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Access ramp walking assistance (C) DanieL Friedman Building Access Ramp Slip Prevention:
improve ramp surfaces to prevent slips, trips, falls

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Building access ramp slip trip and fall hazard reduction: how do we make sloped walking surfaces less slippery?.



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How Do We Make A Slippery, Dangerous Access Ramp Safer?

Typical building code specifications for access ramp non-slip surface requirements & surface maintenance conditions

The surface of ramps shall be of slip-resistant materials that are securely attached. - Florida building code, 1010.7.1 Ramp Surface

Outdoor ramps and outdoor approaches to ramps shall be designed so that water will not accumulate on walking surfaces. - Florida building code, 1010.7.2 Outdoor Conditions. Note that in freezing climates similar concern for accumulation of ice or snow must be addressed as must be algae or other slippery materials. Curiously, since it's common for people to drill holes in wooden walks, steps, decks, ramps to try to improve drainage (especially where a cupped board may retain water), the same Florida building code specifies

The ramp floor and landings shall be solid and without perforations. - Florida building code, 1010.7.4

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.

Also ake a look at BARK SIDE UP on DECKS & STEPS for details about water retention in cupped wood surfaces.

How to make access ramps less slippery

Access ramp with snow and ice (C) Daniel Friedman 2013Remove slippery materials: clean algae or other slippery materials from the surface - if necessary using deck cleaner and a power washer.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Where possible, correct the underlying conditions that cause algae or other debris collection on a ramp surface - sometimes simply by cutting back overhanging tree branches, the added sunlight will reduce algae growth as well as frost or ice formation.

Improve ramp surface traction: for a ramp that will be used for both wheelchairs and walking pedestrians, install anti-slip tread materials or use an anti-slip paint; be sure that you select outdoor-rated materials if the ramp is outside.

For a ramp that is used only by walkers (no wheelchairs) some builders install cleats, typically 16" o.c. across the ramp but in our opinion, the cleats can themselves form a trip hazard and may violate building codes. Instead, if the ramp is so steep that you are considering cleats, fix the ramp slope, as we discuss below.

Correct a slippery, too-steep building access ramp by extending its length and thus reducing the pitch or slope, OR by lifting the low-end of the ramp up, building a step up at its entry end so that the ramp slope itself is reduced to a safe degree, in both cases combined with the steps above.

I.e. change the ramp length or lift its low end and add a step up, so as to keep the ramp slope to no more than 1 in 12. But adding a step at the lower end of the ramp, reducing its slope, only works for ramps that do not need to be wheelchair accessible.

Deck board rot (C) Daniel Friedman

Place ramp boards right-side up: as we explain
at WOOD FLOOR DAMAGE, it's a bit more subtle, but during ramp construction, if the ramp surface is constructed of 2x lumber (such as pressure treated 2x6 boards, a common choice for outside building ramps), look at the ends of each board before it is nailed in place, and flip the board so that the "bark side" will be facing upwards to better drain and to avoid upwards-facing cups in ramp boards - a source of wear, algae and ice formation. .

See BARK SIDE UP on DECKS & STEPS for details about this topic and for a clear answer to the question of which way deck and ramp boards should be placed: bark side up or down.

Which way is right side up? We want any board concave cups to face "down" and arches to face with the convex or arched side "up" as the board cures.

If you click to enlarge the photo at left you might notice that the two most-rotted deck boards (photo center) were installed "upside down" with boards cupped upwards or "concave"; you can also plainly see the end grain in the two 3x12's forming the deck girder (photo lower center).

You'll see by the wood end grain pattern that the girder right-hand board has it's "bark side" facing right, and the left hand board has its "bark side" facing left.

Cupped ramp boards (or deck and platform boards) hold water and form algae or ice more quickly than boards that drain properly.

They sometimes rot faster too, as we show in our photograph. Look at the end-grain of any deck, ramp, or wooden walkway board and notice the curved lines that mark the winter wood layers of the tree from which the board was cut. If these lines arch "upwards" when the board is placed, most boards will also be curved upwards (convex) and will drain better.

But before nailing a deck or ramp board in place, look at the board surface itself - sometimes the boards don't follow these "cupping rules".

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