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Playing it safe

Flooring can help prevent industrial workplace accidents and contribute to an overall safer work environment, but special attention must be paid to the choices and maintenance of floor materials, says Elias.

TO the naked eye, common workplace hazards are often invisible and almost impossible to avoid.

Additionally, the busy and hectic environment of an industrial workplace can also become distracting when it comes to avoiding hazards. Many tend to underestimate the impact that even the smallest of irregularities in a workplace’s flooring, for example, can have, not only on overall safety but also on a company’s finances.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics show the UK suffers about 690,000 workplace injuries per year. Moreover, in 2018/19, new cases of workplace injuries cost society about £5.59bn.

To no surprise, issues in flooring account for a large percentage of work-related injuries. According to HSE statistics, slips, trips, and falls made for 19% of over-seven days of work-related injuries and 36% of specified injuries for the last five years. This goes to show the importance of strict inspections and measures to be taken to ensure a safe workplace environment.

Why invest in good flooring?
Safe workplace
The answer to many common workplace accidents can be solved by investing in good flooring. Further in the article, we will explain some of the most frequent flooring hazards and how professional solutions can ensure fall and slip-free floors, which further minimises the chance for injuries and accidents in the workplace.

Productive staff
Apart from their role in improving safety, efficient flooring solutions can also enhance the productivity of work in an industrial environment. Smooth floor surfaces will allow for easy manoeuvring of all types of equipment and vehicles.

Noise levels can be a particularly distracting factor when it comes to job productivity, which is where proper flooring solutions prove useful. Modern materials and solutions are chosen by professionals to insulate and help to reduce noise. These insulators help with noise from foot traffic, material handling equipment, chairs, etc.

Moreover, insulators in flooring help regulate the temperatures within the workplace. This is an additional plus to the comfort of staff, and consequently to the overall productivity.

Aesthetic aspect
While the aesthetic aspect of an environment is not first in the list of priorities when it comes to industrial workspaces, it is undoubtedly an influential factor in companies and factories’ overall functioning. A polished, smooth, and modern floor can significantly improve the look and appeal of the workplace.

Health and safety regulations for floors
HSE’s workplace (Health, safety and welfare) regulations cover a set of rules made to ensure a safe and effective workplace for any time of enterprise. These include a variety of regulations for each component of the work environment from room dimension, ventilation, temperature, windows, flooring, and so on.

Its section on conditions of floors and traffic routes states that floors and surfaces of a work environment should not have holes or slopes, should not be uneven or slippery so that they do not expose individuals to health and safety risks.

Moreover, the section states that floors should have proper drainage when necessary. They should also be kept free of obstructions that may cause someone to slip, trip, or fall.

Common flooring hazards and their solutions
Damp and vapour problems
Dampness and vapour problems in industrial floors are not only a health safety hazard, but they can potentially damage equipment and products in the workplace as well. Excessive moisture in the floor structure can cause mould growth and damage to the external structure of the floor.

Solutions
Typically, the humidity levels of a subfloor are tested first in order to evaluate the appropriate materials for the flooring solutions. Usually, contractors will use either water-based or epoxy moisture management systems. Other solutions to this problem are vapour barrier coatings and loose lay isolation systems.

Additionally, if the floors will have frequent contact with water, which can be the case for many industrial workplaces with strict sanitation regulations, there should be adequate drainage systems.

Slick and slippery floors
Slick and slippery floor surfaces and industrial workplaces don’t make for a good combination. These can be the cause of many slipping accidents. Additionally, wet floors from water, grease, oil, or other liquids can contribute to slipping in this type of surface.

Solutions
Contractors should ensure that the flooring system in this environment employs the appropriate degree of traction or slip resistance. After assessing the slip resistance of flooring through pendulum tests, the contractor can proceed with other measures to ensure that floors have the right degree of traction.

Slip-resistant floor coatings can be a helpful way to control this problem. Additionally, polishing surfaces such as concrete, vinyl, and timber can also improve traction.

Other factors to be considered for preventing slipping hazards are choosing the appropriate footwear and regular cleaning and maintenance of the floor surfaces.

Uneven floor surfaces
Uneven floor surfaces caused by holes, cracks, bumps, and changes in floor levels are all hazards that can contribute to tripping and falling incidents. These occur when the floor is worn out or damaged, which comes to also show the importance of selecting durable materials when it comes to flooring solutions for industrial workplaces.

Solutions
To minimise the chances of falling and tripping on the worksite, special attention should be paid to choosing materials that withstand the traffic and the conditions of this environment. Typically materials chosen for floors in factories, for example, will either be concrete, polished concrete, rubber and PVC, epoxy resin, or vinyl.

Another tip would be to minimise changes in floor levels, and use ramps rather than stairs, in order to create a smooth incline. This will also create a better transition between uneven levels of two different areas since stairs are generally a potential risk for tripping and falling.

These were some of the many examples of how flooring can help to prevent industrial workplace accidents and contribute to an overall safer work environment. As such, special attention must be paid to the choices and maintenance of floor materials.

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