In this special feature blog, Elaine Hollerhead, Occupational Therapist and Interior Designer with over 30 years’ experience in the sector looks at specifying the right product for the right end use.
We recently exhibited at COT 2015 in Brighton and we presented our new Radiate shower tray to the hundreds of visiting Occupational Therapists. Our research at the event has shown that over 80%of those attending were unaware of what the 'DIN 51097' standard certifies in relation to slip resistance in shower trays and a staggering 95% believe that DIN would be a welcome addition into the specification of a shower tray.
When we buy a product for the home we assume all tests have been completed to ensure our safety. This is particularly important, for example, when a specifying a shower tray that will be used by the elderly or less able.
While many shower trays and associated product are often described as ‘anti-slip’, they may have not been through the vigorous testing required to prove slip resistance. It is important not to assume or presume in any case though!
As Occupational Therapists, we perhaps assume (wrongly) that all shower trays should be non-slip but in reality this is not the always case. Working in the local authority and private sectors we (OTs) are committed to falls prevention, especially in the elderly, and we need to be particularly aware of the difference between anti and non-slip surfaces – there can be a big difference..
There is actually industry testing, carried out by SATRA – a renowned research organisation based in the UK, which determines the level of slip resistance of a product.
Without this testing, a product cannot be certified as slip resistant and therefore specifying it into a bathroom could cause a fatal slip or fall. The testing is even carried out in wet and soapy conditions, identical to that of a shower, meaning this is the most reliable and trusted result.
The test involves a pendulum, a swinging, imitation heel made of rubber which mimics the action of a slipping foot. The pendulum sweeps over a set area of flooring in a controlled manner. Research has confirmed the pendulum test to be so reliable and accurate that HSE has adopted it as its standard test to measure floor slipperiness in both dry and contaminated conditions.
Simulated tests are brilliant, however SATRA also uses real people when testing the slip resistance of a product, which is always a bonus from an OT’s perspective. A person is strapped into a harness and the tray is slowly lifted on an incline. Soapy water is poured over the tray and the degree at which the participant falls is recorded, meaning we get real life results, something, as an OT, I feel is very important.
The results of the test determines a DIN '51097' rating of A(least slip resistance) ,B (high slip resistance) or C (high coarse resistance), dependent of the level of slip resistance. DIN, which stands for Deutsches Institut für Normung", meaning German Institute for Standardisation, provides services standardisation by serving as a meeting place for representatives from the industry. Without a DIN rating, you really cannot be sure of the safety standards of the shower tray you are specifiying.
Many manufactures experience difficulty in achieving a balance between slip resistance and ease of maintenance, with both being very important factors in specifying. Slip resistance is usually achieved by a ‘grain’ layer on the top of the tray which is not only less aesthetically pleasing, but can be incredibly hard to clean and maintain. However, there are products coming to market that avoid that institutional look and feel.
In my view, not enough manufacturers liaise with OTs in the development of new products, and often it is very obvious that OTs have not been consulted at all in product functionality and aesthetic design. As OTs, we can highlight issues and resolutions with manufacturers. We are able to provide insight and highlight where products didn’t fully meet the needs of our clients.
OTs need to be armed with more information on the importance of slip resistant shower trays. Simply describing them as ‘anti slip’ isn’t enough, and it certainly isn’t worth ever putting a client at risk. Without certification from an independent and qualified body, no shower trays or flooring should be specified or installed.
SATRA is an independent research and testing organisation established in 1919, with technical facilities in the UK and China. As well as testing products and components to European and international standards across a wide range of industry sectors, SATRA develops, manufactures and sells test equipment.
SATRA is a leading technical authority for footwear. By becoming a member of SATRA, companies gain exclusive access to SATRA test methods, accreditation, consultancy, research facilities, technical training and factory production management systems.