All technicians, whether apprentices or craftsmen, should remember that floor maintenance is not a risk-free occupation.
As a matter of fact, the vocation of floor maintenance puts one in an inherently dangerous environment to begin with. From the time the floor maintenance technicians report to work until they go home, they are subjected to potential danger.
Of all the tasks technicians perform, the stripping and refinishing service procedure is quite possibly the most dangerous. While performing this procedure, it is up to the technicians to protect themselves and everyone else from potential injury. Although there is the potential for injury at almost every phase of performing this service procedure, from loading and unloading to mixing the stripping chemical, the focus here is on solution application and mechanical agitation, where the potential of slipping and falling is highest.
When stripping solution is applied to the floor the chemical reaction causes the old floor finish to emulsify, resulting in an unstable floor surface that is extremely slippery. The stripping solution begins working right away, so the minute the floor gets wet, it is dangerous. The technician’s goal is to get the stripping chemical on the floor while avoiding contact with it.
Application of the stripping solution can be accomplished utilizing a solution dispensing machine or the traditional mop bucket and wringer; either way, the process will be basically the same. Go to the farthest point in the designated work area and begin application, making sure not to apply it to too large an area; it may dry before it is worked on.
Apply a liberal amount of stripping solution to the floor surface starting with the edges, corners and baseboards, then filling in the middle. In a small room this may be easily accomplished, but on larger jobs it will have to be done in segments. Again, stay out of the slurry and keep your feet on dry floor
. Work from the farthest point to the entry, covering the entire surface with stripping solution, then let it dwell for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the strength of the solution.
After appropriate dwell time, the floor will be ready for mechanical agitation, which is the actual stripping process that removes all existing seals and/or finishes. The most common mistake technicians make here is to go to the furthest point in the work area and work back to the entry point. This is where most accidents occur, because the technician is walking through the very-slippery stripping slurry while dragging the equipment and cord with him. Not only is it a very dangerous practice, it gets emulsified finish slurry in the wheels of the machine and on the cord, making for additional clean up.
Instead, start at the entry point. Affix the pad holder and stripping pad to the rotary floor machine and set it down just inside the entry, door or threshold. Adjust the handle to the appropriate height and begin agitating. Work into the area, always standing in an area that has been stripped. Standing in an already-agitated area will give the technician better footing and will keep him relatively safe from slipping and falling. It is best to maneuver the machine in 2-foot circular motions, slowly moving from one side of the room to the other. Continue this motion, overlapping and moving sideways, until a section has been completed, then reverse the direction and continue. The circular rotation ensures the floor has been gone over a minimum of four times. More important, the floor will have a much more even appearance when using small circles versus a side-to-side motion. Using this method also forces the technician to keep the machine tight to the body, making him more stable on the slippery floor.
Once the entire work area has been agitated, maneuver the machine side-to-side, working back to the starting point and checking the floor to ensure all the floor finish has been removed. Using this technique will ensure that the technician is always on a surface that has been agitated, thus reducing the likelihood of slipping and falling. After the slurry has been picked up, the technician may proceed with detailing and rinsing to finish the procedure, followed by the applications of new floor seal and/or finish.
Being safe is not a characteristic you are born with; it is something developed over many years and myriad methods. Being safe requires total commitment, unrelenting dedication and continual practice. You cannot be totally safe if you practice safety only once. That would be the same as going to the club, working out one time and leaving with a chiseled physique. It is just not realistic. Practice safety in everything you do and you will have a healthy, well-developed program with fewer injuries. If you liked this article, circle 145 on the Reader Inquiry Card.