Time to Clean or Maintain Your Special Areas? Keep Safety In Sight

April 18, 2002
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With the frequency of lawsuits triggered by slips, trips and falls in public facilities, there is obviously a lot of attention paid to safety when cleaning, treating and maintaining hard-surface and carpeted floors. Yet, there are some other areas common to public facilities that also require your attention to safety. These include escalators, stairways and outside walkways.

"A maintenance schedule is a very important part of escalator safety," states Frank Intrieri, Jr., director of inside sales for Goodway Technologies Corp., Stamford, Conn. (www.goodway.com), manufacturers of a wide range of tube/pipe cleaners, duct cleaners, vacuums, floor machines, high-pressure washers and other maintenance-related equipment.

For escalators, Intrieri says, a standard floor buffer machine will not do the job, because the bristles spin in a circle. Instead, "The best way to maintain escalator safety is to clean the treads daily, preferably with a rotary brush machine that has nylon bristle brushes that are not too stiff." The rotary brush machine uses two stationary brushes that spin on an axis, with the machine operating at moderately low 400 to 500 rpms.

You should direct staff to position the machine flat on the floor at the bottom of the escalators, where the bottom tread is level with the floor. "The brushes should remove dirt and other debris that have accumulated there over the course of the day," explains Intrieri. "Then move the treads down one at a time."

If you're cleaning an escalator for the first time, or if the cleaning schedule is less frequent, such as once a month, then you will need something more aggressive, such as a light carbon steel brush, which is much stiffer than nylon and will provide a deeper cleaning of any grime that may be embedded in escalator treads.

"The machine should have some type of filtration," he adds, "such as a permanent cloth bag with a disposable paper bag inside that collects dirt and debris and can be discarded after each use."

When it comes to cleaning and maintaining stair treads, the first cleaning after installation is particularly important, according to Phyllis Gagnon, director of marketing for Burke Mercer, San Jose, Calif.

"Our treads, like those of some other manufacturers, are coated with a mold release, which allows the treads to come out smoothly from the molds when they are manufactured," she explains.

According to Gagnon, mold release is a slick material that allows the finished product to break free of the manufacturing mold smoothly. Because the finished product is slick from the mold release, the material needs to be removed from the treads to prevent possible slip and fall accidents.

Burke Mercer recommends a cleaning product called Profi, manufactured by Taski (www.taski.com), for cleaning mold release from the treads. Next, the treads should be polished with a mild detergent, then buffed to bring out a protective coating of wax within the product that helps prevent damage over time.

"The treads should then sit for at least 48 hours before being used," she says.

For subsequent tread cleaning, stay away from harsh chemicals, which can damage the treads. Treads should be cleaned more frequently in facilities in northern climates, where salt and cinders are used during the winter for snow and ice treatments outside. "The salt and grit can damage the treads over time," she states.

In addition, if the treads are exposed to direct sunlight, excessive heat, or excessive cold, they can crack over time or become frayed or dislodged, which can pose safety hazards. "As such, check the treads on occasion to make sure there is no damage," she continues.

Finally, it is important to check the nosings-the strip of material that runs along the top edge of a step-regularly. "If they were not installed improperly, they can become damaged or loose," she concludes, possibly leading to a serious slip and fall accident.

Marble and Natural Stone Outdoor Walkways
Outdoor walkways or entranceways built of marble or other natural stone surfaces should be cleaned daily, according to Intrieri. The more these walkways are cleaned, the longer they will last. Failure to maintain a daily cleaning schedule can lead to a build up of grit, which can damage the surface.

He recommends the following procedure:

  • Start with a dry mop. "Don't use liquids that could leave stains," he emphasizes.
  • Next, use a buffing or cleaning machine with a low rpm, such as 175 to 300 rpms. "This machine should have either a soft pad or a medium-stiff brush, such as horsehair, that will remove light scratches, soil and scuffs," he continues.
  • Next, because the stone is porous and can be damaged, use a neutral detergent with a pH of about 7, which is non-acidic and non-alkalide cleaner.
  • Finally, if the stone has a finished surface, apply a finish or polish with a high-rpm machine (1500 rpms or so) with soft pads. "This is not generally common with outdoor walkways, though," Intrieri concludes.

    Concrete Outdoor Sidewalks
    Cleaning concrete sidewalks is important in order to remove dirt, grime and other hazards that can cause pedestrians to slip or trip.

    "The best way to clean concrete and not worry about environmental runoff problems is to use a hot water pressure washing system and biodegradable soap," suggests Dave Meredith, safety manager for Trans-Clean Corp., Stratford, Conn. Trans-Clean (www.trans-clean.com) does building, sidewalk, driveway and parking lot cleaning and restoration work.

    Meredith recommends using neutral soap with a pH between 6 and 8. When cleaning the concrete, look for underlying problems that could cause slips or trips in the future.

    "Uneven sidewalk sections are the most common problem, and these need to be replaced," he states. Also, look for holes or craters in the sidewalk, as well as broken concrete or other large cracks. "The washing can uncover some of these holes and cracks," he explains. Once identified, these also need to be patched or otherwise repaired.

    You might also consider applying a concrete sealer to extend the life of the concrete, which will help to reduce the future frequency of cracks and holds. "You can clean over the sealer, but it must be reapplied every seven years or so," he concludes.

    In conclusion
    As noted in the introduction, hard surface and carpeted floors tend to receive the most attention from facility managers when it comes to cleaning with public safety in mind. However, it is also important to remember the other areas of your facility where the public travels; areas requiring just as much, if not more, maintenance in the continuing effort to prevent slips, trips and falls. As such, when you're involved in cleaning and maintenance, don't forget the escalators, stairways and outdoor walkways.

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