Maximizing Floor Safety
- By Janet Wiens
- July 1st, 2011
The floors in a college or university facility often go unnoticed. Floors with intricate carpet or tile patterns or beautiful stonework may catch the eye and be appreciated. If we are honest, most of us take floors for granted until there’s an incident where a floor’s integrity or conditions come negatively into play.
Poorly installed or improperly maintained floors can lead to slips, trips, and falls, situations that all facility personnel want to avoid. Addressing a number of key issues can create environments that will minimize potential hazardous situations.
Creating the Best Conditions
A variety of factors can lead to tripping, slipping, and falling. The goal is to address the conditions that contribute to these instances to the greatest extent possible.
“Two standards among many can help guide flooring selection,” says Keith Gray, director of technical marketing for The Mohawk Group. “The ATSM standard for static coefficient of friction (C1028-07) is one. The other is the use of the ADA guidelines. For static coefficient, it is important to test under both wet and dry conditions, and the static coefficient should be at least .60 or higher.”
According to Gray, the most frequent causes for tripping are improper installation, flooring that has become loose, and incorrect transitions between different types of flooring surfaces. Transitions between flooring surfaces should be gradual, and the ADA guidelines provide excellent information relative to this area.
“Selecting the most appropriate flooring for an area can significantly impact safety,” Gray says. “Evaluate the functions and activities that will occur both within the building as a whole and within individual spaces. In addition, you must also consider acoustics, ergonomics, maintenance, and costs.”
Gray encourages facility personnel to develop a decision matrix, which would be used to catalog the most important attributes required for each space within a building, such as aesthetics or water resistance. This data is then used during the design process to guide all decisions.
“The selection process must include both facility and maintenance staff,” says Gray. “Great floors that are improperly maintained lead to problems. The maintenance part of the evaluation must address the capabilities of the maintenance staff, the preferences of the institution when it comes to floor care, and the training to staff that will be offered.”
John Walsh, director of business development for Stonhard, firmly agrees with Gray’s comments regarding maintenance. “Facility and maintenance personnel must work together to maximize flooring safety,” he says. “The facility staff and personnel from environmental health and safety may focus on slip resistance, while the maintenance staff may prefer smoother surfaces because they are easier to clean. The collaboration between all persons involved with floor safety is critical to finding the optimum long-term solution.”
Certain areas within a building will more easily guide some criteria when it comes to flooring selection and potential maintenance programs. For example, the flooring within a wet area, such as a locker room, needs some type of texture to offer better slip resistance than what is typically required in a classroom.
Stonhard’s solution for the lobbies, concourses, walkways, restrooms, locker rooms, and pool observation deck in the Physical Education Complex at Choppin State University in Baltimore illustrates the point. The company offered a system that was used to create a seamless, stain-resistant floor surface that is easy to maintain while providing the aesthetics and other qualities that the University’s administrators desired. A colored epoxy undercoat and a layer of colored broadcasted vinyl flakes was installed and then finished with a clear urethane sealer. The result is a floor that that is colorful, strong, and easy to clean while also addressing safety issues.
Mats and Matting Matter
Mats and matting are obviously not required in all areas of a building, but their use is important in several key ways. “Select a product that removes, retains, releases, and recovers unwanted matter and moisture,” says Jim, Creghan, industrial sales manager for Forbo Flooring, NA.
Creghan offers a number of factors to consider when it comes to selecting mats or a matting system. “Evaluate the amount and type of soil and moisture that you anticipate will be tracked into the building,” he says. “Facility personnel should also evaluate the level of both foot and potential wheel traffic, the location and configuration of the entrances, if there is an existing mat well, and how mats can best be used to minimize slips, trips, and falls.”
“High-performance matting systems help to keep debris, contaminants, and moisture from being tracked too far into a building,” says Christopher R. Tricozzi, vice president of sales and marketing for Crown Mats and Matting. Crown Mats and Matting has provided products to colleges and universities around the country with the goal of helping each institution to address safety issues while also helping to preserve the quality of the flooring installed within the building. “Trapping moisture and debris leads to safer flooring conditions and also helps to maintain the quality of the floor.”
Tricozzi recommends the installation of 15 ft. of matting at building entrances. The mat should ideally be broken into three sections: a scraper mat to scrape large debris off of shoes, wiper/scrapper matting to remove moisture and salt, and a wiper mat to remove any remaining moisture and contaminants.
“The quality of the mat is very important,” says Tricozzi. “The mat should be designed and manufactured to last for several years, and the warranty should reflect this fact. Purchase from a janitorial distributor who can offer their expertise when it comes to selection.”
Properly maintaining the mats, as with the flooring itself, is vital. They should be vacuumed regularly with an upright vacuum that agitates the mat’s fibers. Carpet extraction is the most effective thorough cleaning method, and should take place on a regular basis or more frequently, if foot traffic has been unusually heavy or the weather bad. Worn mats should be removed immediately and replaced and the old units discarded of properly.