In March 2012, the Healthy Facilities Institute (HFI) assembled a slip/fall prevention workgroup to discuss ways in which cleaning and follow-up measurement can reduce the incidence of slips and falls.
The group offers comment on the standard developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in conjunction with the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI).
ANSI/NFSI B101.3 is a test method that specifies the procedures and devices used for both laboratory and field testing to measure the wet dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF) of common hard surface floors.
Here is some background information:
- The test method provides a measurement procedure setting forth DCOF ranges that facilitate remediation of walkway surfaces when warranted
- The method does not apply to carpeting of any type; however, it does address the common hard surface flooring materials such as ceramic and porcelain tile, polished concrete, stone, vinyl floor coverings, wood and synthetic laminates and such materials with coatings or polishes applied
- The standard was approved ANSI on January 18, 2012
- It is the first national standard for DCOF measurements in America
- DCOF is the global standard abroad and is gradually becoming the consensus standard in the U.S.
- ANSI B101.3 is based on research developed in Europe to support the DCOF standards in Germany and elsewhere in the European Union
- The Concrete Polishers Association of America adopted this as their industry standard soon after its release
- The Tile Council of North America has now added a DCOF measurement method to their own ANSI standard
- ANSI B101.3 is unique in that it includes specific approval criteria for the selection of a tribometer — commonly referred to as a slip meter — to use with the standard
- The price of the Binary Output Tribometer (BOT), at around $7,000 for the BOT-3000, is seen as being prohibitive for the average facility service provider to buy and routinely use.
The Million-dollar Question
The group was asked, “Do you think the industry needs a less costly measurement device that more people can afford to use? If so, what form should it take?”
Replies to that question, along with additional insight, follow below.
Peter Ermish, president and director of Variosystems Inc.
If an entity is using COF measurements to archive for future use in a possible legal defense, the tribometer must have the full complement of compliance and diagnostic features as are currently incorporated in the BOT-3000.
The same holds true if the device is being used to audit a facility or conduct laboratory-based research.
If a device is to be used for simple, routine monitoring or spot checking, it could conceivably be a design that incorporates a bare minimum of features:
- Take only one-off measurements that represent one data point
- No detailed location codes
- Simple digital display with a two-digit readout
- No paper printout
- No layered menu choices keyed to specific measurement standards
- Simple rechargeable battery.
The idea is that a minimally trained operator would collect a limited series of one-off measurements using a small on/off device.
The device would be handed off to a supervisor who could download the data for the purpose of trend analysis.
If the data indicates a problem trend, the supervisor would conduct a detailed ANSI/NFSI B101.3 set of measurements with a diagnostic caliber device.
Conceivably, a housekeeper doing his/her rounds could collect a few data samples in pre-designated locations after completion of his/her cleaning tasks.
He/she would only be required to check if the measurement produced a two-digit number as a check that the data was captured.
They would return the device to a supervisor who would have a docking device connected to his/her computer.
He/she would download the data points and plot a trend line.
In 99 percent of the cases, if all other conditions were equal, the data point will probably be within the defined boundary limits and no further action would be required.
It is a simple check that the cleaning done by the housekeeper did not cause a measureable change in floor safety.
A critical aspect of COF measurements is the proper preparation of the sensor, which is the interface with the floor.
We cannot reasonably expect a minimally trained cleaning staffer to be responsible for exact sensor preparation.
The solution would be a one-use sensor similar to a swab used in collecting adenosine triphosphate (ATP) samples.
This one-use sensor would be considered a consumable item that can be collected and returned to the manufacturer for recycling purposes.
Ken Fisher, chief operating officer (COO) of Nu-Safe Floor Solutions Inc.
These comments and insights addressing this topic are spot on.
Having a device that can be utilized by housekeeping, as well as other staff members handling day to day maintenance, would provide the facility with a snapshot of the floor surface.
A facility implementing a program that would include a simple one-off testing of a floor’s slip resistance value would be a testament to all outsiders that safety is first place with the organization.
This collected data would help management fine tune processes that may involve changes to the cleaning regimen.
However, a facility using a one-off test would have to fully understand that this data is just a means of partially quantifying the diligence of the workforce and the quality of the housekeeping standard operating procedure.
Where challenges are uncovered using such a testing device, there should be a written protocol outlining steps that must be taken should the safety thresholds not be met.
This written protocol would also reference in-depth COF testing using a device, such as the BOT-3000, for comparison of the trended COF values.
Having performed tens of thousands of tests on just about every type of floor surface being used, we would encourage the creation of such a device as outlined in the previous response.
Bob Robinson, Sr., president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Kaivac Inc.
I agree with the concerns of the high cost of the BOT-3000 for the average facility.
In our business, we have been looking into the correlation between BOT-3000 readings and the lower priced ATP measurement systems.
ATP is a good marker for the presence of organic soils, many of which add to the slipperiness of a floor surface.
An ATP meter can be purchased for about $1,000 and the test swabs for about $2.50 each.
In addition, the cleaning industry as a whole has a significant amount of experience and knowledge about ATP measurement.
We have been sampling the correlation between BOT-3000 and ATP, and we see a connection between soil removal and COF, as the percentage of soil removal increases the COF values as well.
Differing soil types and how they affect COF eliminate ATP as an accurate COF indicator.
However, once it is understood in how the soil present in a building affects both ATP and BOT-3000 readings, then ATP can help detect if the cleaning operation is eliminating those soils that negatively affect COF.
We believe ATP measurement can be used in a comprehensive cleaning program that will help monitor the effectiveness of the cleaning crew.
Currently, ISSA is developing a Clean Standard for K-12 schools — in conjunction with the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI) — that uses ATP as the main measurement device for monitoring cleaning effectiveness.
It is expected that ATP will have widespread use in the next five to 10 years.
ATP measurement as an early warning system, along with BOT-3000 for objective COF measurement, may be a compatible program for helping reduce slips and falls in many buildings.
More studies are needed to examine comparative ATP and BOT-3000 data.
I believe the more objective measurement — ATP, BOT-3000, bacteria cultures, etc. — the cleaning industry engages in, the better for all.
The daily measurement of slip resistance would be the Holy Grail of a sustainable floor safety program due to the relatively high impact of the cleaning process.
Studies show conclusively that COF changes due to flooring type changes, simple spills and wear patterns are relatively small in comparison to changes caused by cleaning.
If you are not cleaning properly, you can cause a moderate to high slip-resistant floor to become one that is inadequately slip-resistant after just a few cleanings.
The good news is that the cleaning process is the most controllable variable in the mix.
If you are using the correct cleaning process, a spot check or early warning check after each cleaning cycle would be the ultimate in due diligence.
The idea of using an ATP test as a correlation for COF is interesting.
If, however, we could develop an inexpensive, lightweight and handheld tribometer that meets the ANSI standard requirements for accuracy, repeatability and reproducibility, the once per day measurement becomes very doable.
We don’t have a concrete design yet, but we have some very sound ideas of how to do this.
The device would cost less than $1,000 and the consumable one-use sensor would cost less than $2.
This can be done, we just need to understand that the industry wants this and, most importantly, that they will actually use it.
Heidi Wilcox, field specialist for the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) laboratory at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell
I would say a prototype or mockup would be best so field testing could help determine what is needed to change and adapt.
It would be interesting to see what the BOT-3000 and a spot checker together could do in a comprehensive cleaning and floor safety plan.
We will want to integrate these concepts in a safety monitoring plan with cleaning processes in facilities.
We want to have many different types of facilities to work with, to develop the remediation steps for different types of floors and to consider issues or challenges with various floors.
We might setup meetings with facility managers from different types of facilities at IEHA and ISSA in Chicago this fall and see what they think of the idea of using the BOT-3000 and a spot checker in the field.
The process for designing and prototyping a new device such as this starts with a proof of concept study, which is basically a two-dimensional drawing and some calculations to determine required and available normal/tangential forces.
We would also do a simple assessment of which system components would be commercially available and which ones might have to be device-specific designs.
This step would not be a major investment, and I am inclined to do it.
The only thing that would stop me might be a generally negative reaction from a representative sampling of facility and cleaning professionals.
If they come back and say this is a bad idea, we might think twice about taking the next step.
If, however, we created a process flowchart of a sustainable floor safety program that defined the role of organization, product choices and process technology, we could show it around at select industry trade shows, expositions and confabs.
If the response was generally positive, we would likely do a very serious proof of concept design.
Dennis Fetzer, premises liability and accident prevention expert for Fetzer Consulting
These are interesting comments of workgroup members who have discussed the design, prototyping and potential need for this less costly measuring device.
My area of expertise has to do with liability determination, trial defense and accident prevention.
My initial thought was that a less expensive measuring devise would result in greater adherence to the B101 standards by retail operators.
Perhaps, regional safety managers could be trained to use this less expensive device.
However, Peter Ermish pointed out that this device will only incorporate a bare minimum of features and will not have the full complement of compliance and diagnostic features incorporated in the BOT-3000 that are necessary for a possible legal defense.
My concern is that entities would see this as an inexpensive alternative to the BOT-3000 and would discontinue proper walkway auditing.
On the other hand, simple routine monitoring or spot checking would be better than nothing at all.
I like the suggestion of a proof of concept study and am hopeful that this will happen.
Other Workgroup Members
Though they did not opine in this string, additional members of the HFI slip/fall prevention workgroup include:
- Brent Johnson, chief auditor for Traction Auditing LLC
- David Ludwin, risk control product liability director for CNA Insurance
- Rex Morrison, founder and president of Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools (PCHS).