Australian Standards only mandate slip resistance rated flooring in a limited number of residential situations and outline the slip resistance assessments that should be undertaken for those that are considering using such products in their home.
The Australian Building Code and Australian Standards mandate slip rated flooring in residential buildings only in the following areas:
- Stair nosing
- Stair landings
- 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 public’s freedom of choice is paramount in one’s 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 very 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 cautious when 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.
If you do have a need to use slip resistant flooring in your home then any recommendations by a specifier 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 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 its 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.
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.
Highly slip resistance floor coverings should only be purchase for domestic use with the knowledge that it may be very difficult to clean and/or require extra ongoing or professional cleaning maintenance.
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.
A specifier 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.
CLASSIFICATION OF PEDESTRIAN SURFACE MATERIALS
ACCORDING TO THE AS 4586 – 2013 WET PENDULUM TEST
|Classification||Wet pendulum SRV|
|Slider 96 rubber||Slider 55 rubber|
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 ‘slip resistant with reasonable care’ and the higher rated products ‘safe for a rapid stride and pace’ and ‘slip resistant 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 and frequency of maintenance, the in-service inspection of the floor, its intended use, types of environmental conditions that it is likely to be subjected to – including the level of foot traffic; needs to 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,
- The removal of contaminants on the floor, which is most common cause if slipping, is also unknown.
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.
Slip resistance treatments and coatings can normally be applied to almost any product, in any location to increase slip resistance where necessary.
As such they provide both a solution in their own right as well as a post installation solution.
They are usually permanent, cause little or no visible change to the floor surface, and allow for the utility of a room to be changed if circumstances change over time.
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, anti static and ease of maintenance properties will not emit VOC’s providing the client with the most environmentally friendly flooring options for any domestic situation.