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Marble floors have been used for centuries in homes, churches, train stations, museums, hotels, hospitals, office buildings, and theaters, among other places; it’s a very beautiful and durable surface.  Today, marble is considered the most popular natural stone to be used in new construction.  Marble comes in a variety of colors and hues, and provides veins within the coloration that make each piece of marble stone unique and beloved.

Marble flooring also provides perhaps the ultimate example of a slippery floor surface with a high risk of a dangerous fall accident and bodily injury.   

So, can the slippery surface be measured on that marble floor?  And can that measurement be used to make the marble floor safer and less slippery for foot traffic?

Great Hall. View from above of the zodiac in the marble floor. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C. LCCN2007684254

Marble floor at the Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building

Coefficient of Friction and Slip Resistance for Marble Floor Slip Risk Assessment

Within the flooring industry, there are measurements for how slippery a walking surface can be; it is given as a number called the “coefficient of friction” (COF).  The COF measurement is assigned by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for various kinds of flooring (e.g., ceramic).  Other factors are involved as well, such as whether or not the floor is indoors or outside.

These standards change over time.  For instance, in years past the minimum COF under federal guidelines was .60.  Today, the general minimum industry standard for testing the slipperiness of floors is .42 COF to avoid someone falling down in a slip-and-fall accident.

Importantly, having a COF that meets or exceeds that .42 minimum does not guarantee the flooring is safe from fall injuries.  Some floors may be safe from slips at COF .42 and others may not.

Accordingly, many in the flooring industry suggest that additional testing be performed on the flooring, such as pendulum skid tester tests.  These Pendulum Test Values vary in a range from 12 – 55 and provide a better assessment of the particular flooring’s slip risk.  For more on slip testing, read the article by George Sotter entitled “ANSI Issuing Another Standard Slip Test Method for Flooring Materials,” published on April 29, 2017 by Safety Direct America.

As for marble flooring, the COF has been tested for indoor marble tiles with someone walking barefoot on the tiles as being between 0.20 and 0.29 in order to be slip resistant.

Why Defendants in a Slip and Fall Accident Case Know COF Standards

Insurance companies understand the importance of measuring and testing how slippery a floor surface may be, because the less slip resistant that flooring is, then the higher the risk of a slip-and-fall accident claim for which the carrier must provide coverage.

Accordingly, insurance carriers not only keep up to date on flooring industry protocols, but they also understand that floor products can help to make the floor safer and less vulnerable to an accident claim.

As an example, The Hartford educates its policyholders on the need to use proper floor products to prevent slip and falls: see their  Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention Strategy paper.

Moreover, sophisticated premises owners, like colleges and universities, may have a clear directive not only on the dangers of their many marble floors (and stairs, steps, stages, etc.)  but how to test for slip risk. For instance, CNA suggests that their policyholders conduct their own slip risk assessments using “tribometers,” which gauge the amount of traction on the floor surface.  The tribometer can be done on a wet surface, as well as a dry surface and one that is covered in sand or debris.  If there is a high slip risk revealed by the tribometer, then the premises owners need to take steps to secure the area away from possible walking / slip and fall injuries.

In other words, if the commercial establishment or business operation is not aware that there are ways to measure “slip resistance” of their floors as well as means to make those floors less dangerous for slip and fall accidents, they don’t have to do their own homework.  Their insurance carrier is more than happy to do that research and give them instructions on COF standards and Pendulum Test Values.

What Can Be Done About The Slippery Marble Floor?

Marble is slick.  It’s supposed to be shiny and gleam in the light, not be covered up by large rugs or mats that may make things safer for walking but hide the beauty of the stone itself.  So, slippery marble floors are a reality that must be considered by their premises owners.  As The Hartford explains:  “polished marble is a relatively slippery surface with a low coefficient of friction value.“

For premises owners, there are several things to consider about the high risk of marble flooring on their property. These include:

1.  Replace the Marble Floor

For some, it may be wise to consider replacing the marble flooring with a safer alternative.  However, since marble floors are often in places of renown, tradition, or historical importance (like the image of the marble floor above in the Library of Congress), sometimes replacing that marble flooring is not an option.

2.  Grind the Marble Floor Surface

In some areas, the marble floor surface may be made safer by grinding the marble surface so the stone is rough to the touch.  This increases its slip resistance.  It’s easier to get a footing on a rough surface.  This is usually an option for marble flooring near entrances to hotel lobbies or exits to the street.

3.  Carpet the Marble Floor Surface

In some parts of the premises, the carpeting may cover the marble flooring.  This is important to consider on polished marble floors in common footpaths.  A common area to cover the marble walkway with carpeting is marble staircases and marble steps both inside and out.

Careful Cleaning and Maintenance of Marble Floors

Marble floors can be extremely dangerous floor surfaces,” warns AON.  Cleaning the marble flooring must be done with training and care because failure to clean the marble properly can make a very slippery floor surface even more dangerous.

Accordingly, any staff, employees, or cleaning crews assigned to clean a marble floor must be skilled in the care and maintenance of marble flooring.   Careful cleaning of the marble must include the following:

  • manufacturer’s directions for all chemicals used on the flooring must be followed
  • chemicals used on the flooring must be made to use on marble
  • The marble must be entirely free of any debris, dust, dirt, sand, grit, and other particles before any chemicals are used on the flooring
  • The marble must be entirely free of any debris, dust, dirt, sand, grit, and other particles before any water is put on the flooring
  • The marble floor must be stripped of all built-up soap and wax using the appropriate stripping compound
  • An “acid-free” marble stone cleaner should be used
  • An “acid-free” marble stone conditioner should be used
  • A permeable stone impregnator should be used for long-term protection of the marble
  • A silicone-based “no-wax” marble polish preserver is appropriate for polishing the floor.
  • The marble floor should be buffed once or twice a week
  • Buffing the marble should involve the type of pad and the buffer speed called for by the manufacturer of the preserver.
  • At all times, the marble floor must be kept clean with a dust mop and damp mop. This mopping should be done in between routine maintenance intervals.

Marble Floor Maintenance Programs

Any premises offering marble floor surfaces to its invitees, guests, clients, customers, and visitors must be prepared for the added work and care needed to keep people safe from slip and fall injuries on that marble surface.

Each premises owner should have a Floor Maintenance Program established for that marble flooring.  This should include following the guidelines for marble surfaces both in daily care as well as maintenance and repair.

Often, these duties will be assigned to a third party with special knowledge and expertise in marble flooring.  Usually, these are cleaning companies hired or contracted to handle the duties of marble floor care and upkeep as well as other floor maintenance issues.  These companies will be tasked with providing trained personnel as well as determining the appropriate chemicals and machinery (e.g., buffers) to use for the job.

Warning Signs for Marble Floors

Since it is well known that marble floors are slippery and at high risk for a slip and fall accident, premises owners who have marble flooring must follow all reasonable steps to keep everyone safe from harm who might tread upon the marble.

This includes not only investigating things like grinding the floor surface or carpeting the stairs but doing additional measures like limiting the traffic on the slippery marble flooring with things like red velvet segregators to block unnecessary traffic in that area, to installing warning signs about the floors themselves.

What Should You Do If You Slip and Fall On a Marble Floor in Florida?

As some insurance underwriters point out to their policyholders, slip and falls are the leading causes of nonfatal injuries in the United States.  Expect premises owners with marble floors to be prepared for dealing with a slip and fall accident on that marble.

After getting medical help (always the first and primary concern, of course), the accident victim needs to be proactive in asserting their claims for damages.  These claims can be asserted not only against the premises owner and operator but against any third-party cleaning company as well.

Investigation here will need to include the specific needs of marble flooring.  Did the owner have a tribometer?  When was the last time that the site of the slip and fall accident was tested for its slip resistance?  What was the Floor Maintenance Program for the marble floors?  Was there any warning sign in the area?

For more, see:

Florida Premises Liability Lawyer Can Help You in Slip and Fall Accident on Marble Floors

According to the National Floor Safety Institute, slip and fall accidents are commonplace in this country and cause serious injuries, sometimes fatal ones:

  • Slips and falls account for over 1 million hospital emergency room visits, or 12% of total falls.
  • According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), floors and flooring materials contribute directly to more than 2,000,000 fall injuries each year.
  • The CDC reports approximately 1.8 million people over the age of 65 were treated in an emergency room as a result of a fall.
  • For people aged 65-84 years, falls are the second leading cause of injury-related death; for those aged 85 years or older, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death.

An experienced Florida premises liability attorney can be invaluable to those who have been hurt and injured in a slip and fall accident on a marble surface.  These can be complicated claims because more than one party may share liability for the accident (for instance, the college itself as well as the cleaning crew and the distributor of the cleaning materials).

Having a plaintiff’s accident lawyer help you in making your demand for damages can be vital.  You must expect those responsible for the accident to have immediate support in the form of both insurance adjusters, claims investigators, and defense counsel.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall accident on a marble floor here in Florida, then please feel free to discuss your situation with a Florida premises liability attorney.  Our offices offer a free initial consultation, just call or email us using the information shown above.

For more, check out our Slip and Fall Table of Contents.

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Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.
 
 
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