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Building access ramp slip and fall hazards, general safety and proper
construction: this article describes the common causes of access ramp accidents: slips, trips, and falls. Slippery walking surfaces combine with inadequate handrails or guardrails to cause falling accidents along ramps and similar elevated walkways.
Common Causes of Building Access Ramp Slip Trip & Fall Hazards
Our ramp and guardrail photo (left, Poughkeepsie, NY) illustrates that ramps are used as crossways or footbridges as well as direct building access ramps. This ramp is placed level and crosses a small creek on a college campus.
The guidelines for guardrailings and slip protection apply to these structures as well.
[Click to enlarge any image]
With its open steel grid walkway this ramp is quite slip resistant under most weather conditions. Notice that the guardrailings include the required extensions at the entry to the ramp.
Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences, by Bakken et als. and found in our references at the end of this article provides clear and well-thought out explanations of how and why people slip and fall on stairs, walks, and ramps.
Section 20.2 in Bakken et als. discusses ramp design specs and falls on ramps. The following quotes are excerpted & adapted from that text:
Principal Causes of Ramp Falls:
Most ramp falls are related to the ramp being too steep or slippery. Such conditions are often exacerbated when the
ramp is wet or accumulated debris is present. -- op cit p. 199:
People sometimes tend to move faster when walking downward on ramps due to the increased forward momentum
created by the slope.
Our photo (left) shows a snow and ice-covered access ramp at the entry to a private home.
Ramps should have even greater slip-resistant surfaces than level walking
surfaces, such as sidewalks, which are typically in the range of 0.65 SCOF.
While a pedestrian can more easily
judge her or his slower and more deliberate speed on a staircase, it is sometimes more difficult to realize that
one is increasing speed when descending an unfamiliar ramp, hence a propensity to forward-moving
falls while descending ramps. -- op cit.
Static Coefficient of Friction - How Slippery is the Slope of Your Ramp?
In the cited text and other engineering references, SCOF is the static coefficient of friction. Page 23 in the above text gives the SCOF requirements for slopes of various inclines.
A 1 in 12 slope, which is an 8.3 percent slope (the recommended pitch by most sources) is bracketed by SCOFs for two slopes: a 0.93 SCOF for a 9.3 percent slope, and SCOF of 0.625
for a 6.25 percent slope.
Watch out: the slipperiness of a ramp varies enormously depending on what is on its surface, including algae, sand, dust, dirt, water, snow, ice, and even some add-on walking surfaces and paints. At SLIPPERY STAIRS, WALKS we discuss the SCOF for wet algae-covered surfaces.
Visual Clues Affect the Chances of Falling on a Ramp
A pedestrian's perception of the walking surface is critical in the causality of slip incidents.
If a person perceives
a "reasonably safe" walking surface, one which provides a reasonable level of slip resistance, he or she will adjust
her gait accordingly on the basis of this contemporaneous tactile and/or visual input.
If a person's perception is
not augmented by other internal or external warning stimuli, and if the person encounters a portion of the walking
surface at heel strike that provides a SCOF below the traction demand, a slip will most probably occur.-- op cit.
In other words, using an improper and ineffective "anti slip" coating (such as ordinary paint) might actually increase the risk of falling not only for being a potentially surprise slip surface itself,
but also because the presence of such a coating provides a visual clue that would be expected to lead a pedestrian to think that the surface
had *extra* slip resistance when in fact it does not.
Be certain that any anti-slip paints or add-on non-slip tread materials used on a ramp are intended for that use.
The text also includes material on ramp railings (that can be a visual clue about ramp height, slope, and dangers), and on other ramp markings as they also affect ramp safety.
Continue reading at RAMP SLIP TRIP FALL REDUCTION or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.
Or see SLIPPERY STAIRS, WALKS where we discuss Algae, Ice, Fungus, Wet Surfaces & Other Stair Slip, Trip & Fall Hazards
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"The Elimination of Unsafe Guardrails, a Progress Report," Elliott O. Stephenson, Building Standards, March-April 1993
"Are Functional Handrails Within Our Grasp" Jake Pauls, Building Standards, January-February 1991
Access Ramp building codes:
Access Ramp Standards:
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), Public Law 101-336. 7/26/90 is very often cited by other sources for good design of stairs and ramps etc. even where disabled individuals are not the design target.
ANSI A117.4 Accessible and Usable buildings and Facilities (earlier version was incorporated into the ADA)
ASTM F 1637, Standard Practice for Safe Walking Surfaces, (Similar to the above standards)
Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences, Second Edition, Gary M. Bakken, H. Harvey Cohen,A. S. Hyde, Jon R. Abele, ISBN-13: 978-1-933264-01-1 or
ISBN 10: 1-933264-01-2,
available from the publisher, Lawyers ^ Judges Publishing Company,Inc., www.lawyersandjudges.com firstname.lastname@example.org and also from the InspectAPedia Bookstore (Amazon.com)
The Stairway Manufacturers' Association, (877) 500-5759, provides a pictorial guide to the stair and railing portion of the International Residential Code. [copy on file as http://www.stairways.org/pdf/2006%20Stair%20IRC%20SCREEN.pdf ] -
The following stair books and other books on stair history, design, and architecture can be purchased at our Amazon-Supported InspectAPedia Bookstore
Falls and Related Injuries: Slips, Trips, Missteps, and Their Consequences, Lawyers & Judges Publishing, (June 2002), ISBN-10: 0913875430 ISBN-13: 978-0913875438 "Falls in the home and public places are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in the United States, but are overlooked in most literature. This book is unique in that it is entirely devoted to falls. Of use to primary care physicians, nurses, insurance adjusters, architects, writers of building codes, attorneys, or anyone who cares for the elderly, this book will tell you how, why, and when people will likely fall, what most likely will be injured, and how such injuries come about. "
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