Without a vision impairment, the application of tactile indicator studs (also known as tactile ground surface indicators) in your building project may not be foremost on your mind.
But for those who are blind or suffer a disability that affects their vision, tactile indicator studs are an important safety feature that helps them navigate hazardous flooring, changes in flooring elevation or obstacles more safely. Unlike other construction safety materials such as handrails or non-slip step treads — which have more general pedestrian safety applications — tactile indicator studs are specifically designed to assist those with vision impairments.
Not only do tactile indicator studs provide a sensory warning system (pedestrians can feel them through the soles of their feet, even if they can't see them), they increase the visibility of flooring and reduce the risk of slips and falls. But when should they be used in commercial construction projects?
Public applications of tactile indicator studs
Tactile indicator studs are one of several safety flooring systems that, as industry best practice, should be installed in any public building or pedestrian area that is exposed to high levels of foot traffic. They’re also particularly useful in areas where handrails and other safety systems are not appropriate to be installed.
Common public spaces where tactile indicator studs should be fitted include:
- hospitality venues (hotels, bars and restaurants) — in areas where there are changes in the elevation of flooring (such as a mezzanine level) or low lighting;
- public office buildings — particularly around stairwells;
- schools and hospitals — on thoroughfares where trips or accidents most commonly occur;
- museums, galleries and recreational facilities — particularly around steps and hazards created by exhibits or sporting areas;
- train stations and tram stops — along surfaces where passengers are embarking/disembarking from transport;
- parks — along any path with unlevel treading, obstacles (such as rocks or ponds) or other safety hazards;
- pedestrian crossings — to indicate where a safety crossing begins and ends; and,
- retail stores — where customers need to climb stairs or steps to access a shop, or travel on an escalator.
Installation of tactile indicator studs is also a sensible way to safeguard a building for future use. It's been forecast that the over 65 population is set to double within the next 25 years in Australia — which means that in the long term, we will expect higher levels of pedestrians who require the aid of safety flooring systems to reduce the risks caused by deterioration of vision.
Regulatory requirements for safety flooring materials
According to mandatory construction standards set out by the Building Code of Australia and the Australian Disability Discrimination Act (Section 23c), all new construction projects built for the purpose of public access — particularly those subject to pedestrian hazards — must include the installation of safety flooring materials such as tactile indicator studs. Other regulatory requirements and standards regarding safety flooring systems may also apply to new construction developments, depending on jurisdiction.
If your construction project requires tactile indicator studs, be sure to buy from a reputable manufacturer in order to ensure your supplies comply with domestic building codes. If using overseas products, be aware that even if a product meets regulatory standards in one country, this does not guarantee they will meet Australian safety standards. Look for products that have been independently tested for luminance contrast and, in the case of products using slip-resistant infill, that they have undergone comprehensive slip-resistance testing.
More reasons to install tactile indicator studs
While the primary use of tactile indicator studs is to provide supportive infrastructure for people who are blind or vision-impaired, they're also used as a safety measure to prevent avoidable accidents that the general public may be exposed to.
For some applications, such as outdoors or in high traffic areas subject to moisture or rain, tactile indicator studs that use in-built anti-slip properties can be installed to protect pedestrians from falls. For instance, Latham's Supagrit inserts can be used to enhance the tread of tactile indicator studs, and are designed to be retro-fit so they are compatible with pre-existing surfaces.
Australia’s building and construction industry is subject to high standards in health and safety. As a third generation family owned and operated company, at Lathams we pride ourselves on producing the highest quality architectural stair, floor and wall products that are specifically designed and tested to meet Australian requirements. If you’d like to know more about tactile indicator studs and other safety construction materials we manufacture, view our product range here.