Last week I read a blog post called, “Excuse me, but your slip is showing,” from Constructive Thoughts, the blog of Sheldon Wolfe.  I’m a sucker for a well-researched article on a code-related topic, so I sent Sheldon an email asking if I could reference his post here.  Sheldon told me to have at it, but also said that it wasn’t very satisfying for him to write this type of article – where you research every angle and end up without a useful conclusion.

This happens to me quite frequently – I dig into the codes looking for a concrete answer, and in the end I may find that there is no prescriptive information in the codes, or the lack of familiarity with the nitty-gritty of hardware results in confusing language that is open to interpretation.  In this situation I feel some level of accomplishment in confirming that there is no concrete answer, and then I add it to my wish-list for code changes to propose during the next code development cycle.  And in the meantime, I try to establish some precedent that will help others make a sensible interpretation.

Sheldon’s article is about slip-resistance of flooring materials – here’s a little excerpt to get you started (read the rest here!)…

I don’t know how this issue has escaped me for nearly forty years, but I’m not alone. In that time, I have occasionally talked about coefficient of friction for floors, but I just discovered there has been no widely accepted standard for slip resistance. Not only that, but neither the IBC nor ADA define slip resistance, even though both require slip resistant floors and walkways.

How the heck is that possible? Think of all the very specific requirements in the building code. How did they miss this one? And think of ADA, with its Byzantine combination of Spock-like precision in some areas, and a “Take a guess and we’ll see you in court” approach to other requirements. How can it be that the good folks who write the ADA requirements know exactly what so many dimensions must be, but they have no idea what they mean by slip-resistant? It seems to me that not falling on your arse is a lot more important than a quarter inch difference in the location of a water closet, but this apparently – no, this obviously important performance characteristic has had no definition.

I love Sheldon’s description of the ADA, which is completely accurate in my opinion.  🙂

I remember going to National Guard Products years ago and learning about their slip-resistant surface, called SIA (“Slick It Ain’t”), so I checked out the NGP catalog to refresh my memory:

426SIASIA (Slick It Ain’t) finish is our slip resistant textured surface, available on all thresholds up to 24” wide and on 818 aluminum cover plate up to 10” wide.  Our SIA technology embeds bits of hot nickel and titanium into the surface of the threshold using a high pressure thermo-electrostatic process.  It was originally developed for use on aircraft carrier decks. SIA finish is very durable and will not wear off.  This results in a slip resistant surface that is similar to high grit sandpaper.  Aluminum and Stainless Steel SIA finish thresholds are a pewter color.  Architectural Bronze SIA finish thresholds are a brass color.

This finish, without a doubt, ain’t slick.  But if slip-resistance isn’t defined in the codes, when should you specify or supply a finish like SIA?  I asked Roger Skold of NGP, and here’s what he told me:

“Slip resistant finish should be used wherever a slip hazard is more likely.  Wider and smoother surfaces and those with more slope are first by design, including wide smooth cover plates or thresholds, ramps (based on slope and width), and any type of threshold, plate or ramp that is being installed with possible exposure to moisture of any type.  It really boils down to common sense and liability – use the non-slip finish to protect people crossing smooth, wide or increased slope surfaces to lessen the chance they may fall.  They may still be at risk of a fall depending on their shoes and their balance.”

Without prescriptive code language, the best we can do is to use common sense and specify/supply slip-resistant products where we see an increased risk.

Where have you used slip-resistant thresholds and ramps?

Thank you to Sheldon, Roger, and also to Connie Pride of NGP for the photo!

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