Sent January 25, 2003
A Slip/Fall Case Study
This week I received this inquiry from an active CXLT. I thought you might be interested in the following story about a current case.
The plaintiff slipped and fell on his first step out of a handicap shower in a hospital bathroom (part of a patient room). The shower floor is unglazed ceramic tile and provides good traction (>0.50 when wet using the English XL). The bathroom floor immediately outside the shower is a smooth sheet vinyl floor that is slippery when wet (~0.30 when wet).
The Defendant Architect argued that when he specified the floor in 1993, there were no standards for measuring slip-resistance on wet surfaces and vinyl floor specifications at that time only identified compliance with ASTM D-2047, and indicated only that the flooring meets or exceeds ADA regulations?
For the heck of it, I metered samples of the flooring wet with the XL (~0.30), and with a drag sled (left over from our pre-English XL days) and got 0.65 (which didn't surprise me). The million dollar question is whether or not the Architect was negligent for specifying a floor that is not in actuality slip-resistant, yet met the criteria for slip-resistance according to the published standards that existed in 1993. We have identified several other sheet vinyl products that are sanitary and truly slip-resistant that were available in 1993, however I would like to know your thoughts on the above. Correct me if I am wrong, but the ASTM standard for the English XL was first published in May 1996.
One of the reasons I wanted to share this with you, even though I expect it is no small task, is that this experience crystallized the need for product manufacturers to specify compliance with standards that reflect reality when it comes to slip-resistance. Even today, vinyl floor products that are truly slip-resistant (measured by the XL) will only identify in their product literature that they are in compliance with ASTM D-2047 and/or ADA. I'd appreciate any thoughts you would care to share on the topic.
In response to his inquiry I had several comments:
1. Since the ceramic tile inside the shower closure is adequately slip resistant when wet and was apparently selected for its adequate wet performance, it would seem strange that the designer would know enough to specify that tile and not think the space near the shower door would also get wet.
2. His invocation of D2047 is indeed strange, since it does not permit wet testing and is intended for testing polished floors under (dry) laboratory conditions. The labels on UL listed polishes (based on James test results) normally say something to the effect that polished surfaces must be kept dry, or at least that they should not be used outdoors (for safety reasons.) [See http://www.englishxl.com/stds.htm for infomation about applicable slip resistance standards. For detail about traditional slipmeters and their inadequacies, see http://www.englishxl.com/cont.htm ]
3. ADAAG (Americans with Disabilities Act Guidelines) may be argued to be not relevant to this case, unless the plaintiff was mobility impaired or the room had been designated by the hospital to be ADAAG compliant. Notwithstanding, the specified .60 is an abstraction based upon lab tests performed by Frank Buczek, et al, where mobility-impaired walkers produced GRF walking on a forceplate [See ASTM STP 1103, Slips, Stumbles and Falls, 1990.] It was not based on slipmeter results. There is no means of measurement specified in ADAAG, so your claim that the floor should be .60 wet as measured with the XL is better founded than his claim that the James Machine results would be applicable. The credibility of the XL is unsurpassed. It is the most widely-used slipmeter among forensic consultants and the most widely-standardized slipmeter ever. Of course the James can't be used on a floor, which is one reason opponents of practical tribometry like it so well.
4. There were no standards for wet testing in 1993, not even for the Sigler, though it enjoyed some respectability among the better forensic consultants at that time (I think of Page Eskridge and Charley Turnbow, among others, all of whom are now XL users.)
5. I would look at the vinyl manufacturer's catalog claims for that product. I doubt that they recommended it for wet areas. (The defendant architect probably has a copy in his file that could be discovered, if he is hanging his hat on it.) I'll bet they recommended against it for wet applications or avoided the subject altogether. I have found on occasion when I asked a vinyl manufacturer what their recommendations were for sheet flooring in wet areas, they gave me pretty good recommendations, including installation instructions.
6. RFCI, the trade association for vinyl flooring manufacturers, has been the primary opponent of ANSI A1264.2 and ASTM F1679. It was their vigorous protests, appeals and threats of litigation that delayed the promulgation of A1264.2 for so long, and they are the leaders of the attack on the XL in F13. It took eight years to get A1264.2 through the ANSI process because of their histrionics; and at that, no wet spec was put into the standard because the committee had to admit that neither F1677 nor F1679 had P & B statements at that time. So determining a "passing score" for a given floor would have been debatable, if not problematic. That's why Sapienza (Congulum) and Freeman (Armstrong) devote a substantial portion of their time to opposing insertion of a P & B statement into F1679. Maybe you should consider suing the vinyl manufacturer and RFCI as well as the architect. They know that their smooth-surface products are dangerously slippery when wet, and that?s why they are laboring so hard to keep the precision and bias statement out of F1679.
Meanwhile, the F13 subcommittee on slipmeters has conducted several precision and bias workshops for the XL, and it has produced the finest repeatability and reproducibility of any slipmeter ever. So it can no longer be said that F1679 is invalid because it has no P & B. The results are not my claim. They are the work product of ASTM F13, and the statistical evaluation has been done under the watchful eye of ASTM?s statistical guru. The statement is bullet-proof, and it is officially available from ASTM.
On the other hand, RFCI is interfering with adding the statement to the standard so they can pretend that smooth vinyl floors aren?t dangerous when wet. I think most ladies and gentlemen of the jury can understand the implications of that. Any manufacturer who is rating his products as appropriate for wet service based on (dry) James testing is either unethical or incompetent or both. Either makes the fall victim eligible for recovery of injury losses based on their willful disinformation.
And the Case Outcome
From: Brad Avrit To: Bill English
Sent: Friday, March 21, 2003 8:38 PM
I finally heard the result on the Trial [mentioned above]. The plaintiff won liability 11-1, and was awarded $184,000. The plaintiff was found 30% at fault (because he didn't put a towel down as a bathmat outside the shower. I guess handicapped people going in for a liver transplant should be more careful and not rely on the hospital to provide a slip-resistant floor in a handicap accessible bathroom).
The XL made yet another court appearance and its operation was demonstrated in front of the jury. As usual, the jury sat forward in their seats and paid close attention seeing the XL in action. The court would not allow testing of samples in front of the jury (because it was not the actual floor), so I could only demonstrate how the machine worked to explain how I obtained test results.
The Defense "expert" bad-mouthed the Certification process (of course he's not certified), saying anyone can operate it if they are experienced and follow the instructions. He also said you don't need to calibrate the machine, and that he just tests it against a control tile occasionally to make sure it's giving repeatable results, and that the calibration is just a way for the inventor to make more money. I think I told you before I tested a smooth sheet vinyl in the 0.30 range and said it had inadequate slip-resistance for a flooring immediately outside a shower, and the Defense expert tested the same floor and said the Slip Index was 0.65. I have to assume the jury believed the Certified user, given that they found there was a dangerous condition in the case.
Thanks again for your thoughts and insights on the case issues. It all seems somewhat trivial in light of current world events, but it may make the hospital change the floor in that room and prevent a future injury, and that will make the world that much better.
Brad Avrit, PE CXLT
William English, Inc.
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