"Whether you live in a city or a small town, and whether you drive a car, take the bus or ride a train, at some point in the day, everyone is a pedestrian."Anthony Renard Foxx
While pedestrian safety is an issue which effects everyone, the identification and control of slip, trip and fall (‘STF’) risks is an often misunderstood and vexed area of safety management. This paper aims to demystify STF risks, providing a plain English introduction to key elements in pedestrian safety — contextualizing slip risk; identifying testing options; assessing sites and surface materials; and using matting as a design control.
There are a range of environmental, design and human factors that contribute to STF risks. From a design and environmental perspective, elements which impact pedestrian safety include, but are not limited to, surface materials type, treatment and maintenance; lighting/visibility; handrail presence and design; slope; and exposure to climatic conditions. In terms of human factors, STF risks are impacted by factors such as footwear; age; gait; and levels of pedestrian attention.
However, it is generally a combination of elements which results in actual STF injuries. So why focus on surface safety in the management of slip risk?
Surface materials are statistically significant in slip and fall causation. The United States of America (USA) National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) estimates that 55% of all slip and falls are attributable to hazardous surface materials. Similarly, in Spain — after the introduction of mandatory (barefoot) pedestrian slip safety testing for public buildings (such as swimming pool facilities) in 2014 — audit results indicated that more than 60% of surfaces failed to meet legislatively required slip resistance standards. From a risk management perspective, the levels of slip risk associated with flooring materials (and their treatment) are controllable, measurable and capable of enforcement — resulting in surface safety being the central focus of pedestrian STF mitigation strategies.
Within the United States of America, it is estimated that 80 million falls (and 9.9 million falls related injuries) occur each year, evenly distributed across adults from 18 years to 65 plus years. The overall economic cost of slip and falls is estimated at $111Billion per annum, with 25,924 deaths; 693,500 hospitalizations and 5,022,536 emergency room admissions each year.