An article in your December 2012 Sanitary Maintenance magazine titled “Reducing Slips And Falls In Healthcare Facilities” by Mr. Brent Johnson caused me to have some very serious concerns about the information it presents to the consumers of products in our industry and the professional individuals who market them. Typically, I would not respond to an independent article such as this one, but the rather questionable “science” it presents directly impacts public safety as it relates to our industry and this cannot be overlooked.

Mr. Johnson presents the benefits of facility executives having their floor surfaces and chemicals certified by NFSI as being “high traction.” Obviously, slips and falls are a major concern to our industry and the end-users of our products. Cooperative efforts to reduce the incident rates of these accidents are critical and NFSI has made some very wonderful efforts in raising awareness and training in this area. The push into “high traction” certification and more importantly the use of ANSI B101.1 or ANSI B101.3 to certify wet floors, however, ventures into the application of questionable “science” for monetary gain.

Although NFSI and Traction Auditing can use a potable slip machine to generate a number off of a wet floor, this number is qualitative at best and provides absolutely no indication of the relative safety associated with the flooring surface. The area of slip measurement and floor safety is a very contentious one due to the litigation cost associated with slip and fall incidents. Hence, facility managers are always being pushed to further shield themselves from possible issues in this area and hearing from a third party source that a wet floor can be “certified to be safe” is music to their ears.  How better to protect employees and customers than to have an outside source test their floors and provide proof that they are safe, right?

The problem is that common logic and physics show that there is absolutely no possible way a smooth walkway surface like vinyl tile can be safe when wet – regardless of what test method you use or number a slip machine provides.  Any type of liquid contaminate on a walkway surface offers the opportunity for the phenomenon of hydroplaning to occur, which means in the case of human locomotion, the foot is no longer in contact with the walkway surface and actually walking “on the water.”

Unless the floor surface is contoured such that water or liquid contaminates are channeled away from the foot contact surface, it will never be safe. The best analogy to put this into perspective is to look at our roadways. Concrete or asphalt roads with rubber tires have coefficient of friction values easily approaching 150 percent higher than a typical coated vinyl composition tile, yet put a little rain on them and suddenly cars or even 70,000 lbs. trucks with 18 rubber wheels can slide like they are on ice!

Smooth walkway surfaces contaminated by liquid substances are not safe and to claim that any method or machine generating an arbitrary number can certify them otherwise is dangerous and misleading to our consumers. Contaminated floors need proper signage and cleaned as soon as possible by maintenance personnel. Floors in areas like a kitchen where liquid contamination is expected should be specifically designed for that type of use through physical contours and build of materials.


William J. Schalitz
V.P. of Research & Development
Spartan Chemical Company, Inc.
1110 Spartan Drive
Maumee, OH  43537