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by Donald C. Meserlian, P.E.

ASTM or AS/TM? American Society for the Testing of Materials or American's Safety & the Testing of Materials. The distinction between these two acronyms is of paramount importance since the development of consensus standards to solely meet the needs of the special interests of material manufacturers without adequate concern for the ultimate material user, the consumer, may or may not have been considered in the development of ''consensus'' standards. ASTM standards which consider the safety needs of the consumer are ''good'' standards; conversely, those that fail to meet these needs are ''bad'' standards. This paper will describe both the "good'' fire safety standards and the ''bad'' slip resistance standards and their impact on the safety of people.

In 1904 committee EO5 on ''Fire Standards'' began its efforts to establish standards regarding the fire resistance testing of materials. This committee has had a significant impact on reducing both the number of and severity of injuries caused by fires.

In 1973 committee E39 on ''Fire Hazard Standards'' began its work. This committee was merged with E05 in 1977 with its scope: "to identify means for measuring the hazard or risk associated with fire or during the fire extinguishing process''. According to the 1996 "Annual Book of ASTM Standards'' there are approximately 150 standards between the headings of "Fire" and ''Fire Toxicity".

In 1950 committee D21 on ''Polishes'' began its work to ''promote knowledge, stimulation of research, and the development of specifications, test methods, definitions of terms and recommended practices relative to polishes". The slip resistance requirements for polishes are stated in ASTM D 2047, ''Test method for Static Coefficient of Friction of Polish-coated Floor Surfaces as Measured by the James Machine". This is the only ASTM standard which states a specification which affects the safety of pedestrians: ''A surface having a static coefficient of friction (SCOF) of 0.5 or greater, as measured by this test method, is considered to provide the required traction for preventing or markedly reducing the probability of slipping while walking 'normally' on a level surface".

The slip resistance of polishes is measured after applying the polish to ''Official Vinyl Composition Tile" (OVCT). A leather sensor is used and the James Machine, an articulated strut non-portable laboratory machine, is used to measure the SCOF between leather and the polish coated vinyl tile. A major problem with this test method is its failure to correlate with slip & fall accident rate (Ref. 1) and the fact that the SCOF of a polish depends on the substrate to which it is applied (Ref. 2). The same polish applied to OVCT tile or terrazzo will give significantly different results when using the D2047 test method.

The 1996 ''Annual Book of ASTM standards'', under the heading ''Slip Resistance'', lists 13 different test methods for measuring the SCOF of polishes, paints, ceramic tiles, wood, footwear, bathing facilities etc. All test methods fail to establish a minimum SCOF, except D 2047, and none of the test methods correlate with each other even when using the same test sensor material and surrogate walkway surface.

The most serious failure of a committee, C21 on Ceramic Whitewares & Related Products (1948), to recognize the safety needs of pedestrians when specifying the slip resistance of ceramic tiles, is demonstrated in C 1028 ''Test Method for Determining the SCOF of Ceramic Tile & Other Like Surfaces by the Horizontal Dynamometer Pull Meter Method''. This method uses Neolite (rubber) rather than leather to measure the SCOF of ceramic tiles and similar hard surfaces. Since pedestrians wear leather footwear and leather typically has significantly less slip resistance than rubber, this standard is ''bad'' for consumers.

The "bad" impact of these ASTM slip resistance standards is clearly demonstrated in the slip resistance requirements of building walkways by the Los Angeles Dept. of Building & Safety (Ref. 3). This document states: ''Surface treatment shall meet the requirement for slip resistance, which can be accomplished by either a product label or manufacturer's specification indicating that the surface treatment meets an ASTM standard for slip resistance for the ground and floor surfaces being treated or by having the treated surface tested by a City of Los Angeles approved testing laboratory in accordance with an ASTM standard for slip resistance. Ground and floor surfaces shall be considered slip resistant if the static coefficient friction measured for such surface is a minimum 0.8 for ramps and 0.6 for other accessible routes when tested in accordance with either ASTM C-1028 (field or laboratory test) or ASTM
D-2047 (laboratory test)".

The shortcomings of both of these ASTM standards were previously stated. The measurement of SCOF using leather (D 2047) and rubber (C 1028) will obviously give results wherein the rubber test, which marginally passes the minimum SCOF requirements, will surely fail when tested with a leather sensor. An article by the writer, "SCOF Requirements for Ceramic Tile & Methods of Measurement'' (Ref. 4) contains the following Table 1 of the SCOF of leather (D 2047) and Neolite (C 1028) using four ASTM test methods on smooth ceramic tile when tested dry with leather and both dry and wet (water) with Neolite (rubber). Ref. 8 contains the James Machine and Ref. 4 data.

Table 1. 

SCOF of Smooth Ceramic Tile


Drag Type Tester



Tester/ASTM Method

Leather (dry)



Horizontal Pull Slipmeter (HPS)(Creativity) ASTM F 609




50 lb. tester per ASTM C 1028





Articulated Strut Tester



Tester/ASTM Method

Leather (dry)



Brungraber Mark I ASTM F 1678




Brungraber Mark II ASTM F 1677




James Machine per ASTM D 2047 & ASTM F 489




Table 1 proves that all ASTM test methods would meet the 0.6 minimum SCOF specified in (Ref. 3) using Neolite but would fail with leather. The extremely low ''wet'' SCOF with the Brungraber Mark II, compared with the Mark I, indicates that the free falling sensor is moving when it strikes the test surface and therefore the dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF) is being measured instead of the required static coefficient of friction (SCOF).

The ASTM Committee on Standards (COS) formed a ''Slip Resistance Focus Group" that drafted the ''Management Plan for Effective Communications & Coordination Between ASTM Technical Committees Developing Slip Resistance Standards for Pedestrian Purposes''.

The three goals of the management plan (September 25, 1996) are:

1. To insure that ASTM technical committees develop (pedestrian) slip resistance standards only within their main committee's scope of activity.

2. To maximize communications between ASTM technical committees developing slip resistance standards.

3. To coordinate slip resistance standards to best meet marketplace needs and minimize redundancy of standards.

COS, and ASTM management, have recognized committee F 13 on ''Safety & Traction for Footwear'' as the only committee which has the expertise to solve the ASTM created pedestrian slip resistance test method problem. F 13 was originally formed in 1973 for the purpose of writing footwear test standards, including slip resistance test methods. This committee recognized the James Machine, ASTM F 489 and the Horizontal Pull Slipmeter (HPS), ASTM F 609, as valid instruments for evaluating the slip resistance of footwear. Neither standard specifies a minimum required SCOF for footwear. With the demise of the pedestrian footwear industry in the U.S., the scope of the committee was changed to include both safety and forensic engineers who were concerned about uniform requirements for measuring the SCOF of both footwear and walkway surfaces. The change of membership interest, in 1991, included members of almost all committees that had existing test methods for slip resistance.

The only new test methods produced by the F 13 ''experts'' have been the F 1677 (Brungraber Mark II), 1678 (Brungraber Mark I) and F 1679 (English XL). Dr. Robert Brungraber (Mark I & II), William English (English XL), and myself (Technical Products Model 80) invented and manufacture friction testers and are all members of F 13.

This committee has consistently refused to ballot two universal specification/test methods which I authored and presented in the paper, ''Universal Specification/Test Method for Slip Resistant Walkways & Footwear, in the Field & Laboratory, as Measured by a Drag Type Friction Tester - A Bridge Between U.S. & European Test Methods'' (Ref. 5) at the International Ergonomics Association Triennial Congress, July 1997 in Tampere, Finland.

The two proposed ASTM specification/test methods for 'S1ip Resistant Walkways'' (ASTM 5X) and ''Slip Resistant Footwear'' (ASTM 5Y) have been reviewed by seven ASTM ad hoc and officially appointed task groups. When the chairman of the F 13 task group reviewed and unanimously approved both documents he was fired and the survey ignored.

Based on the failure of F 13 to enforce the ''Rigorous Democratic Procedures'' required by the ASTM Regulations for developing consensus standards I requested the Veterans of Safety, an organization that has been in existence for 47 years, to establish subcommittee V41.20 on ''PEDESTRIAN SLIP RESISTANCE REQUIREMENTS FOR WALKWAYS & FOOTWEAR''. This effort was within the scope of the main (parent) committee V 41 on ''OCCUPATIONAL/ENVIRONMENTAL SAFETY & HEALTH REQUIREMENTS FOR GENERAL INDUSTRY". I was designated chairman of VOSI V41.20 and formed a 57 member subcommittee consisting of ASTM members of E30.05 on Forensic Engineering, F 13 on Footwear, C21 on Ceramic Tiles, D 21 on Polishes, D 7 on Wood and E 6 on Building Performance. This broad based ASTM representation meets the goals of the COS Management Plan therefore this committee and its test methods should be recognized by ASTM.

The ASTM Regulations require a 60% minimum ballot return of the voting members. The concurrent balloting of the VOSI V 41 main and V41.20 sub committee resulted in an 80% ballot return of the total 69 members.

The ASTM Regulations require ''an affirmative vote of at least two thirds (67%) of the total affirmative and negative votes cast.''

The four documents balloted were:

VOSI V41.21 ''Universal Specification/Test Method for Slip Resistant Walkways, in the Field & Laboratory, as Measured by a Drag Type Friction Tester''

VOSI V41.22 "Universal Specification/Test Method for Slip Resistant Footwear, in the Field & Laboratory, as Measured by a Drag Type Friction Tester''

VOSI V41.23 "Standard for Slip Resistant Walkways & Footwear, in the field & Laboratory, as Measured by a Drag Type Friction Tester"

VOSI V41.24 ''Standard for Standards Terminology''

The percent affirmative votes of VOSI V41.21, 22, 23 and 24 were 88, 88, 88 and 100% respectively. This result far surpasses the ASTM minimum balloting requirements for valid test methods and ASTM should therefore recognize these four documents.

Norman Goldstein, secretary of V41.20 will present these documents to all ASTM committees that have either existing slip resistance test methods for walkway and footwear materials or committees such as F 6 on Resilient Floor Coverings which are planning to write slip resistance test methods. Each committee will be requested to ballot VOSI V41.23 & .24 and to assign ASTM numbers to the approved ASTM ----- (VOSI V41.23) document which will recognize VOSI V41.21 & .22 and each committee's existing test methods.

John Murdoch, a member of VOSI V 41.20 and ASTM E30.05 on Forensic Engineering, will present these same documents to E 30 on Forensic Sciences. VOSI V41.23 title will read: ''Standard for Forensic Engineers Who Investigate Slip & Fall Accidents''.

Both the accident site walkway (VOSI V41.21) and plaintiff's footwear worn at the time of the accident (VOSI V41.22) will be measured to determine if either the walkway or plaintiff's footwear meet minimum requirements to be termed ''slip resistant''. Mr. Murdoch, a member of the following forensic organizations: National Academy of Forensic Sciences, National Academy of Forensic Engineers American College of Forensic Examiners, will present these documents to these organizations.

As cochairman of ASTM E 6.25.96 task group on "PEDESTRIAN SLIP RESISTANCE REQUIREMENTS: BUILDING DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION & OPERATION", with Wayne Meyer, chairman of E 6.25 on Whole Buildings, I will request concurrent sub and main committee ballot of the: V41.23 Standard. The title will state: ''Standard for Slip Resistance Requirements During Building Design, Construction & Operation''. The original 42-member E 6.25.96 task group are also members of VOSI V 41.20 therefore these documents should be recognized by E 6.

A ''Proposed Change" will be submitted to the International Building Code 2000 committee to reference VOSI V 41.21 wherever they specify walkways and ramps must be ''slip resistant''. Mr. Harvey Cohen, who has authored 125 articles on slip resistance and is a member of VOSI V41.20, will present this request at the International Building Code 2000 final hearing, March 1999. CABO/ANSI A117 will be contacted.

The importance of adequate slip resistance standards can be seen in Table 2 which is based on "Cost of Injuries in the United States and the Role of Building Safety'' by Jake Pauls (Ref. 6) a member of VOSI V41.20 (balloting only). Table 1 (Ref 6) is based on "Cost of Injury in the United States'' (1985 data) (Ref. 7).

Table 2.

1985 Injuries in the United States & Their Total Lifetime Costs






Cost (billions)

Motor Vehicles






























All Others






Total Injuries





Lifetime Cost (billions)





% of Total Lifetime Cost





There are approximately twice as many fatalities, 14 times as many hospitalizations, and eight times as many non-hospitalized injuries due to falls compared to fires and burns. The lifetime cost of fall injuries is approximately ten times the cost of fire and burn injuries. More than 60% of falls occur on level ground as a result of slipping or tripping (Ref. 8). Clearly, the impact of ASTM fire standards has been ''good'' whereas the impact of ASTM slip resistance standards has been ''bad''.

ASTM now has the opportunity to recognize the "good" specification/test methods for ''slip resistant walkways'' and ''slip resistant footwear'' successfully balloted by Veterans of Safety committee V 41.20 on ''PEDESTRIAN SLIP RESISTANCE REQUIREMENTS FOR WALKWAYS & FOOTWEAR''. As author of the four VOSI balloted documents I have followed the ''Rigorous Democratic Procedures'' required for true consensus standards. All negative votes were answered. All comments were considered and valid suggestions utilized in the final versions of all documents.


  1. Meserlian, Donald C., ''Slipping & Falling", Letter to Editor, Wall Street Journal, October 30, 1996
  2. Meserlian, ''Know What Slip Resistance Means", Flooring, Apri1,1994
  3. ''Covenant & Agreement Regarding Maintenance of Building Slip Resistant Surface Treatment - Entire Buildings", Los Angeles Dept. of Building Safety (B & S Com - 1 Rev 6/20/94)
  4. Meserlian, ''Static Coefficient of Friction Requirements for Ceramic Tile & Methods of Measurement'', Tile Letter, August,l993
  5. Meserlian, ''Universal Specification/Test Method for Slip Resistant Walkways & Footwear, in the Field & Laboratory, as Measured by a Drag Type Friction Tester - a Bridge Between U.S. & European Test methods'', Vol. 3, Proceedings of the 13th Triennial Congress of the International Ergonomics Assoc., Tampere, Finland, pp389-392
  6. Pauls, Jake, ''Cost of Injuries in the United States & the Role of Building Safety", Building Standards/July-August, 1991
  7. Rice, Dorothy (Ellen J. MacKenzie & Assoc.), "Cost of Injury in the United States'', A Report to Congress 1989 Produced by Institute for Health & Aging, University of California, San Francisco and Injury Prevention Center, School of Hygiene & Public Health, Johns Hopkins University for National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Dept. of Transportation and Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services
  8. Meserlian, ''Effect of Walking Cadence on SCOF Required by the Elderly'', Professional Safety, November, 1995

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Created: 1998-08-14 Last Updated: 2002-04-15