause D2.10, D2.13 & D2.14 of the BCA state that “non-slip” and “non-skid” surfaces must be installed for pedestrian ramps, stair treads and landings. Further, parts of buildings may need to comply with disability access requirements.
Disability Access Slip Resistance RequirementsWhere disability access is required under Section D3 of the BCA, finishes must comply with Clause 12 of AS1428.1 Design for access and mobility Part 1 general requirements for access- Buildings. This states that all continuous accessible paths of travel shall have a slip-resistant surface. AS 1428.1 does not define the term slip resistance. However, the standard refers to AS 4586 and Standards Australia & CSIRO Handbook HB 197 for guidance on slip-resistant surfaces.
Standards Australia & CSIRO Handbook HB 197 Standards Australia & CSIRO Handbook HB 197 An Introductory Guide to the Slip Resistance of Pedestrian Surface Materials is seen as best practice for satisfying the slip resistance requirements of new floor surfaces. The handbook provides general commentary on the slip resistance test methods, classification, basis for specification and guidance for designing ramps and sloped areas.
Many people may be aware of Tables 3, 4 & 5 of Standards Australia & CSIRO Handbook HB 197 which provides minimum slip resistance classifications for specific locations. There is much more information and detail that must be considered beyond simply extracting the classifications from the tables. Additionally, existing surfaces that do not meet the recommendations of HB 197 may not necessarily be unsafe, a risk assessment and possible control measures should be evaluated by a qualified expert.
The Australian Standards provide slip resistant classifications for:
New Pedestrian Surface Materials (AS 4586-2013; and
Existing Pedestrian Surfaces (AS 4663-2013).
There are different slip rating tests that are required depending on whether the surface material is classified under AS 4663-2013 or AS 4586-2013. If a pedestrian surface has been in service and therefore subjected to possible wear and or contamination, testing and reporting of results should be carried out in accordance with AS 4663-2013. In such a case, a pre-use wet pendulum classification in accordance with AS 4586-2013 cannot be automatically inferred.
It is critical that the installer, builder, architect or interior designer that is responsible for specifying and or handing over building works to an owner are aware of what new and existing surfaces mean. This is because it is the installer's (or where appropriate the head contractor's) responsibility to ensure that a new pedestrian surface, at the time when it is handed over, is in conformance with any non slip specifications/any specifications. If, after installation but before handover to the eventual owner, the surface becomes worn or contaminated, then that is considered to be the condition of a 'new' surface. Therefore, it is incumbent on those responsible to take steps to protect the surface until handover, bearing in mind that it could be subject to site tests and possible rejection should it fail to meet any specifications at the time of handover.
After handover to the owner, the surface ceases to be 'new' and subsequent testing would be in accordance with AS 4663-2013.
Verbal and documentary evidence from the surface material's importer or supplier are commonly available on any surface materials accompanying a recognised slip rating in accordance with the Australian Standards.
It is also important to consider that the flooring delivered may meet the specifier's slip rating requirements at the time of delivery. There are a number of factors that may affect the manufacturer's ' official slip rating post installation. Factors affecting slip rating may include the installation itself (grouting), cleaning products, type of foot traffic and more. It is critical that specifiers conduct slip rating tests before installation or immediately after installation in accordance with Australian Standards to ensure they are meeting any regulatory requirements and to ensure the safe post installation use of flooring.
Local Government Development Control Plans Some local councils have slip resistance requirements such as Willoughby City Council (NSW) require “Upon completion, certification that all floor finishes and floor surfaces (Excluding carpet) have been tested on site to achieve a slip resistant classification under wet and dry conditions to comply with the current version of AS/NZS4586, Table 3 of CSIRO/SA publication HB 197 (An Introductory Guide to the Slip Resistance of pedestrian Surface Materials) and Council’s DCP No 14 (Access and Mobility). (Reason: Public safety).”
Ceramic Tile Slip Resistance Requirements Annex A through to L of AS 4662 Ceramic tiles – Definitions, classification, characteristics and marking require ceramic tiles of the best commercial quality (first quality) that are intended for use on floors be tested to ISO 10545 Method 17: Determination of coefficient of friction. Currently, ISO 10545 is still to be officially published, however Appendix ZA, Variations for Australian Conditions states to replace ISO 10545-17 with AS/NZS 4586. Thus, floor tiles shall be tested to AS/NZS 4586 to meet the Australian Standards for first quality ceramic tiles. Credit:http://www.safeenvironments.com.au/slip-resistance-requirements/
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