Slip Resistance According to Goldilocks

UD-logo-200x200Richard Bowman says that slips are often misreported and thus overrepresented as a cause of falls, where many such falls are not necessarily associated with slippery surfaces. There are many factors to consider in preventing slip-initiated falls and not all of these can be captured in an industry standard.  Cleaning materials and wear and tear over time all contribute to the complexity of the challenge of providing adequately sustainable slip resistant inclusive access. The title of his presentation is Slip Resistance According to Goldilocks.

Richard Bowman slideshow  PDF  7MB


The Goldilocks principle dictates that liveable housing should have flooring that is just right. In terms of slip resistance this means not too slippery and not too rough (so as to be difficult to clean or likely to cause stumbles). This enlightened view runs contrary to some safety experts, who simply believe that specifying greater slip resistance is the effective panacea. People want to live in safe homely environments, not with senselessly mandated semi-industrial flooring.  

In a sensible world we would make informed decisions based on established data. In the world of slip resistance, there has been no infrastructural benchmarking. Undertaking any public good research is generally considered somebody else’s responsibility due to the perceived high costs. Governments invest heavily in trying to prevent older people from falling, where researchers seek to devise increasingly incremental degrees of preserved health, fitness and postural stability, and to protect older people from being subjected to medically prescribed polypharmaceutical disorientation. Yet none of the duplicated biomedical multivariable studies have actually determined the available underfoot traction. Most falls by older people are likely to be due to biomedical causes rather than environmentally induced slips, but the whole community benefits from appropriate slip resistance levels.

This presentation will provide a sneak preview of outcomes of two current research projects: a psychophysical slip resistance study where experiential public participation should indicate what bathroom flooring is considered to be just right; and a pilot study using virtual reality environments to determine when pedestrians modify their gait and reduce their traction demand, thus enabling development of improved risk models relevant to specific situations. The ultimate aim is to get universal design slip resistance specifications just right.

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