28 April 2019
You may not realise it, but the type of flooring you have in your workplace can be a factor in maintaining both the productivity and the welfare of your employees. Don’t believe us? Think about having carpet in a toilet block, or cold, raw concrete without matts behind your bar or in your production facility. Not only are these scenarios a case of “not fit for purpose” but moreover, the would have the capacity to disrupt the workplace and make it hard on employees.
In short, your flooring choices need to not only be kept in good condition and clear from obstructions but needs to be designed to suit the type of activity taking place. If you are still unsure why your flooring is important, this blog is for you.
But before we get started, whether you are an employer, property manager, or a business owner, we are making the assumption you have some prior knowledge about slip resistance ratings (P-ratings) and the legislative and governing workplace safety standards imposed by Australian authorities in order to promote occupational health and safety. If you do not, we encourage you to check out the ABCB guidelines and read a quick piece on why slip testing is important. These will help you understand the requirements for non-slip flooring and to frame the remainder of the blog on what type of flooring may work best in your premises.
A 10,000-foot view of occupational safety in Australia?
Over the years, studies on health and safety risks in buildings commissioned by various bodies such as the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) found that slips, trips, and falls accounted for the greatest risk to health and safety over the lifetime of a building. While building regulations have reduced most societal risk, individual risks have remained, with evidence indicating that the cost of slip and fall public liability claims remaining very high.
By and large, there is an inferred requirement that all elements of completed construction be aesthetically pleasing. Where this may have once meant the installation of solutions which are not fit for purpose (remember when polished tiles in entry foyers were all the rage, except for when it was raining?) fortunately, technology can now assist through better design principles.
In Australia, it was the Australian Standard AS/NZS 3661.1 that first established safety measures, requiring that a floor surface achieve a minimum friction coefficient of 0.4 in wet and/or dry conditions using a combination of the wet pendulum test and the dry floor friction test. Today, slip resistance guidelines are found in the AS/NZS 4663:2004 standards, which still uses the two portable test methods, but emphasises that the total risk in the flooring should be assessed in conjunction with other potentially contributing slip factors such as footwear, speed and gait of walking.
What you need to know about Slip Resistant Floors
As a basic guide, where possible, you avoid should reliance on smooth, hard surfaces, which have been found time and again to be a contributing factor to slips and falls. You should also steer clear from using multiple different types of flooring material in one area, primarily because:
- The materials may not have the same slip resistance properties
- Using various types of flooring in one work area may result in a variation of the floor’s height, which can make it more prone to trips as a change in the flooring elevation—even as little as 1 centimetre—can create a hazard for workers.
- Each flooring surface will have different slip properties which could cause issues for people walking across the surfaces.
So how do you know what is the right flooring type for installation? We’ve assembled a list of key requirements to keep in mind for workplace safety.
Maintaining a hygienic and compliant environment should be priority number one in every food manufacturing facility, restaurant, bar, or hospitality establishment (as well as other workplaces). Not only because it is a primary focus of visiting inspectors, but most importantly, because a breach in the protocol can seriously impact the health of clients and your employees. Virtually seamless traffic surfaces with an integral floor-to-wall cove base can help eliminate the crevices in which germs hide and thrive.
A seamless floor with high coving upturns is far easier to keep clean and harder for germs to get a hold in.
The proper cleaning process should also be strictly followed as incorrect cleaning can make floors more slippery. Furthermore, incorrect cleaning can leave residues on the surface which increase the risk of trips, falls, and slips, thereby making your premises unsafe for foot traffic.
Slip resistance classification vs. ease of cleaning
We understand that it is all very good and well to say cleaning and hygiene need to be key considerations, but we know that there are other factors. In fact, significant thought needs to be given to workplace use. For example, where there is the chance that spillage of water, cooking or mechanical oils, or other liquids occurs – such as in commercial kitchens and bars, indoor pool areas, or walkways such as car parking garages – there is an increase in the potential for slip-and-fall hazards.
In this instance, slip-inhibiting properties are important. A tailor-designed floor which allows for different levels of skid-resistance in different areas of operation is essential. Flooring materials used in an area should coincide with the recommended slip resistance rating suitable. You can check out the AS/NZS 3661.2-1994 standards for an extensive guide in the reduction of slip hazard in pedestrian surfaces or the AS 4586:2013 and 1:2017 for the regulations on slip resistance classification of new pedestrian surface materials.
Chemical Resistance and Strength
You don’t want your floor to be great for 6 months then start showing signs of wear and tear. You want to know that what you select will see you through several years of reasonable yese. As such, a commercial flooring surface must be able to withstand exposure to a wide range of varying temperatures, weights and substances. Failure for the floor to withstand this will lead to many commercial flooring materials to indent or blister, delaminate (crack and peel back), exposing the porous concrete substrate underneath. The result can be a costly repair and downtime – something all businesses wish to avoid. When speaking to your flooring professional, make sure you enquire about a strong and durable, high-performance finish, resistant to hot grease, abrasion, foot and mechanical traffic and chemicals.
Durability, aesthetics, and thermal shock resistance
Choosing the right kind of floor for the right kind of use is important. For example, epoxy floors are harder, more durable, and have a much higher compression strength than polyurethane polymers. This is why they are the preferred choice for heavy-duty industries, warehouses, and logistic centres with heavy forklift traffic. Polyurethane floors are usually softer and more elastic, which makes them more resistant to scratching as their elasticity tends to absorb some of the impacts and also makes them a preferred choice in freezing chambers where the storage temperatures can reach -30 degrees Celsius (-22 F).
Among different types of resinous and fluid-applied flooring systems, Methyl Methacrylate (MMA) systems are also known for their fast cure time, exceptional durability, and their ability to be applied in cool temperatures. For a variety of commercial, industrial, and institutional settings, MMA floor coatings can provide the aesthetic appeal and functional strength necessary to withstand daily wear and tear without compromising appearance.
Moisture Tolerance and Mitigation
There are actually two general sources of moisture in any commercial space that can cause premature deterioration of both the floor covering and the concrete substrate if not properly addressed: activities in the room caused by the activity of things such as cooking, dishwashing and clean-up routines, liquid spills and the like. This can cause condensation and/or wetness on the floor surface. The other source is a site condition called “moisture vapor transmission” (MVT), stemming either from the concrete itself or from the soil underneath the slab. Appropriate commercial kitchen flooring is tolerant of ongoing surface moisture produced by daily activities and should also be capable of mitigating any MVT issues if required.
So, in summary
Always keep in mind that workplace safety can only be achieved when you give consideration to more than just the visible areas of risk. When it comes to flooring, your choice of flooring material and the design must suit the tasks and activities performed in the area. Whilst you may not consider non-slip flooring to be a major consideration, in all likelihood, it is something you cannot afford to ignore.
While you can assess the suitability of the flooring using the guide provided above, it is still best to speak to industrial and commercial flooring experts who are experienced and highly knowledgeable with slip resistance ratings, as provided by the ANZ standards. Let us help you so you can get on with helping your own clients – Contact us today.CONTACT US
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