Choosing Safety Floors
John Mellor, Polyflor market manager, cautions on an over reliance on R values when specifying vinyl flooring:
A FLOORING contractor purchasing safety flooring many years ago was faced with a simple choice.
Available in any colour (as long as it was grey!), with function not form being all important, safety flooring tended to be laid in areas where spillages would occur. This was usually in locations with relatively low footfall and limited public access, rendering difficulties in cleaning as unimportant.
Fast forward 20 years or so and the vinyl safety flooring world we see today is much more sophisticated and a significantly different animal. Having evolved substantially to meet market demands and trends, safety vinyl has moved from back of house to areas where it is more visible to the public and central to interior design concepts.
Thanks to the technological advances from flooring manufacturers such as Polyflor, safety flooring has become a major consideration for designers for creating a wow factor at front of house while underpinning this with sustainable wet slip resistance for the guaranteed product life, without this slip resistance impinging on the flooring’s aesthetic and subsequent ease of cleaning. Built-in safety has become a client expectation rather than just a wish on a specifier’s checklist.
Today’s safety flooring comes in various guises, ranging from subtle, nuanced decorations with carborundum-free particles within the vinyl to aid clarity and overall aesthetic. Recent products launched contain slip resistant particles almost invisible to the naked eye yet still offering underfoot safety in compliance with the HSE & UK Slip Resistance Group Guidelines.
The development of PUR reinforcements to aid cleanability also ensure that safety flooring is easier to clean than ever. There are clients who prefer the reassurance of slip resistance through visible dark aggregates in the product.
There is, of course, over specification in some instances where the fallback position is for safety flooring in every area. One of the key findings in the latest HSE investigation into slip resistance and hygiene in the healthcare environment (Report RR889) finds that vinyl safety flooring offers the same hygiene levels as smooth flooring. www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrhtm/rr889.htm
The good news is that there are now products available which do not look like archetypal institutional safety floor and are available in strikingcolours.Importantly, the senew decorative products are backed by the same slip-resistant credentials as traditional safety ranges.
Everyone in the specification chain has a duty of care to ensure that the flooring selected in areas expected to become wet at some point, provide sufficient friction to minimise slip risk. Slip and trips are the most common cause of major injuries, with a substantial cost to both employers.
However impressive the flooring design and however invisible the slip resistance looks, it is always important for clients to check that the manufacturer can suppor t slip resistance test method claims in accordance with HSE Guidance.
Everyone responsible for flooring specification should not solely rely on products with claims of R values taken from the German DIN Ramp Test. Manufacturers who pass off a floor as R10, inferring that it is a safety floor, must also demonstrate evidence that the product meets in- situ Pendulum Test results of 36 + in the wet, the method advocated by the HSE.
Products based solely on an R value specification, having thin coatings of aggregates or in some cases a reliance on the emboss alone without any particles, are likely to mean that the slip resistance is not sustainable. The Ramp Test is well-known to be an ex-factory method of assessing slip resistance taking no account of wear or maintenance.
Over reliance on the R values may have serious consequences down the line for those in the specification chain and for individuals using the floor. The key is to seek advice from a trusted flooring manufacturer who can advise on suitable products that will perform safely for years to come and can demonstrate conformance to the in-situ sliptestmethods.
This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.