Slippery Painted Exterior Walking Surfaces


Expertise Includes:

    • Construction Falls & Incidents
    • Premises Liability - Pedestrian Falls
    • Safety & Risk Management
    • Codes & Standards Analysis
    • Slip, Trip, and Fall

As an experienced safety consultant, I’m called on to investigate a wide range of premises liability incidents. One common premises liability incident that often results in serious injury is a fall on an improperly painted or maintained walking surface.

Slip and fall accidents are a common occurrence and can lead to serious injuries and even death. Painted surfaces are one of the most common sources of slip and fall hazards. The type of paint, surface condition, and the environment in which it is used can all contribute to slip and fall accidents. In this article, we will discuss the slip and fall hazards of painted surfaces.

Typical walking surfaces that are painted include: ramps and curb ramps, curbs, parking lot striping, swimming pool decks, parking spaces, and sidewalks. Most of these walking surfaces are constructed of concrete and some of asphalt. Broom brushed concrete and properly applied asphalt are considered to be superior walking surfaces with high levels of slip resistance. This is because both surfaces contain irregular surface texture or voids that provide surface roughness and thus adequate slip resistance or traction to a shoe sole making contact with the material’s virgin surface. Coatings fill in the voids on broom brushed and asphalt surfaces, reducing void volume, roughness, and slip resistance.

Figure 1. This is a handicap curb ramp at a strip mall in which the ramp has been improperly painted with untreated paint; caution yellow to ironically highlight its presence. The slope of the flares and center ramp are greater than allowed by both ADA and ANSI A117.1 standards.

Ramps which all have a sloped incline have less slip resistance due to the slope. The greater the slope the less slip resistance. (Think of your childhood sliding boards at school or the park.) Improperly painted or maintained ramps add to the reduction in slip resistance. Ironically, many ramps are constructed for handicap access and used by the most vulnerable in our population.

Slip and fall hazards can occur on painted surfaces when the surface becomes slippery due to the accumulation of moisture, oil, or other substances. In order to prevent slip and fall accidents, it is important to choose the right type of paint and to ensure that it is applied and maintained properly.

Figure 2. This is a built out ramp located in front of a convenience store in which the flares of the ramp have been painted blue. The paint used was untreated, had faded, and has worn smooth over time. In addition, the slope of the flares are much greater than allowed by both ADA and ANSI A117.1 standards.

In addition to the type of paint used, the surface condition is also important. Painted surfaces that are in good condition, with a uniform texture and no cracks or chips, are less likely to become slippery. However, if the surface is not well maintained, it can become slippery over time, increasing the risk of slip and fall accidents. Regular cleaning and maintenance can help prevent this, as well as reducing the buildup of dirt, oil, and other substances that can make a surface slippery.

Another important factor in preventing slip and fall accidents is the environment in which the painted surface is used. For example, surfaces that are exposed to direct sunlight can become slippery due to the sun’s heat, while surfaces in damp environments can become slippery due to moisture buildup.

 In a subsequent article I will discuss the various methods for treating painted walking surfaces to make them slip-resistant.

Steven Hunt, CPCU, ARM, CXLT is a senior safety consultant at Warren. Steve, who specializes in premises liability incidents, construction falls and safety management programs, has achieved the designation of Associate Risk Management and Chartered Property and Liability Underwriter from Insurance Institute of America, Chicago, IL. and is a Certified Excel Tribometerist. Steve has investigated more than 1,000 accidents in his more than 45 -year career, including 49 cases involving fatalities. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Administrative Management with a Minor in Occupational Safety and Health from Clemson University.

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