Sent Friday, June 6, 2007

What about Testing Standards for the English XL?

And as the designer, manufacturer, purveyor and servicer of the leading-edge slipmeter for 15 years, and having been privileged to be on all of the US standards committees having to do with pedestrian slip resistance, I have been able to from time to time meet the important tribometrists of the world, and even travel to the other hemisphere occasionally for contact with the leading organizations there. Then through sale of English XL VITs around the globe I have made contacts throughout the English-speaking world and in England and most of the countries of Western Europe as well such places as China, Korea and Singapore, mostly at universities. And through that as well as by feedback from this newsletter, my network in the pedestrian safety world is unsurpassed, and I appreciate having so many avid readers among my subscribers.

But I am starting to fret a bit about my apparent inability to communicate the premier position that the XL occupies throughout American industry and in civil courts. And I’m concerned about how effective the propaganda offensive of our adversaries has been among our user base. We aren’t suffering a tarnished image anywhere else that I can find, except among forensic consultants and code writers that the adversaries seem able to intimidate.

This issue is to bring good news to you loyal users. The war is over. We’re not dead. We didn’t even lose. It is going to take two or three years before our enemies really get it, but we’re still here. They have been able to win some skirmishes in ASTM and OSHA, and I suspect NFPA will be next. But we still hold the fort. None of their “victories” has excluded slip resistance experts from court. Our opponents still lose when they are found negligent in court, and F1679 has nothing to do with the hazard, their negligence, or the science that is the basis for their defeat is law suits.

Whether or not it is important to you, they haven’t even hurt the sale of XLs. Demand is still high around the world. Users are still filling two certification classes a year. Manufacturers are still engaging my services to test the slip resistance of their products in my lab. Municipalities are still specifying that accessible routs must be .60 on level surfaces and .80 on ramps up to 1:12 measured with the XL. My business has never been better. If you think our user base doesn’t dominate, see Who's Using XL Slipmeters? again. If you’ll print it out, it will be twice as impressive, especially in a courtroom.

The other side of that coin is that trade associations don’t expend resources to attack inconsequential threats. They’re scared enough of us to spend a lot in an effort to control our effectiveness. We’re in the big league. And I accept the honor with all of the humility than I can feign.

So let me see if I can get some of you to really read what I am saying and to stop hiding under your desk sucking your thumb. Do as General Washington did and ride toward the sound of the guns. He won the war just by not giving up, by doing what he could for the cause each day and keeping the pressure on. I can do that. Will you join me?

At the January 2007 F13 meeting in Anaheim, when asked if F1679 had been withdrawn, I heard Dan Schultz (F13 staff manager) standing near the wall on the right side of the room say that F1679 “has not been withdrawn.” He explained that by action of COS it could be no longer considered for modification and that no P & B statement could be added. He said it is still on the books and it is still for sale and will remain F1679-04.

Now maybe he didn’t know what he was talking about, or maybe he didn’t mean what he said, or maybe [others on F13 executive committee] heard Dan say something other than what I heard him say. But I say “So what?” The trade associations that own ASTM have been threatening F1679 for years, and now that they think they have had their way, it won’t affect their liability.

F1679 doesn’t say anything the operator instructions don’t say, and the standard serves no purpose but to give some sort of crutch to (1) practitioners who can’t stand up in court and give the scientific basis for the validity of the XL, and (2) don’t know that it is the most widely-used slipmeter in the hands of real experts in US courts of law, and (3) don’t know how to photocopy the precision statements that were produced for the XL in official F13 workshops (as reported on p. 69 ff in PSR, Second Edition.). If you are one of those people, you have my sympathy, and I hope you can find some superior slipmeter that meets all of your criteria. Meanwhile, the rest of us will carry on nicely with what we have.

I have never felt that we needed F1679 (or D5859, for that matter) for the use of the XL. My instructions have always been the most detailed for any slipmeter on the market, and they haven’t changed since they were published in 2002 to incorporate all of the details that went into making the published precision statements.

It doesn’t matter that OSHA has withdrawn the specification for slip resistance of painted structural steel components. All of the criteria for that requirement are clear in the research report that I published with Dave Underwood and Keith Vidal (contained in the chapter on “The Politics of Slip Resistance” in PSR, Second Edition), and I used that material as evidence in a federal court on June 4 to prove that painted or sealed surfaces without texture were dangerously slippery when wet, and that with the addition of the plastic powder (Sharkgrip was used in our study) to any surface coating, it can be made safe for ordinary walking, easily and economically.

In that testimony, I also quoted from the June 2003 JPCL article where the authors found the same utility of the plastic powder additive that we did in a much enlarged study in their labs using the XL for performance measurement. They cited our OSHA Research Project on Slip Resistance in the article.

My qualifications to offer such testimony was challenged by three defense lawyers, and it took about a day’s deliberations to establish that my testimony was admissible, but I got on. I also doubt that any major fabrication shop will sell slippery steel to erectors because of OSHA’s loss of heart concerning ironworker safety. If any worker is killed or seriously injured because of slippery paint, the withdrawal of that spec from the OSHA regs will not reduce the painter’s liability in court. The publication of the JPCL article, on top of our OSHA research report, is constructive notice to everybody in the business, and they all know about it. Even most of the jury in my Palm Beach case this week knew about Sharkgrip and had used it.

There is also the database of cases that Keith Vidal has been keeping in other cases where the XL in the hands of experts was accepted by courts. I have not yet heard of any case where a CXLT had his testimony excluded because there was no F1679 standard containing a precision statement.

Further, if NFPA elects to withdraw their 1901 Standard for Automotive Apparatus, 13-7.3, it won’t affect the safety of any firemen in the US. Over the years that standard has been in effect, all manufacturers of aluminum diamond plate used as decking on fire fighting apparatus have redesigned their products so that they pass that test. I know that because they paid me to test their stuff in my lab and give them reports with my wet signature to that effect. If NFPA calls it all off, I doubt that Alcoa will go back to making the slippery plate. They may stop sending their QC department's XL in here for annual calibration, but that won’t affect anybody’s safety.

There is still a lot of stuff (besides diamond plate) all over fire engines across America that is dangerously slippery. When some fireman breaks a leg as a result, I hope his lawyer calls me. I expect to be able to handle the job with my tried and true XL and my experience background. And ASTM’s fear of trade associations won’t be much help to the members of those trade associations in court, if the plaintiff lawyers hire real slip resistance experts to sue purveyors of hazardous products.

The world has been made safer by our work, and it’s all in the scientific literature and case law. Why would we care if ASTM (or RCFI or the Steel Coalition) agrees with anything we have done? Their action may embolden our adversaries to try to defend more cases concerning slip resistance, but they not only won’t weaken our expertise, they will just be making more gainful employment for us. We get paid by the hour, and they’re just running our meter.

On the Other Hand
For those of you who want to buy a slipmeter and follow some simple directions without becoming expert, buy yourself an ASM 725, and have a party with the money you save. In fact, if you have an XL and don’t want to become expert, you can sell it for enough to buy any dragsled you want and have money leftover. Short of that, stop moaning about F1679. It affects nothing in the real world that affects the effectiveness of slip resistance experts.

If you want to use F1679 as evidence in court, you who are members of ASTM can get a free copy in the annual book of standards you get for your membership fee. Others can spend the $32.40. I have never produced it as evidence in a court case.

William English, Inc.
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