Your Place: Regulators seek safety labels on flooring

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

The Consumer Product Safety Commission staff is tackling a very interesting problem.

The National Floor Safety Institute has petitioned it to require floor covering manufacturers to label their products to indicate that there is a possibility of slips and falls that could result in injury.

"Slips and falls are one of the leading causes of injuries, of which 55 percent are caused by unsafe floors," said the institute president, Russ Kendzior.

"However, when it comes to buying a floor, most consumers are in the dark and assume all floors are safe, only to find out that they are not once they are injured," he said.

The commission said it received more than 60 comments, many of which were in support.

Deborah A.P. Hersman of the National Safety Council said, "Requiring flooring products to include slip resistance safety labeling that is clearly defined in line with the standard will enable consumers to make better, safer choices."

However, flooring manufacturers are vehemently opposed.

Mohawk Industries said that "providing coefficient of friction information on product packaging misdirects the consumer and can lead to a false sense of safety."

"Our decades of experience in the floor-covering industry indicates that wet and dry traction are generally self-evident to consumers simply by walking on the product, or running a hand over it under the expected conditions," the company said.

"Safe floors are only insured by keeping floors clean and dry," said Eric Astrachan of the Tile Council of North America, the trade association representing the ceramic tile industry.

Flooring institute research has shown that most floor coverings are evenly distributed along three traction ranges, making it just as easy for the consumer to select a high-traction floor as a low-traction floor.

Kendzior said, "Running your fingers across a floor’s surface is not an accurate measurement of the product’s safety as it will be walked on.

"What we are asking is they make that information available via an easy-to-understand product label," he said.

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