UncategorizedAn office building has a very shiny and reflective natural stone floor.

It’s shiny. Does that mean it’s slippery?

Certain types of tile floors, including ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone, as well as hard floors, like concrete and terrazzo, can be slippery. Obviously, home and property owners want to avoid slip-and-fall accidents. Certified Walkway Auditor and Owner of ITAC International, Billy Simmons, noticed that there seems to be a common misconception about shiny floors. Clients often equate the level of reflectivity a floor has to its slip resistance, but looks can be deceiving. Read on to explore this misconception and find out how to accurately determine the slip resistance of a floor.

How Misconceptions About Slip Resistance Originate

Perceptions about the degree of slipperiness, i.e., the coefficient of friction (COF) of a floor are based on the eye-brain connection. In a nutshell, the human eye contains photoreceptors that convert light into electrical signals that are sent to the brain by way of the optic nerve. The brain then makes sense of the data it receives based on personal knowledge and experience.

Most of us have either experienced slipping ourselves or witnessed others slip on wet surfaces. Similarly, most of us have tripped or seen others trip on dry surfaces. A reflective surface, such as a polished granite floor, can create a visual impression of wetness, while that same granite with a soft matte or honed finish can seem to be dry. Visual cues based on the level of reflectivity a surface has trigger thoughts of slipperiness or traction based on an individual’s past experiences with wet or dry surfaces.

Are wet surfaces more slippery than dry surfaces?

Contacting surfaces, such as shoes and floors, have a certain COF when they are dry. In general, if wetness is introduced between the contacting surfaces, the potential for reduced COF is greater. That’s why people want to wipe their shoes on a doormat when they come inside on a rainy day. However, many factors can influence COF, from the surface material composition and texture to contaminants and the amount of wetness present.

A polished granite floor that has not been treated in any way for slip resistance may actually offer a higher COF than one treated with an anti-slip coating. For example, see our case study, How Alabama Power Used DCOF Testing for Slip and Fall Prevention. Floors with a honed or matte finish in moisture-prone areas can be slippery. Textured surfaces with a layer of grease or oil can also test low COF. The list goes on and on.

Importance of Accurate Slip Readings from a Qualified Inspector

The eye-brain connection is crucial for playing sports, appreciating art, recognizing faces, and other daily activities, but when it comes to safety, we should not rely on our eyes alone to determine slip resistance. To properly assess the traction of a walking surface, a coefficient of friction (COF) test needs to be performed by a qualified inspector using equipment that meets recognized industry standards.

Walkway surfaces should be periodically monitored for any possible changes to the surface due to daily usage over time. Obviously, setting up a schedule for expert evaluation is an important of mitigating a slip and fall risk, but it can also reduce legal liabilities by providing valuable data on the ongoing condition of the surface.

To learn more about slip and fall COF testing, visit our Services page. To schedule services, contact us online or call 251-239-6360.
Alice Dean, Writer and Video Editor for Stone and Tile Industry Professionals