Hard-Floor Maintenance in High-Traffic Areas

I recently received a telephone call from a property manager who was a bit perplexed. "I don't get it," she said. "Last year we started a cleaning program that was to suppose to improve the appearance of our facility hard floors. We have experienced personnel on our staff that can properly perform the service procedures. After a full year of following the program we are disappointed. Some of the areas look absolutely wonderful, some areas look passable, but some are down right ugly. What is wrong with the program? Why can't we keep all of our floors looking great all the time?"

After some discussion, it was discovered that the service procedures were appropriate, and the technicians were indeed performing them correctly. The problem was that the frequencies were not adjusted to take into consideration the various traffic conditions throughout the facility. This is why some areas looked excellent while others did not fare so well.

Traffic Conditions
The environment helps to identify the types of soil that are present in any facility. Dust, dirt, clay, grit and sand are common soil types and are relatively harmless in their dormant state. Without a vehicle, these soils just lay on the surface and do nothing. Once traffic is introduced, however, there is a means for the sharp edges of some these soils to abrade the floor surface. The erosive results are compounded when liquid binders, such as petroleum, grease, oil, animal fat and water, are introduced.

Traffic can be a combination of mechanical and foot traffic. The volume of traffic the floor surface is exposed to may not change the cleaning requirements (chemistry, equipment or service procedure); however, it will impact the frequency in which those services are performed. Recognize that these are basic guidelines and each facility needs to be evaluated individually to determine its traffic condition.

Low-Traffic Environments
The environment of a building or facility is the first thing that may dictate the traffic conditions one will encounter. Smaller establishments such as pet shops, travel agents, and hair salons will usually generate less traffic than larger facilities. These are recognized as low-traffic areas (100 to 500 people per day) and will not require an aggressive floor-maintenance program. These types of environments will usually receive very little floor maintenance, and the frequency will be minimal.

Moderate-Traffic Environments
Moderate-traffic facilities (500 to 1,500 people per day) will most likely be commercial "Class B & C" buildings as well as some "Class A" buildings, although some of these will definitely fall into the high-traffic arena. Moderate-traffic environments will require more maintenance than the low-traffic environments.

High-Traffic Environments
There are a number facilities designated as high-traffic environments (1,500 or more people per day) due to the sheer volume of people moving in and out of the buildings. Transportation hubs such as airports, train and bus terminals are inundated with huge crowds that are constantly moving. The floors in these facilities are continually under attack by abrasive materials. There are entertainment environments that witness large crowds but at more regulated intervals. Facilities such as schools, hospitals, and grocery environments will encounter condensed traffic with peak hours.

Traffic Areas
Just as we use personnel movement to determine the traffic conditions of an entire facility, we can also use the same criteria to determine the traffic conditions of an area within a facility. For instance, a lobby within a commercial building may be a high-traffic area because all of the people who go in and out of the facility and will have to access through the lobby. The halls and cafeteria in a school will be high-traffic areas because everyone in the school will travel through these areas. The entries to retail and grocery environments funnel all traffic in the facility through narrow channels. Moderate-traffic areas will be less traveled and can be identified as secondary hallways and classrooms. Low-traffic areas are those areas that see very little traffic and may constitute individual offices, exam rooms, cubicles and storerooms.

Hot Spots
Hot spots are specific areas of condensed traffic within a building. Examples of these areas are pivot points where traffic follows a natural path to a destination causing erosion in a specific area. Cash wraps in a grocery, retail store are traditional hot spots. In fact most areas where money is transferred almost always yield a hot spot. Lobbies and entryways, elevator lobbies, revolving doors and ticket counters are common areas where hot spots will occur.

The Floor Maintenance Program
Floor maintenance in a nutshell is the ability to control the amount of damaging soil in a facility. If the soil is reduced, the amount of damage the soil can cause is also reduced. Therefore, reducing or controlling the amount of soil in a facility will improve the appearance of the floor covering.

The floor maintenance program determines which service procedures to incorporate, the allocated amount of time it takes to complete the individual service procedures, and the frequency to perform them. When charged with maintaining high-traffic environments, areas or hot spots, it is truly a case of more frequency is better. While there are a number of criteria used to determine the appropriate service procedures and the budget, it is the amount of traffic in a facility that dictates the frequency.

Soil control really means keeping soil off the floor, and it begins with a good matting program. If there aren't any walk-off mats at the entrances of the facility, it may be necessary to increase sweeping or dust mopping to reduce the amount of dry particulates that enter the facility.

The floor-maintenance program starts with basic soil removal such as sweeping and mopping and advances to more complex services such as scrubbing and recoating and is completed with the restorative procedures such as stripping and refinishing. The service procedures will vary depending on the category and classification of the floor coverings being maintained. It is well known that the time, equipment and supplies required for the basic service procedures are far less than that required of the periodic or restorative service procedures. What is not so well known is, by performing these basic service procedures more frequently, you will be able to maintain a more acceptable appearance while extending the time between the more costly periodic and restorative procedures.

So, the simple answer to the question of maintaining floors in high-traffic environments or areas is to increase the frequencies of cleaning. Once soil has entered the facility, it is the responsibility of the floor-maintenance program to keep it at a minimum. In high-traffic areas, increasing the sweeping or dust mopping to two or three times a day can significantly reduce the damage and improve the appearance. Once you have established the traffic condition of a facility, area or hot spot, you can then determine the best frequency for maintaining that area.

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