Choosing safe flooring

BASF Australia Ltd

By Suresh Rebello
Wednesday, 06 February, 2019

Choosing safe flooring

With slips, trips and falls the most common injuries sustained by foodservice workers, a bit of advice on picking the right flooring to prevent accidents and related damages might prove useful.

Foodservice workers are particularly prone to occupational accidents involving slips, trips and falls at the workplace. This is unsurprising considering the multiple hazardous activities carried out around the clock at F&B facilities, from commercial kitchens to food-processing areas. For example, it is common for spillage to occur, making the floorings damp and slippery. Regular cleaning of the spills may affect the ongoing operations or leave the floors wet, again posing a slip hazard.

According to the Australian Workers’ Compensation Statistics Report 2016–17, slips, trips and falls accounted for 24% of workplace accidents during the review period, costing employers AU$11,500 in compensation claims for every employee injured at work.

Flooring hazard

One of the biggest hazards is flooring. Many food employees have tripped over the rubber mats that are placed on the work floors to reduce slips, trips and falls, ironically making the mats themselves the actual hazard. Most often, these mats are poorly maintained and when the floor gets wet, slide around. Using certain cleaning products on these mats can also accelerate the deterioration process. Failure to prevent workplace injuries can lead to litigation and financial losses for employers, especially when there are insufficient safety features in place. Other possible repercussions include a high staff turnover, low employee morale and damaged business reputation.

Slip resistance

Installing a flooring system with slip-resistant properties is fundamental to ensure work safety in F&B environments. In wet process areas, floors are often laid to allow water and liquid spillages to flow to drain. Heavy-duty resin systems are available in both smooth and textured profiles so users can customise their flooring according to the type of slip resistance required.

Preventing falls and trips

Durable flooring is necessary to reduce the chances of peeling and cracking with prolonged use, which may cause users to trip and fall. The tougher the flooring, the more durable it is likely to be, reducing the need for repair and replacement. The flooring chosen needs to be able to withstand heavy impacts and feature high energy absorption capacity to prevent cracks, hence preventing trips and falls.

Compliance needs

Food and beverage manufacturers must comply with global hygiene standards, such as International Food Standard (IFS), Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems and the Eurofins IAC Gold Certification criteria, forcing them to have regular wet and hot cleaning leading to increased risk for workplace safety. This calls for a tough floor withstanding hot water/steam cleaning combined with slip-resistant profiles.

In addition, F&B business operators are best advised to comply with two widely used standards measuring the slip resistance of workplace flooring — DIN Standard Ramp Testing and the Pendulum Test — to provide a safe environment for their staff to work in.

It’s important to remember that each processing plant has its own specific operational needs, including traffic and aesthetics, so decision-makers are advised to consult reputable experts on what choices they should make. Talking to the experts can help define the right product for you, with the right appearance and slip resistance, the right thickness to meet your temperature requirements and the robustness to provide a cost-effective yet long-lasting solution.

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