In the manufacturing world, slips and falls can result in significant financial losses for any company. Eighty-five percent of workers’ compensation claims are attributed to employees slipping on slick floors (Industrial Safety & Occupational Health Markets fifth edition). In fact, slips, trips and falls make up the majority of industrial accidents and are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, floors and flooring materials contribute directly to more than 2 million fall injuries each year.
Implementing slip resistant flooring is critical to reducing the number of worker injuries and achieving employee safety in the workspace. Three options that can help establish a safer environment include slip resistant performance coating, chemically altered flooring and grip tape.
Slip Resistant Performance Coating
A slip resistant performance coating is applied directly to the flooring surface. The additive used to create the slip resistance is post consumable crushed glass. This additive supplemented to the coating creates a floor that is classified as an ADA safety floor. It resembles white sand, but when added into the coating, it appears clear. The clear coating allows the aesthetic of the floor to remain, unlike traditional additives like silica sand that can compromise the floor’s color. Typically, slip resistant coatings can be used over vinyl composition tile (VCT), luxury vinyl tile (LVT), sheet vinyl flooring, ceramic tile, polished stone, polished concrete, coated flooring and even metal decking. It is effective in preventing falls in both wet and dry conditions.
In general, this option will work with a greater number of flooring types than other products and is long lasting. In addition, it’s perfect for high traffic areas because it adheres directly to the surface of the floor and will withstand repeated use.
Aesthetically, slip resistant coating is a strong option because it can be combined with colors to help with the overall design vision of the flooring. Many companies choose to use color with the slip resistant performance coating because it easily allows for distinguishable work areas.
Once the coating is applied, stronger maintenance practices, such as degreasing, will not affect it or the flooring underneath. In fact, slip resistant performance coating can be cleaned like any other hard floor because the top coat does not hold onto dirt, maintaining an easier cleaning protocol for the environmental staff.
In areas where the actual flooring itself is getting soiled, maintenance is generally simpler since anything that would dirty the floor will not penetrate through the coating to the surface below, and allows for the effective use of white and pink pads on automated machines. Using a white pad with turf backing where the safety floor has been applied is advised by cleaning experts since these pads allow for a deeper clean among the grains of glass in the performance coating if the need arises.
Chemically Altered Flooring
Applying chemical alterations to a floor surface can also increase overall slip resistance. This option directly alters the surface of the floor with the formation of micro-fissures that are specifically designed to make surfaces slip resistant when wet. Water enters these tiny indentations, and when a person walks over them, they become like small vacuums that create friction as the water is squeezed out. The surface roughness of the flooring can be changed to increase protection against falls.
The chemical alteration option has proven successful, and the application process is fairly simple as it involves applying the product, leaving it for a period of time, depending on resistance desired, and then neutralizing with clean water. It is mainly used for ceramic tile and other hard, non-vinyl floors that have slip and fall issues.
A chemical conditioner must be used with caution and should not be used with VCT, LVT or other vinyl products as it can destroy the integrity of the product. Additionally, this option must not be applied to painted concrete floors, wood, rubber, metallic surfaces or floors sealed with epoxy or urethane coatings and other non-silica based floor types.
Chemically altering the surface does permanently change the aesthetic look and feel of the floor and in most cases the aesthetic appeal of a higher sheen or luster floor. If aesthetic appeal is not a concern, a chemically altered floor does provide some advantages. One of the advantages is that the effects can be long lasting if the flooring is maintained with proper cleaning techniques. While it is one of the medium-cost safety applications available, it is limited by the type of surface it can be used on and the aesthetic affect it creates on the flooring itself.
A final option would be to lay down grip tape or treads over surfaces especially in need of a higher slip resistance. Taking this route can be the most cost effective if only certain areas of the workspace floor need covering. These tapes and treads are suitable for industrial environments in dry, wet or oily conditions. They will adhere to a clean, dry surface and come in a variety of sizes, colors and textures ranging from fine resilient to more coarse material types.
Although the material used for grip tapes can be long lasting, reapplication is often necessary, especially in areas of high traffic. General cleaning and maintenance can wear down the adhesive on the tapes and treads, disintegrating them over time. In addition, the adherent nature of the tape often leaves behind a sticky mixture that is difficult to remove from the floor surface and gets tracked over other areas of the facility as the tape de-bonds from the floor after use. Because of this downfall, grip tape is typically used only as a quick remedy to dangerous floors while more permanent applications are being researched and purchased.
Fall Protection Considerations
In general, when using an outside flooring company to implement workplace changes, it is advisable to research the warranty policies before beginning to make changes. A good warranty should last for at least one year, and some flooring companies will offer a warranty for up to three years.
Verifying the safety testing results for the floor surface you choose is also another important consideration. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) measure slip resistance on dry and wet surfaces. For example, the ANSI B101.3 test measures the dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF) and has established that the DCOF of 0.00 – 0.28 is a high risk of slips and falls, 0.29 – 0.43 is a medium risk of slips and falls, and 0.43 and above designates a low-to-no risk of slips and falls. Keep these ratings in mind when choosing a slip resistance method.
To truly ensure that a workspace is correctly maintained even after a method for slip resistance is applied, it is helpful to choose a company that can also provide regular cleanings to preserve the life of whatever safety surface you choose.
Malcolm Sparling is Director of National Accounts – Hard Surface at milliCare.