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Slips and falls are a common claim but it is rare for technical investigations to be required. However, depending on the situation, a technical slip and fall investigation can provide useful support:

  1. Testing:
    1. Slip resistance: Friction testing using specialized friction testing equipment can help determine whether the floor material meets industry slip resistance standards dry or wet.
    2. Doors: If a sliding door at a shopping mall, store, or on transit car is involved in an injury, testing can be performed to check their operation versus manufacturer and industry standards. We’ve also tested door closers on swinging doors to assess the forces involved.
  2. Code reviews: Review of the applicable building codes and regulations related to the location of an incident. These assessments are often undertaken when investigating slips and trips related to curbs, ramps, decks, railings, stairs, lighting, etc.
  3. Maintenance: These issues include snow clearing, painting, washing, repair, signage, etc related to stairs, curbs, sidewalks, etc. Typically, we’ll assess whether a maintenance program was carried out properly, whether the program was appropriate, and whether it met industry standards. We have also assessed water drainage issues in cold weather.
  4. Scenarios: Where there are conflicting scenarios, a technical analysis can often provide information as to which is more likely.

A recommended reference for both technical and non-technical readers is “Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention”, 2nd edition by Stephen Di Pilla (2010). A highly readable, very informative and detailed book that discusses just about any type of issue that may arise and as well as the pitfalls with many testing methods. You can find it on amazon.ca and similar websites.

Further to our last SAMAC Bits & Bites, attached is an excellent 2010 technical article on the accuracy of slip and fall testers, i.e. tribometers.   The extensive wet surface testing, which included all tribometers currently used by various organizations, is important in that it revealed:

  1. nearly all tribometers give results different from each other, often significantly different,
  2. some tribometers will rank slippery surfaces in a different order than pedestrian testing,
  3. the relative ‘slipperiness’ does not stay the same between different tribometers, and
  4. where pedestrian tests indicate that two surfaces have a different slipperiness, some tribometers will often rank them essentially the same.

Bottom line – At the moment, only 4 of 14 tested tribometers provided consistent, meaningful answers and even then the answers were different in magnitude.  None of the 4 have been commonly used in the forensic industry and only 2 are portable for field use.   Therefore, if you are reviewing slip and fall test results which rely on tribometer test results, or if a statement is made indicating that testing shows that the surface meets the “commonly accepted friction level of 0.5g”, the results are questionable.