Do you know if your flooring meets the recommended minimum slip resistance value set by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)?
Slips are a common cause of injury and measuring the slip resistance of flooring allows you to assess slip risks in your workplace or premises. The pendulum test accurately tests the slip potential on floors. The test results are pendulum test values (PTV). The PTV considered safeis 36. Results between 0 - 24 mean the slip potential is high.
The recent decision of the Scottish Specialist Sheriff Personal Injury Court in Lowe v Cairnstar shows the importance of taking preventative action to avoid slip accidents.
Ms Lowe attended the defenders nightclub. She fell in the ladies toilet and fractured her ankle. According to Ms Lowe the cause of her fall was water on the floor in the toilet. According to the defenders, the floor was not wet.
Questions for the Sheriff
Sheriff Braid had to consider:
- was there water on the floor?
- were the defenders in breach of their duty of care by failing to install flooring which met the recommended slip resistance?
In answering the first question, the sheriff preferred the evidence of the pursuer and her brother. Both gave direct eye-witness evidence that the floor was wet. Conversely, the Sheriff thought the evidence of the defender's witnesses was unsatisfactory. For instance, the Sheriff thought the witnesses had discussed their evidence with each other. In addition, the Sheriff was also critical of the defenders toilet inspection. Evidence from all of the defenders' witnesses was that the inspection times varied. As a result, there was no reliable evidence that the toilet had been inspected before Ms Lowe The Sheriff accepted there was water on the floor.
In answering the second question, Ms Lowe called an expert witness, Paul Madden, Northern Regional Consultant of Floorslip Limited. He carried out slip tests at the defenders premises. As a result of the test, the tiles, when wet, revealed an average reading of 25.67 which represented a high slip risk. Therefore, the tiles did not comply with the HSE recommended PTV.
The Sheriff was not convinced that that even if a better system of inspection was in place that it would have been a sufficient precaution against the tiles becoming wet and therefore slippery given the PTV readings. In this case, it was held that reasonable inspection system would not have discharged the duty of reasonable care. As such, the Sheriff concluded that the defenders could, and should, have installed flooring which had the recommended PTV. This coupled with a proper system of inspection may have resulted in a different outcome for the defender.
The defender's argued contributory negligence and the Sheriff assessed Ms Lowe as 25% contributory negligent.
Things for businesses to consider include:
- Preparing robust risk assessments and reviewing them regularly;
- Having suitable systems of inspection in place;
- Paying extra attention to floors likely to get wet;
- Checking the slip resistance level of flooring complies with the values set by the HSE; and
- Seeking legal advice if unsure of the extent of your obligations.