27 August 2019

It doesn’t take a misplaced banana peel to cause a slip injury. Although personal injury claims aren’t the biggest cause of notifications under consultants’ professional indemnity insurance, they are a regular periodic contributor, and slip resistance is a key factor within those.

A ramp in a shopping centre, in a potential wet area exposed to weather, is designed to 1:12 when the maximum recommended grade is 1:14. The architect’s specification requires tiles to conform to AS3661, which calls for a slip resistance rating of R12 and a BPN value greater than 54. The architect obtains samples of a tile, and sends them to the project manager with a note saying “for your approval”. It appears that no-one investigates its slip resistance rating. When a patron slips on the wet ramp, the BPN in wet conditions is found to be only 22. The architect is found 30% liable at trial, but exonerated on appeal, due to having a limited scope of services which the court finds clearly confines their duties to “final selection of finishes and colours”. The court holds the builder and the centre owner liable instead.

A nightclub design includes a glass staircase lit from below, with dim overhead lighting. When patrons spill drinks on the stairs, they become slippery. After a woman falls on the stairs, the co-efficient of friction of the stairs is measured at .29 to .34, which fails to meet the relevant standard required .4. A court finds the architect 50% liable for focusing too much on the look of the stairs at the expense of safety, and not designing to account for the extra slip hazard of drinks being present.

An architect approves a builder-generated request to use a substituted Italian tile that comes with slip resistance tests from Germany, Italy and the US, for use in the vicinity of a swimming pool. When a resident slips on the wet tiles, experts advise that the US and Italian tests do not meet the Australian Standard requirements for method of testing, and the US test shows too low a rating.

Though not strictly slip resistance, in this last example, a building designer designs a U-shaped staircase with two 45° winders in the corner and a balustrade but no handrail. A grandmother who trips on the stairs while carrying a child makes a negligence claim alleging that the design should have not used winders, and should have provided a continuous handrail, and included obvious nosings and sensor lighting. The court finds that neither reasonable care nor the relevant standard required the designer to include any of these features, and on that basis the designer is found not liable.

Despite being a crucial area of design knowledge, slip resistance is a technical matter that requires familiarity with terminology, applicable standards and background considerations. Some of the factors that can affect slip resistance considerations include:

• Deterioration of surfaces over time
• Cleaning and maintenance methods
• Applications of treatments
• Level of traffic on the surface
• Contaminating factors such as food and drink
• Vulnerable clientele, such as aged care, hospitals or intoxication

To help consultants approach this difficult area with confidence, our team at informed by Planned Cover have included slip resistance as a topic in our webinar program for 2019. Please click here to purchase the pre-recorded webinar: Slip Resistance – Getting it Right.

Wendy Poulton
Risk Manager
informed by Planned Cover