Floor coverings can pose many OH&S risks. Highly polished or slippery floors cause falls in wet weather conditions, reflective surfaces trigger migraines or confusion for those with visual impairments, and poorly secured floor surfaces or obstructions can cause access issues for people with mobility disabilities.
If you aren’t compliant with the Australian standards for flooring, you risk putting the physical and emotional wellbeing of others in danger, as well as opening yourself up to a series of legal and financial liabilities.
The Building Code of Australia (BCA), Australian and New Zealand Standards, and the Disability Discrimination Act provide a national standard for minimizing the risks associated with floor coverings, as well as ensuring safe and accessible design for everyone regardless of disability.
We’ve put together a guide to Australian standards for floor coverings, so you can make sure you’re compliant for your next job.
5 tips for compliant floor coverings
1. Meet the slip resistance standards.
One of the biggest risks associated with floor coverings is the chance of pedestrians slipping and falling, whether in wet weather conditions or just after a floor has been polished. AS4586 and HB197 both provide guidance on testing criteria for slip resistant surfaces, based on the type of flooring material used.
When choosing the type of floor coverings for your next job, it’s important to select one that meets the Australian Standards for floor slip resistance. Slip resistance measures the friction of a surface in wet and dry conditions, using a wet pendulum test and dry friction test. The minimum friction coefficient needed for a surface is 0.4 in both conditions, based on the test results.
For more information on slip resistance standards, visit the Australian Building Codes Board website.
2. Consider reflective surfaces.
Shiny floor coverings can cause glare from concentrated overhead lights, especially when the floor has been polished, or when the floor is wet.
Glare can affect vision and cause people to trip, as they may not see obstructions in their path. It can also cause physical pain for people prone to migraines or with visual impairments. On top of this, shiny floor surfaces may not meet the slip resistance ratings outlined previously.
While there is no official Australian Standard, it’s important to consider the type of finish used on your floor coverings to make sure they don’t cause glare from any light sources.
3. Use coloured and lumo luminescent (glow in the dark) features.
Due to their visual nature and their contrast with the floor, bright colours can help people distinguish high risk areas – and possibly reduce the risk of hazards, including falls or slips.
Brightly coloured safety tapes, floor coatings, or tactile indicator studs can help draw attention to any risks on the floor, including wet conditions or a change in height, and can also help those who are visually impaired to navigate around.
For stairwells or dimly lit areas, or in case of an emergency where the power goes out, lumo luminescent stair tread nosings are a great floor covering solution for OH&S. These nosings temporarily glow in the dark after being exposed to light, and can help people navigate and provide more safety and control in any emergency situations.
Of course, these should all be compliant with slip resistance ratings, luminance testing, fire testing, and accessibility standards.
4. Remember tactile indicator studs.
For those who are visually impaired or blind, tactile indicator studs are essential to help navigate public spaces and buildings independently, as well as warn of any hazards, such as overhead obstructions, driveways, stairs, or edges of train platforms.
Tactile studs should meet certain size, layout, and contrast standards in line with AS1428.4. Find out more on when to use tactile indicator studs here, or follow our step-by-step guide for installation.
5. Ensure your floor coverings are installed correctly.
The installation of your floor coverings is as important as the type of material you use. Incorrectly installed floor coverings can increase the risk of trips and falls, and over time wear and tear of poorly installed floor coverings can require premature replacement – creating issues for contractors and for businesses.
The standards differ for different types of floor coverings. Resilient floor coverings, such as vinyl tiles, PVC vinyl, linoleum, and rubber, should meet the minimum installation requirements in line with AS1884 – which includes pre-installation inspections, subfloor installation procedures, and testing for moisture content.
Carpet, and other textile, installation needs to be compliant with AS2455, which includes detailed information on different installation methods for sticking down carpet.
When it comes to your floor coverings it’s important to be compliant with Australian standards to minimize the risk of injury, provide safe and accessible design, and protect you and your client’s business from legal or financial liabilities.
With over 5 decades of experience, Latham designs and manufactures high quality floor coverings that are compliant with the Australian Standards and the National Building Code. They're even used in the main entrance of Parliament House (pictured)! View our full product range here.
And for more information on safe design and building practices, download our free Building Safety Checklist. Click on the image below to get your copy.