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Slips & Falls: Carpet Health and Safety

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Safety, health and wellness are priorities today. This is especially true when it comes to commercial interior spaces.

In our last blog, we provided examples of how carpet can actually improve indoor air quality.  When it comes to safety, carpet can also play a leading role in reducing slips and falls.

Preventing Slips and Falls

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, an estimated 700,000 to 1 million people fall annually in U.S. hospitals alone.  Other research cited by the National Floor Safety Institute indicates that “falls account for over 8 million hospital emergency room visits, representing the leading cause of visits (21.3%).” Additionally, the NFSI says the CDC reports that “approximately 1.8 million people over the age 65 were treated in an emergency room as a result of a fall.”

So what are the causes of these incidents? Research from the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) identified four main causes of slip and trip accidents.  Each cause cited by the NHS is related to the floor covering. The four causes they cite are:

  1. Slippery/wet surfaces caused by water and other fluids
  2. Slippery surfaces caused by dry or dusty floor contamination
  3. Obstructions (both temporary and permanent)
  4. Uneven surfaces and changes of level, such as unmarked ramps.

 What is a Carpet’s Coefficient of Friction?

Generally speaking, carpet, because of its construction and material, can better mitigate slips and falls when compared to a hard or smooth surface. This is because carpet typically has a higher coefficient of friction (COF) rate than a hard surface. A COF is defined by the Global Floor Safety Network as “a mathematical term used to describe the effect of dragging one substance (shoe sole material) over another (flooring surface). This coefficient is a measurement of the relative ability of various surfaces to resist the sliding or slipping of the selected material.”

A blog article titled, “Friction and Floor Safety,” written by a regulatory compliance expert, provides more insight: “Typically, rough surfaces like brushed concrete or carpet have a higher COF than smooth surfaces like polished marble, tile or wood. Dry surfaces also generally have a higher COF than wet ones. When you’re trying to decrease the likelihood of slips and falls in your workplace, increasing the COF of walking surfaces is often part of the solution.”

Zeftron Nylon_Commercial Carpet

Experts, however, caution that designers, facility managers and other specifiers of commercial flooring products should be knowledgeable about a product’s COF.  In fact, a report by the Center for Healthcare Design states:  “It is important to realize that multiple factors contribute to the slip resistance of a floor.” The report provides several factors designers and others should know about when it comes to the slip resistance of floors.

Because it can be difficult to determine how to achieve the recommended COF for a space, NFSI and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) jointly published a set of standards to provide guidance for facilities that want to quantify the safety of their walking surfaces.

Selecting the Right Floor Covering

Knowing that slips and falls are prevalent – and costly – in commercial interior settings, selecting the right floor covering is essential.  Carpet, with a typically higher COF than other surface options, should be a strong consideration. When specified and installed correctly, it can contribute to a safer workplace or other commercial interior space.

Please return to our blog soon.  We’ll be adding more information about carpet’s role in creating healthy and safe environments.

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