By Melissa Donovan
Floor graphics offer great visual appeal—but behind that pretty picture, safety measures are in constant motion. Print service providers (PSPs) must be active participants when it comes to choosing the right material for the job.
Not only should they be concerned with a graphic’s visual performance but also its ability to avoid hazards. Slip resistance is paramount for graphics adhered to a floor whether it’s wood, tile, or concrete—indoors or outdoors.
Something as trivial as a spot of cleaning solution on the graphic can result in an injury. “Slip resistance is affected by factors such as floor coatings, fuel residue, grease, water, detergents, contamination, chemical treatments, cleaning, and wear,” says Micah Causey, VP, FloorSignage, LLC.
Testing standards and certifications are in place on national and international levels to ensure floor graphic media is performing with the least amount of risk. These are conducted on the first surface point of the graphic, meaning if it’s a two-step floor graphic system, then the overlaminate is tested and certified for anti-slip. For one step, only the base material is tested.
Above: Drytac’s Polar Street FX is a PVC-free, aluminum print media that boasts several slip-ratings allowing for slip-resistant floor graphics.
High Test Marks
Anti-slip or slip-resistant standards are executed by associations tasked with measuring the coefficient of friction (COF) of a surface. COF can be dynamic or static. Newer practices favor dynamic COF (DCOF), as it is cited to be a more real-world illustration of someone walking over the testing surface.
In general terms, “anti-slip is measured when someone is standing/walking over a floor graphic during normal conditions, on level surfaces. DCOF is the global standard used to determine slip resistance. If the DCOF score is 0.42 or greater, the surface is considered high traction, and has high slip resistance. Floor graphics with a low-traction range, below 0.30, present a higher risk of slip incidents,” explains Edwin Ramos, director of sales, ACCO Brands.
In the U.S., common slip-resistance testing standards come from associations including the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
ASTM and ANSI
ASTM E303 is a test method that uses a pendulum tester to assess the DCOF of the surface being tested. The method was revised in 2022 to replicate even further other pendulum test methods in the rest of the world and it is now one of the most widely known and reliable ways to test for pedestrian slip resistance, according to Daniel Farias, technical engineer, Drytac Canada Inc.
“ASTM E303 relies on replicating, in a consistent and accurate way, the DCOF of a heel on floor surfaces, since it has been determined that a person’s heel is the part of the foot that starts slipping first in most floor slip situations. The device involves a swinging arm, with a rubber slider mounted on the end that sweeps over a surface and slides over it for a determined contact distance. This test can be performed in both dry and wet conditions so is valid for indoor and outdoor situations, and the results obtained are very user friendly to interpret,” continues Farias.
ASTM E303 test results are measured by a single pendulum test value and classified in three different ranges, high slip potential between 0 to 24, moderate slip potential between 25 to 35, and low slip potential for results over 36.
Ryan Allen, regional technical specialist, Avery Dennison Graphic Solutions, notes that standards such as ASTM E303 are updated annually to include new technology or more precise testing.
An example of this is ANSI A137.1/A326.3. “The newer ANSI A326.3 is practically the same as the ANSI A137.1 but it did not count with the involvement of the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI)—although there were 61 organizations in the approval of ANSI A326.3,” shares Farias.
The ANSI A137.1/A326.3 method uses a digital tribometer to measure the DCOF of a surface, it can also be measured on dry and wet conditions and specifies a minimum of 0.42 for safety.
Farias argues that beyond the minimum DCOF, other factors need to be considered such as type of use; traffic; expected contaminants, maintenance, and wear; and manufacturers’ recommendations, but the ANSI A137.1/A326.3 standard gives no guidance on how to consider the mentioned factors.
“Nevertheless, this testing method provides useful comparisons between large areas of a surface or different surfaces as it can perform significantly more tests per hour than the pendulum, but it is recommended that a pendulum tester is used in conjunction with it to assess whether a surface’s slip resistance is suitable for the intended use,” continues Farias.
Roy Ritchie, president, DreamScape, says the two certifications that are critical to floor graphics are the AS HB198:2014 (AS/NZS 4586) pendulum test and ANSI A137.1/A326.3. “AS HB198:2014 (AS/NZS 4586) is utilized around the world and resolves the short comings of older tests.”
UL is accredited in both Canada and the U.S. “It certifies products with the intent to make the world safer for consumers and workers. Along with product safety testing it sets industry standards for companies to follow during the process of innovating new products,” notes Michael Aldrich, product manager, FDC Graphic Films, Inc.
UL410 is the standard developed to test a variety of surfaces and material as slip resistant. “To be considered slip resistant, the material has to achieve a static COF (SCOF) of 0.5 or greater. SCOF is measured using a James Machine by applying weight downward through a leather foot onto the test surface and at the same time, the sample holding table begins moving laterally away from the direction of the weight. The machine records the point at which the shoe slips as the SCOF,” explains Farias.
He says the downside of this test method is that the SCOF measures how slippery a floor may be when the test subject is standing still, failing to represent accurately when someone is actually walking over the sample.
“The UL410 testing method was originally created for wax floor treatments and sealers. SCOF is not a real-world slip hazard environment, and rated product could pose an inadvertent injury risk,” advises Steve Yarbrough, customer experience manager, Neschen Inc.
Mike Richardson, business development manager, graphics media, Jessup Manufacturing Company, notes that ASTM D2047 uses the same test method and scale as UL410. “It is a dry static test that measures the COF. The dynamic test with a swinging pendulum is a more robust method, like the B101 standard conducted and certified by the NFSI, which is both a wet and dry test.”
“NFSI has become more popular than standard ASTM ratings previously used. You will see the NFSI symbol used from media manufacturers in their sales collateral. Most of these tests are for the U.S. only,” notes Angel Georgiou, senior marketing specialist, imaging supplies, Canon Solutions America.
While standards like UL410, AS HB198:2014 (AS/NZS 4586), and ANSI A137.1/A326.3 are recognized internationally, certain regions may require a specific variation or European equivalent, shares Matt Edwards, product manager for digital print media solutions, General Formulations.
Regional or European testing equivalents include the U.K.’s BS 7976-2; DIN 51130, DIN 51131, and DIN5097 from Germany; and the Australian AS/NZS 4586:2013, notes Causey.
DIN 51130 is a German ramp test. “It is rated with a value from R9 to R13. The test method uses a cleated boot and oil as a contaminate slip angle of R, which is six to ten degrees equivalent of 0.11 to 0.18 COF for hallways and aisles, R10 is 0.18 to 0.34 COF for transition areas or fast food courts, R11 is 0.34 to 0.51 COF for wet areas like bars, or bathrooms in hospitals or aged care facilities, and ranges to R13 which is 35+ degrees slip, or 0.70+ COF,” explains Yarbrough.
“Even though the mentioned organizations are recognized worldwide, it is important to note that the standards and certifications needed can vary by country or depend on the application, so it is essential to check the specific requirements of your customer especially if supplying products internationally,” advises Farias.
Specific buildings or spaces may have requirements of their own. In general, “new construction is where the certifications are mostly needed to be approved and used. Commercial space and areas of retail would also request a certification of some type,” shares Allen.
“Certain venues—big amusement parks or municipal governments—have teams that require certain standards. Typically, these organizations will require a wet/dry dynamic test such as the NFSI B101.1 and/or the more recent version B101.3,” notes Richardson.
Layers on Layers
Floor graphics are available as two options—one- or two-step processes. One step means the media is designed to not require a separate overlaminate on top of it. Two step includes a base material and a laminate placed over it.
When it comes to the question of whether the media is approved for anti-slip and even anti-scruff certification, the part that must be tested is the layer the traffic comes into contact with.
“Certifications for slip and scuff are for the first surface, the surface that people would come into contact with. Issues pertaining to slip and scuff resistance always qualify on the top layer. If a material is not laminated, that material would be the one that would need to qualify for the certification,” explains Allen.
“Test methods are used to determine the slip rating of the surface that is being crossed. That could be either the overlaminate or the base media of a printed one-step product where a laminate is not required,” seconds Nate Goodman, product manager, Mactac.
If it is a two-part floor graphic system, however, that doesn’t mean the base should be ignored completely. If an overlaminate is included in the build, then both the base and overlaminate are tested together as a single unit, says Farias.
“This is because the slip resistance of the floor graphic is determined by the combination of the base media and the overlaminate. The base media, such as the adhesive vinyl or film, provides the structural support for the graphic, while the overlaminate provides a layer of protection and can enhance the slip resistance of the graphic, as the overlaminate can change the surface texture and friction of the base media,” shares Farias.
As media and ink advances, digitally printed graphics are seen and used everywhere. In response, “anti-slip certifications have changed to include various locations for floor graphics to better understand the elements,” says Ramos.
For example, certain floor graphic materials are compatible for use in pools or water fountains. Additionally, graphics are more apt to get wet depending on the environment, say it’s outside and it might be rained on.
“This is a very important distinction. Will your floor or ground graphic possibly get wet? If yes, a wet slip rating is required. One such rating is the NFSI B101.1 or the B101.3 test. This is a dynamic test that uses a swinging pendulum and in the case of the B101.1 test, distilled water is used. For the B101.3 test, soapy water is used. Both tests have two parts, one lab-controlled part and a second half which is a three month in situation and tested again at the end of the three month time frame,” explains Richardson.
Different tests and certifications are in place for water locations. “Separate testing would be needed to determine if a certain product would be deemed safe for a location that is subjected to standing water,” says Allen. Some of the tests aforementioned don’t include water. For example, standing water is not an application method covered by the UL410 test.
“If an area is routinely exposed to water, then a more stringent testing method is necessary. There are ANSI A137.1/A326.3 methods that may be more appropriate,” suggests Dave Ofstein, quality manager, Nekoosa.
Just because the material in question scores high on dry slip resistance, doesn’t mean the material will perform well in wet circumstances. “It is imperative to consider the expected conditions of use of the slip resistance surface at the time of determining against which standard the surface should be tested. If the floor is likely to get wet at some point, then an wet DCOF should be measured by any of the standards capable of doing so,” recommends Farias.
“The testing definitely changes when moving from dry to wet as you significantly change the amount of possible friction on the material surface. Immediately any smooth floor laminate is eliminated and even some textured films perform poorly. If you install floor graphics in a location prone to regular moisture, you either want to forego floor graphics or look for a non-skid material instead,” suggests Edwards.
Beyond slip-resistance testing, Farias points out “it is also worth noting that the materials used in floor graphics that will be subjected to water exposure should be waterproof or water resistant to prevent the graphics from dissolving or peeling off. In addition, regular cleaning and maintenance should be done to the floor graphic to help retain its slip-resistance performance over time.”
“If you know a graphic is going to be in a wet environment, you want to make sure you have a higher rating and it is approved for such location. You don’t want your graphic to be a slip and slide, and you don’t want it lifting causing a trip hazard. The surface should be clean and dry and free of any contaminants prior to installation. Products must adhere well to the floor surface for the desired duration of the project without curling at the edges and have a non-slip surface to prevent accidents,” adheres Yarbrough.
Seasons of Change
Anti-slip certifications change over time in response to new materials being introduced as well as other advancements.
“Improvements primarily focus on increasing the accuracy and consistency of slip resistance testing and incorporating new test methods to better simulate real-world conditions, also giving priority to testing slip resistance when surfaces are wet, and testing the DCOF instead of the static one, as well as covering a range of flooring types,” explains Farias.
Look at testing methods B101.1/B101.3 from NFSI. “Both methods use a digital tribometer to measure COF, static coefficient in the case of the B101.1 standard, and dynamic coefficient based on the B101.3 standard, however in January 2020 the NFSI announced that its ANSI accreditation to develop floor safety standards had been terminated and this termination effectively outdated these two methods,” explains Farias.
Goodman provides another example with ASTM C1028, a test method that became obsolete because it produced misleading results. It is because of this and other scenarios that Goodman sees the possibility of a test method being mandated by OSHA in the future to eliminate confusion.
“Many products utilized are not properly certified—especially with respect to slip resistance. In fact, most products rely on ancient test methods that can’t determine the slipperiness of a surface,” cautions Ritchie.
Anti-slip certifications continue to evolve, with slip resistance standards changing as awareness of slip-and-fall accidents grows, according to Farias. Another area that impacts slip resistance is the popularity of sustainable materials and flooring. “Certifications and testing methods for slip resistance will probably consider the environmental impact of the materials, as well as their performance.”
“UL-certified laminates have been around for a while. With COVID-19 restrictions there were lots of new technologies in anti-slip films and options to choose from, some UL-approved. There is always room for improvement, and I would say we will see more and better options in the future for multiple floor surface applications,” shares Aldrich.
This is especially true in the U.S. “The testing in the U.S. has improved however it is not yet as demanding or as thorough as standards in Australia and Europe. Because of this there are many products being sold in the U.S. for floor graphics that would not pass in other countries,” shares Causey.
“In the last few years Americans have adopted the European standards for a more universal approach,” adds Bill Rothe, EVP clear sales, Better Life Technology.
That being said, Georgiou believes more materials are tested because the product choices are increasing. This is especially ideal for one-step floor graphic systems because it’s “easier for more PSPs to participate in confidently offering that application to their clients.”
In the Know
The various testing methods for anti-slip requirements on floor graphic material are vast and constantly changing, which is why print providers need to remain aware of the importance of COF when choosing floor graphic media, however this is not the only critical factor. “They need to know type of use—outdoor/indoor, concrete/title/carpet; traffic level; expected contaminants, maintenance, and wear; and manufacturers’ guidelines and recommendations,” suggests Ramos.
To learn more about anti-slip certifications and testing, new floor graphic substrates, and how this application is fairing in the display and point of purchase space, visit digitaloutput.net/webinars and tune in to our latest webinar.
Apr2023, Digital Output