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July 1, 2001 - Designers Can Choose Slip-Resistant Materials With Aesthetic Appeal

July 1, 2001 - Designers Can Choose Slip-Resistant Materials With Aesthetic Appeal

Floor design considerations play an increasingly important role in efforts to prevent slip and fall injuries among customers. Slip-and-fall accidents are a multibillion-dollar problem that is likely to get worse. About 37 million Americans are over the age of 60, and that number is going more than double in this decade. People in that segment of the population are the most likely victims of an injury from falling .

Good news is that more slip-resistant flooring materials are available to designers today, and these materials are available in a much greater variety of colors and styles, according to Randy Gablehouse, the general manager for commercial floors marketing at flooring manufacturer Armstrong World Industries, Lancaster, Pa. Lighting considerations are also gaining attention as a slip-and-fall prevention strategy, particularly in stores seeking a glossy, polished finish on their floors, says Russell Kendzior, executive director of the National Floor Safety Institute. The combination of bright lighting and super-high-gloss flooring can create a potential hazard for senior citizens who can't recognize a wet hazard if a floor looks wet all the time.

Tim Morrison, retail food services design principal for Little & Associates Architects, Charlotte, N.C. says that design ideas are best considered in concert with foot traffic and maintenance programs. According to Mr. Morrison "Covering the entry and exit are very important for designers because as people enter the store they should have a chance to 'walk off' water as they move across something that is going to prepare them for the finished floor that they are preparing to walk onto." Improper floor maintenance could also become a problem if for example the floor is not supposed to be waxed, but store-maintenance people are often entrenched in their old methods, so they wax it, he added.

There is a variety of flooring designs that could prevent potential injuries. For example, tiles with raised discs, channels to allow water to flow below the contact surface, and high-friction mineral aggregates. However, the most important thing to do is to put in the right floor in the first place, and then to maintain it properly.

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