Whole life costing: Slip resistant flooring

Peter Mayer

Specifying the right flooring is a slippery area,
particularly when materials react differently
depending on the conditions.
Peter Mayer of BLP looks at the options.

It’s an extraordinary statistic but the Health and Safety Executive estimates that one serious slip accident occurs every three minutes in the UK.

There are many contributory factors to this type of accident – the presence of contamination, type of footwear and human factors (commonly it is elderly people who slip). However, in commercial projects there is an obligation for specifiers to ensure floor surfaces are suitable for their purpose under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.


Slip resistance

The bad news for specifiers, especially when imported products are considered, is that there are several ways of measuring slip resistance that give differing results. Although slip resistance may be calculated, in practice the risk varies. For example, most flooring surfaces have lower slip potential when dry than when wet. Surface wear can also increase the danger.

The good news is that there is a preferred method to determine slip resistance: the BS 7976 pendulum test using UK Slip Resistance Group guidance. The higher the slip resistance value (SRV) the lower the risk. (Other terms used for SRV include: the pendulum test value and British pendulum number). A high risk of slip (that is, greater than one in five) has an SRV of between 0 and 24, while a low risk (less than one in a million) is classed between 36 and 64.


Specification options

Most level floor surfaces, when dry and clean, have satisfactory slip resistance, with SRVs in excess of 50. It’s an altogether different story in wet conditions. For example vinyl, linoleum and rubber have low SRVs when wet. Even “safety” vinyls may only have moderate slip resistance. Ultimately the specifier needs specific data for individual products.

Floor coverings that claim slip resistant properties are manufactured from materials that provide rough surfaces, but remember to check the basis of declared slip resistance values, in particular whether they apply to wet or dry conditions.

Softer floor coverings tend to wear more quickly than hard surfaces, resulting in shorter lives, while the slip resistance of vinyl can be enhanced by incorporating abrasive material grits (BS EN 13845).

Synthetic resin thin finishes are typically based on epoxy, but also include polyurethane and acrylics. Thicknesses vary from 150 microns to 6mm, and angular aggregate or carborundum particles can be applied, but these rough superficial layers wear off in time.

It is also worth remembering that the method of grouting ceramic tiles can reduce slip resistance, particularly flood grouting.


Design and whole life costs

Slip resistance varies with use and wear. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to predict changes and it needs to be measured over time to inform the maintenance and replacement regime.

With the compensation culture in the UK on the rise, preventing slips, trips or falls is a less costly strategy than hoping they will not happen. To do this, the correct specification of flooring and suitable maintenance are essential.

Numerous organisations provide information on safety floors: the Health and Safety Executive, the Centre for Accessible Environments, BRE, Resin Flooring Association, Contract Flooring Association and CIRIA publication C652, 2006, Safer Surfaces To Walk On.



Specification options


  Capital cost £/m2 Net present value for 60 years £/m2 Expected
service life years
Resilient flooring      
Slip resistant vinyl sheet flooring to BS EN 649 and BS EN 13845, minimum 2mm thick, Use class 34 for very heavy commercial use, installed to BS 8203 27.0 636 15
Slip resistant vinyl sheet flooring to BS EN 649 and BS EN 13845, minimum 3mm thick; grit particles throughout the thickness; Use class 34/43 for very heavy commercial use, installed to BS 8203 37.0 645 20
Synthetic resin      
Three pack polyurethane resin floor system to BS 8204-6, minimum 4mm thick incorporating hard angular aggregate throughout. For heavy duty commercial use. 28.0 661 10
Three pack epoxy resin floor system to BS 8204-6, 2– 4 mm thick incorporating hard angular aggregate throughout. For heavy duty commercial use. 37.5 651 25
Ceramic tiles      
Quarry tiles to BS EN 14411 Group A1, with enhanced slip resistance throughout, 15mm thick minimum. Installation to BS 5385. 80.0 668 60+
Unglazed, ceramic floor tiles to BS EN 14411, with enhanced slip resistance; carborundum aggregate throughout the body of the tile; 8mm thick minimum. Installation to BS 5385. 48.0 629 60+


Table notes

A discount rate of 3% is used to calculate net present values.

Life cycle costs include capital costs for the flooring surface only, component replacement, commercial cleaning regime and an allowance for minor repairs. Ceramic tiles include for regrouting.

A cost analysis based on project specific information is essential for a realistic best value appraisal.

This analysis is generic, SRVs have not been stated to avoid being misleading. SRVs should be confirmed for individual products by the manufacturer or independent testing.

First published in Building, 2008


Further information

BLP provides latent defect warranties for buildings www.blpinsurance.com

Further information contact peter.mayer@blpinsurance.com or telephone: 020 7204 2450