The growth of polished floor surfaces is well-documented. Retail and office owners desire a bright floor. They are common in big box stores, grocery stores, hardware stores, fast food outlets, and even high-profile malls.

But retail use of polished floor surfaces has come with a cost. Over the past 40 years, slip and fall injuries on poorly designed and installed floor finishes have driven insurance costs through the roof. Insurance companies have felt the pain from personal injury, negligence, and even wrongful death claims that are being brought against their clients due to slips and falls.

As a result of this onslaught of losses, many insurance companies are holding everyone accountable that may be involved with installing a walkway surface where a fall has taken place. This includes polished concrete surfaces.

With these surfaces becoming more commonly accepted, it is absolutely imperative that contractors educate themselves on the term “coefficient of friction” (COF). When a client or general contractor asks for proof that your finished floor has a certain COF value, do you know how you will respond? First, you need to understand exactly what COF means.

Coefficient of friction defines the slip resistance value of a particular type of walkway surface when subjected to dry and even wet conditions. Various regulatory bodies have determined certain COF values for hard tile, floor finishes, polished tile, and even sculptured tile. ASTM has published rigorous safety standards for walkway surfaces to lessen the likelihood that someone will slip and fall while walking across a floor.

The American National Safety Institute (ANSI)has also adopted several standards that include how floor surfaces are maintained after being installed by the contractor to prevent slip and fall accidents.

Using the BOT-3000 collects coefficient of friction data to test slip resistance of polished concrete floors.
Using the BOT-3000 collects coefficient of friction data to test slip resistance of polished concrete floors.

Concrete contractors must understand the accountability they share for a finished, polished, or stained concrete floor after they complete a project and turn it over to the client. Since polished concrete is relatively new on the scene, the standard writing agencies have not yet defined exactly what the slip resistance values need to be for polished and finished concrete. However, they are looking closely at some related standards for floor surfaces and attempting to draw comparisons with polished and decorative concrete.

One such standard that may have some application for polished concrete is the ANSI B101.1 Walkway Auditing Standard. This standard outlines a specific method for measuring the slip resistance value of hard walkway surfaces. Even though concrete is not mentioned in the standard, the language contained in such suggests that concrete could be included as a “hard walkway surface.”

Citing this standard could go a long way in providing evidence that the contractor followed a methodology that is accepted in like industries. This shows the contractor was proactive concerning safety for his customers. This step alone could change the complexion of a slip and fall negligence claim against the contractor.

Document trail

The best offense is a great defense. How can contractors prove that their floors are meeting the spec or the request for a certain COF value from the general contractor or the client? Until recently, gathering this COF information while in the field has been very archaic and unscientific. This has changed with the emergence of a highly scientific instrument for slip testing: the BOT-3000.