Friday, 5 March 2010

Slip Resistant Soles

Statistics show that slips, trips and falls on the same level are a major cause of workplace accidents in the UK - almost 11,000 are reported each year to the Health and Safety Executive, they account for 39% of non-fatal major injuries. It has been estimated that these accidents cost the UK economy as much as £750 million per annum, £300 million of which is directly attributable to UK employers.

Employers use a variety of control measures to reduce the risk of slips, however due to the working conditions there may be cases where a significant slip risk remains. Introducing footwear with slip-resistant properties may be the only effective way they can further reduce the risk.

There are many safety boots and shoes that claim to have slip resistant soles; however are they truly slip resistant and what standards are they tested to?

Footwear marketed as 'slip resistant' may not perform as well as expected, so care has to be taken when choosing footwear from brochure descriptions alone.

Although footwear may be marketed as 'slip resistant', some have not been tested for this. Check with your supplier if the footwear has actually been tested for slip resistance then request the test details and results. Although the footwear may have been tested, the results from the test may not be an accurate guide as to how footwear will perform in the conditions that you want to use it in.

BS EN 13287 is the current European standard for footwear slip resistance.
This standard is a simple pass/fail test. However most footwear tested will pass testing and can therefore be marked as slip resistant. But the marking system used does not distinguish between footwear with low slip resistance and very good slip resistance. Simply passing this standard does not guarantee that the footwear will be effective in a particular workplace.

Depending on the test conditions chosen, footwear tested according to the EN standards is now marked with one of the following codes, SRA, SRB, or SRC.

The codes indicate that the footwear has met the specified requirements when tested as follows:
SRA – tested on ceramic tile wetted with dilute soap solution
SRB – tested on smooth steel with glycerol
SRC – tested under both the above conditions

Footwear products once tested and certified are stamped with the CE mark. The manufacturer also provides user information indicating the applications for which the footwear is suitable.

To provide more detailed information, the Health and Safety Laboratory have carried out a series of tests for the Health and Safety Executive, on soles that are claimed to be slip resistant and those that don’t. They use a ramp test that does not give a pass/fail but classifies footwear as exhibiting poor, average or good slip resistance where there is a particular contaminant on a given surface.

The tests were carried out on five different surface/contaminant conditions; water on steel, glycerol on steel, glycerol on quarry tile, water on 5 bar aluminium chequer plate and glycerol on 5 bar aluminium chequer plate.

The feedback from the end users is that the footwear that performs well on the test also performs well in the workplace. The study also showed that some footwear marketed as slip resistant gave a high slip risk when tested on the HSL ramp, further demonstrating that no one product will be suitable in all situations - a risk assessment should always be carried out when selecting footwear.

The detailed results of this testing can be found in the Research Report RR780. This project is a continuation of previously published work by HSE. When significant new safety, protective or occupational footwear is marketed as slip resistant or becomes widely used in the work place, HSL procures and tests it in order to assess its slip potential. This combined report now includes 86 pieces of footwear as a further 30 items were tested.

The report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy. The HSE considers that by publishing this information there is an increased likelihood that buyers will obtain good slip-resistant footwear on the basis of informed choices.

This testing focuses on slip resistance on hard indoor flooring surfaces; it does not mean that these findings can be extrapolated to show the slip resistance of footwear on the variable outdoor surfaces that can be encountered, where other factors may come into play.

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