I began to look at objects around me in the “flipped” perspective that had not been considered by me instinctively in the past. Starting with photos as containers for the oh-so-cliché subject matter of memories, events and space, matters that are in and out of frames;  to the container of liquids being towels and dishcloths other than the traditional water bottles and other common kitchen utensils. Such actions had prompted me to study the yellow wet floor sign that is commonly seen, shown, and use across different institutional and commercial settings in different countries and cities with their own twist on the wet floor signs.

What is a wet floor sign? According to excepts of Steven Di Pilla’s guide on Slip and Fall Prevention (↳1) available online and wet floor sign patents (↳2), it is abstractly constructed of two substantially similar panels and an engaged slidable locking bar that claims to be a generally flat front panel designed to maintain a structure in an expanded or closed position to stand upright to signal its message. The collapse of the sign would signify the non-active action of the sign while deploying the sign by pressing downward on the locking bar of the object’s structure would subsequently activate the board /purpose of the wet floor sign.

It is designed in a way where both the representational image of a slipping figure logo and the words of “CAUTION”, “WET FLOOR” (↳3) are printed to suit the purpose of users across the different age range, heights, background, sight ranges, reading abilities and colour-reading ability. It is an indication of that the area near the sign is “contaminated” and requires attention and caution when proceeding or when the audience is moving around the affected area. Going back to the relation of the wet floor sign and space, I can’t help but wonder, how many wet floor signs are enough?

Both surprisingly and unsurprisingly, Googling “how much wet floor signs are enough” and “how much”+”wet floor signs”+”enough”+”proportions” had not provided me with answers to the questions I am asking. (↳4+5) Are there laws regulating the proportion of wet floors in relation to the amount of wet floor signs that should be placed around it?(↳6) What is the appropriate and sensible non-abstract distance imposed when regulating identical wet floor signs used for the same matter of wet surfaces? Will the regulations be different when the subjecting wet surfaces are of different materials with different porous levels (i.e. rugs, tiles, concrete floor, etc.)? Will the regulations be different when the subjecting wet surfaces are placed in different environments, particularly but not limited to, outdoor spaces in a humid coastal area on a gloomy and rainy day versus an air-conditioning-supplied room in a relatively non-humid city?

In a blog article written by Melbourne-based publishers, Portner Press, Jeff Salton introduced a lawsuit case that was filed and declined by The Court of Appeal in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The report filed was in pledged to the tavern cleaners to not having to pay the medical costs of estimated $92,577 USD (↳7) for a McDonald’s worker who slipped, fell and injured herself on a floor left wet by one of the cleaner’s employees.(↳8) At trial, Ms Muller, the plaintiff, gave evidence which the primary judge accepted, that following her slip-and-fell injury, she noticed that the floor surface was wet where she was laying, and the water extended “a bit down the corridor”. Kellys, the cleaning staff, pointed to the absence of any express contractual obligation to place ‘wet floor’ signs near the area being cleaned, except where a spill was being mopped in her contract. However, the primary judge on the case found the usual system of cleaning the tavern to be to clean in sections and that those sections should be delineated and distinguished by the placement of signs. The primary judge on the case had also pointed out that given Kellys’ specialist skills in the area of cleaning, she should have been aware of the moisture deposited on the floor where Ms Muller had fallen.

In the dismissed appeal, it was determined that the plaintiff had fallen and slipped because she did not see the wet floor signs that should have been present except for the ones placed in between the toilets. It was also argued that the appearance of the floor tiles was not contrasting enough for one to register its apparent wetness and that the placement of furniture (chairs and tables) in the said area had failed to accommodate the potential risks. (↳9) The Court determined that Kellys had failed to demonstrate her argument to the jury in that Ms Muller should have been aware of her own behaviour and act reasonably around the (wet) floor where she slipped and injured herself around. The appeal having failed, and hence the failing of dismissing charge. What the writer of the blog article then raised an issue in conjunction with the discussion of the case was that, how do you protect a “high-risk” area at present? While we have a duty(↳10) of care for our co-workers, workers and visitors to make sure the workplace is safe before, during and after cleaning services takes place, how much responsibility should be imposed on the visitors’ behalf? (↳11)

While the question of legitimate definitions of wet floor signs’ measurements, distances, and quantity is still undefined, there is enough evidence (↳12) that there is a loophole as well as a gap in the apparatus of usage in wet floor signs. Much akin to the way spaces such as playgrounds and food courts are framed commonly with additional infrastructures as indicators of their perimeters, the boundaries of floors in transition into a wet floor is uncared for. The immediateness of the floor status transition and the spontaneity of its transformation and timeliness to the duration amongst many other possible reasons had caused the defiance and indifference on the matter to reduce into a handy, portable wet floor sign. The lack of further assistance/ alliances to the now-existing wet floor signs had not solved the issue of the (often-)sudden inconvenience brought by the transformation from dry floor to wet floor brought upon the common population. We often have to use our own judgement in conjunction with our sight’s capability to determine the indicated wet floor’s accurate location in relation to the supposedly-placed wet floor signs. The invention of wet floor signs had not eliminated the confusion of perimeters of wet floors in the way other additional framing infrastructures would to spaces and areas.

Hence, the question of how many wet floor signs are enough is still unresolved.

↳1: Pilla, Steven Di. Slip and Fall Prevention: A Practical Handbook. Boca Raton, Lewis, 2003.)
↳2: “United States Patent: 7013590.” USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database, United States Patent and Trademark Office.
↳3: Each catered to the applicable language of the country and environment in use of the signs.
↳4:You will find that upon the end of reading this write-up of mine, I still will not have an answer for you just yet.
↳5: But I will begin with an attempt of doing so.
↳6: No, there isn’t.
↳7: The figure awarded to the injured worker was $117,918 AUD, $92,577USD is the estimated conversion of the original amount according to currency converter engines used on 27 Sept. 2017.
↳8: Salton, Jeff. Health & Safety Handbook.
↳9: see ↳10.
↳10: Assembly a worker at a certain business as his target article audience indicated.
↳11: To specify, the responsibility of a business, in this case, is to place wet floor signs reasonably and sufficiently.
↳12: In my opinion.

Georg Simmels. Bridge and Door.” Qualitative Sociology, vol. 17, no. 4, 1994, pp. 397–413.
Pilla, Steven Di. Slip and Fall Prevention: A Practical Handbook. Boca Raton, Lewis, 2003.
Salton, Jeff. Health & Safety Handbook.
Sofia, Zoë. “Container Technology.” Hypatia, Inc., vol. 15, no. 2, 30 Oct. 2011, pp. 181–201. JSTORE.
“United States Patent: 7013590.” USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database, United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Wet Floor Sign Patents,