FM Articles

Preventing Slip and Fall Accidents With Portable Friction Testing

Slip and Fall

For facility managers of malls, grocery stores, and other large commercial buildings, ensuring safety and preventing slip and fall litigation can come down to documenting that their walkway surfaces meet safe standards in terms of available traction, particularly when wet – when falls are more likely.

A proactive plan is required that prevents clutter; speeds clean up, and routinely documents safe flooring traction. Today, this often entails measuring the Static Coefficient of Friction (SCOF) on a range of materials to meet the ANSI/NFSI B101.1-2009 Test Method for Measuring Wet SCOF of Common Hard-Surface Floor Materials.

In this regard, SCOF ≥ 0.60 equates with high traction (lower probability of slipping); 0.40 ≤ SCOF <0.60 equates with moderate traction (increased probability of slipping); and SCOF < 0.40 equates with minimal available traction (higher probability of slipping).

Fortunately, a new generation of innovative, portable, friction testers are now enabling fast, lab quality SCOF testing in volume by essentially anyone without specialized training. With this capability, onsite measurement is easily conducted on a variety of surfaces, even at an angle or upside down.

In contrast to complex, traditional transportable units which can be larger than a microwave oven, easy to use, portable friction analyzers about the size of a hand mixer are now available. These can essentially be used anywhere onsite at locations with installed flooring. As such, utilizing them can help to ensure safe, compliant SCOF documentation that deters slip and fall litigation and liability.

Examples of this include two handheld, battery operated models designed so virtually anyone can quickly use them with minimal training, wherever SCOF measurement is needed. Operation is simple. The operator puts the unit on the surface to be tested, presses the measure key, and obtains the SCOF value in seconds, with accuracy comparable to lab models.

The units rely on an electric coil assembly and a magnet to create an easily variable and precisely measurable force. When the operator presses the measure key, a voice coil motor increases the force exerted on a fixed slider until it begins to move. An integrated microprocessor measures the force vectors and calculates the SCOF.

To enhance accuracy, both units automatically calculate averages to reduce operator judgment on mixed surfaces. Both instruments are compact enough to take measurements in smaller spaces (such as stair steps) so the operator can also determine SCOF variations.

Compared to less flexible traditional methods, another benefit of the portable friction testers is the devices’ allowance for more versatile testing with a variety of mixed surfaces. This can include any solid or liquid on both hard and soft surfaces.

The ability to attach an interface layer onto the portable units enables multi-layer simulation tests. These, for instance, can simulate the slip resistance of various shoe surfaces (leather, high heel, rubber) on flooring materials, both dry and wet.

The bottom line for facility management professionals is that they can now truly protect customers and themselves from dangerous, costly slip and fall incidents. With portable SCOF testing, they can ensure and document that all of their walking surface materials are within safe specifications anywhere as needed.

John Bogart is Managing Director of Kett US, a manufacturer of a full range of SCOF and surface property analyzers for various industries. Visit to learn more.