The National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) focuses on the prevention of slips, trips, and falls to prevent unnecessary injuries to the public that come from simply walking across a floor. In the United States, one out of five falls causes a serious injury, such as broken bones or a head injury. While it is ideal for no one to slip, trip, or fall on a floor, injuries caused from falling can be especially problematic for the elderly. NFSI standards are written with this knowledge, and identify guidelines to manage the slippage potential of different kinds of floors through measurement of resistance and application of treatments and matting.
To understand why we fall, it is important to comprehend how exactly we walk. The biomechanics of our walk (or gait), make a complex procedure into nothing more than a simple thought followed by a rudimentary action for us. Our gait can be understood in two basic steps: the stance phase and the swing phase. The primary difference between these two is that the foot is suspended in the air during the swing phase, and it is fixed to the floor during the stance phase.
However, there are several intermittent sub-stages of these phases, which explain each position of the foot on the floor. At the end of each swing phase is heel strike, which then transitions into flatfoot, and then as the foot rolls it ends with toe-off, in which the big toe propels the foot and the leg into swing phase to move it forward. This process is driven greatly by the muscles and ligaments of the foot, with the plantar calcaneonavicular ligament (or spring ligament), which connects the bones that form the arch of the foot, creating tension during heel strike and then releasing that tension during toe-off to swing the leg.
Whenever someone falls, he or she is positioned somewhere between heel strike and toe-off on one of their feet, and the external force that caused the fall, whether it be a wet floor or some obstruction, completely brings an end to the momentum that has been generated from swinging legs. Avoidance of any disturbances in our walks prevents embarrassment in some and severe harm in others, but it ultimately allows us to continue our gait on any floor. Standards published by the NFSI help to assure free-flowing walking of individuals in public places by detailing guidelines that floors are not too resistant or slippery for someone’s heel or toe, and even including guides for matting.
These standards include:
NFSI B101.0-2021 – Walkway Surface Auditing Procedure for the Measurement of Walkway Surface Traction
NFSI B101.1-2022 – Test Method for Measuring Wet SCOF of Common Hard-Surface Floor Materials
NFSI B101.3-2022 – Test Method for Measuring Wet DCOF of Common Hard-Surface Floor Materials
NFSI B101.5-2020 – Standard Guide for Uniform Labeling Method for Identifying the Wet Static and Wet Dynamic Coefficient of Friction (Traction) of Floor Coverings, Floor Coverings with Coatings, and Treated Floor Coverings
NFSI B101.6-2021 – Standard Guide for Commercial Entrance Matting in Reducing Slips, Trips and Falls
It is also important to remember that faulty or unsafe floors are not the only cause of slips, trips, and falls. Many different conditions can interfere with an individual’s balance, and anyone who is more susceptible to falling or being seriously injured from a fall should take appropriate precautions while walking.