ICS Magazine

Floor Safety and Maintenance

July 22, 2003
There’s more to floor maintenance than just having the floor look nice. If a floor is not maintained properly, it can contribute to a number of serious, painful, and expensive accidents, primarily from slips and trips.

“In terms of slips, the most common cause is contaminants on the floor, such as oil, grease and water,” reports Steven Di Pilla, director of research and development for ESIS Risk Control Services in Philadelphia. One important prevention step is to make sure the floor is as flat as possible. “When there are depressions in the floor, it is easier for liquid contaminants to pool in those areas,” he explains. It is also important to be sure that all drains remain clog-free.

While many facilities focus on programs designed to clean up spills and other wet areas quickly, Di Pilla emphasizes the importance of looking at ways to prevent spills in the first place. For example, he suggests creating a program to monitor leaks from forklifts and pipes in industrial facilities, and to monitor wet floors in commercial facilities from people tracking in rainwater.

The floor itself should have a coefficient of friction (COF) of 0.5 or higher, the level recommended by OSHA and ANSI, (A co-efficient of 0.0 is equivalent to the surface of ice, while a co-efficient of 1.0 designates maximum friction.) according to Di Pilla.

“However, if workers are pushing or pulling heavy objects, such as carts, then you probably want an even higher co-efficient so that their feet will have more traction and won’t slip as they are pushing and pulling,” Di Pilla said.

Slip Management
According to Kyle Strait, product manager for The Tennant Company, the most common cause of slips on industrial floors is from water left on the floor after some type of floor cleaning process, such as with an auto scrubber or a wet mop.

One way to address this is to rope an area off or put up signage. Another option, according to Strait, is to utilize technology offered by Tennant called FaST Foam Scrubbing Technology, which he says greatly reduces the risk of slip-and-fall accidents. The cleaning concentrate is a pH-neutral cleaner that uses up to 70 percent less water than normal scrubbers, Strait says, creating foam with very little water and detergent. “With so little water and detergent on the floor, our recovery systems are even more effective,” Strait explains. “In sum, you’re talking about almost immediately dry floors after a scrubbing.”

The machine automatically meters the water and detergent together, then injects compressed air to create the foam for cleaning. The foam then quickly collapses and returns to a liquid in the recovery tank.

Learn the “Coefficient of Clean”
As noted, a common measure in the flooring industry is the coefficient of friction (COF), which is a quotient obtained by dividing the value of the force necessary to move one body over another at a constant speed by the weight of the moving body.

“For example, if a force of 20 newtons is required to move a body weighing 100 newtons over another horizontal body at a constant speed, the coefficient of friction between the two materials is20/100, or 0.2,” explains Steve Spencer, a facilities specialist with State Farm Insurance in Bloomington, Ill.

In an experiment conducted by Dominion Restoration Products, a vendor from which State Farm purchases a number of specialty chemicals (especially for graffiti removal), a quarry tile used as flooring in a fast food restaurant had an installed wet COF of 0.75 (relatively high friction). The restaurant first cleaned the floor with its own, company-approved cleaning agent. A resulting test showed that the floor had a wet COF of 0.47 (relatively slippery), caused by a film left on the floor.

“The experiment measured wet COF, because no one slips on a dry floor,” explains Spencer. After Dominion Restoration Products used its own cleaner and then retested the floor, the wet COF was back to the original 0.75, meaning there was no residue left on the floor.

In thinking about the experiment, Spencer says he realized that it could not only help facilities managers measure the COF, but could also help them measure “clean” – a concept that Spencer calls the “coefficient of clean.” As a result, Spencer recommends that facilities managers:

  • Learn the wet COF of the floor in its original condition (once the original finish is first applied).
  • Measure the wet COF after using various cleaning products to identify the one that results in a wet COF closest to the original wet COF. In fact, Spencer is in the process of encouraging State Farm to develop a list of cleaning products that are approved for their ability to reduce or eliminate residue that reduces COF.
  • Once you have found an approved cleaner – one that doesn’t leave a residue – be sure to follow the directions on the product properly.

    Finally, continue to measure the floor’s COF over time. “As you find that the COF is decreasing, this will signal that the finish is wearing off, and that it’s time to recoat,” Spencer says.