Safety flooring doesn’t mean boring

Sarah Igglesden, brand manager at flooring experts Tarkett UK, discusses the increasing variety of safety floors and how you no longer have to choose between style and substance

Over the past few years safety flooring has undergone something of an image change. Once considered dull and uninspiring, it has enjoyed its own ugly duckling- style transformation.

There is now an increasing variety of safety floor designs and styles, offering architects and designers a world of choice. But how and why has this change taken place, and what are the options now available to architects, designers and specifiers when opting for a safety floor?

Safety flooring is essentially designed with textured particles to help prevent slips, trips and falls. These sorts of accidents can cause nasty injuries and, with public safety always a priority, specifying appropriate floor coverings for particular environments is common sense.

More than 8,000 major injuries caused by slips, trips or falls were reported to the Health and Safety Executive* last year and in today’s litigation-conscious society not taking the appropriate preventative steps can also prove costly.

Tarkett recently carried out a survey of 1,000 people in the UK to discover if where they slipped over affected how likely they were to sue. Supermarkets came top with a third of respondents saying they would take action against a large food retailer.

Other top 10 destinations included train stations, with 23 per cent saying they would choose to sue while 23 per cent of people would also sue their place of work and 19 per cent a hospital if they slipped on the premises. This presents a major challenge to facility designers. Get it wrong and it could add up to a bill that no-one wants.

Specifying safety flooring is the obvious way to avoid this, making sound sense in areas where slips and trips frequently occur, such as changing rooms, lobbies and food preparation areas. And certain safety floors now offer both wet and dry slip resistance to give all-round protection, along with providing a comfortable underfoot feel for barefoot and shoe users.

So, you’ve decided to specify a safety floor but just what do you need to consider?

As a minimum a good safety floor should come with a TRRL Pendulum test of >36(R10) slip rating, this has been shown to help prevent falls and nasty injuries.

The next thing to consider is design – both in terms of manufacture and aesthetics. With the growing demand for safety floors, manufacturers have got progressively creative in order to design floors that provide more than just a single non-slip function. There is an increasingly wide spectrum of colours and finishes available meaning specifiers and designers no longer have to choose between practicality and appearance.

Today’s anti-slip flooring products are contributing to interior design in a highly positive way – it’s safety flooring that doesn’t look like safety flooring. This has had a further positive knock-on effect. Thanks to vibrant colour ranges, different finishes and textures, designers are including safety flooring in their schemes for aesthetic reasons – with the safety features a huge added bonus.

Patterned safety flooring is becoming ever more popular as are finishes that mimic natural designs such as wood, woven linen, ceramic and stone. These are particularly suited to public areas where the ‘real thing’ could create a slip hazard.

Some safety floor products come in a tile format. This makes for flexible, easy installation, particularly at height, with little wastage.

Further innovation has resulted in the development of acoustic safety flooring. This means installers do not need to put down a second sound-proof layer in noise-sensitive areas – further reducing costs and wastage.

When discussing safety flooring it doesn’t take long for questions about cleaning and maintenance to be asked. These have been addressed with improved structures that prevent dirt retention and the introduction of polyurethane (PUR) reinforced surfaces for improved stain resistance and easy maintenance. This reduces ongoing costs for the customer, and in the long-term means the flooring looks better for longer.

Environmental concerns can also be met by choosing the right safety floor. Look out for how much of the floor is made from recycled content and always check that it can be recycled.

It’s also worth checking to see if the floor is phthalate-free and levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are low, a lower level helps contribute to better interior air quality.

Flooring is a major investment choice for any development with a lot to consider and safety flooring, with its range of designs, easy installation, easy maintenance and long life, is an excellent all-round choice.