Tom Rollo of Polyflor examines the growing number of safety flooring options available to architects.
Many years ago, an architect interested in safety flooring was faced with a simple choice, it was available in any colour as long as it was grey! With function not form being all important, safety flooring tended to be laid in traditional commercial areas where spillages would occur.
Fast forward 20 years or so and the vinyl safety flooring world we now see today is much more sophisticated and a significantly different animal. Safety flooring is now a combination of both style and substance, with warmer, brighter and more contemporary designs available which are far removed from the institutional, clinical look of old.
Having evolved substantially to meet market demands and trends in our health and safety conscious culture, the use of safety vinyl has extended from back of house to showcase areas where it is more visible to the public and central to interior design concepts. Traditional safety floors often include dark aggregate to provide friction which is very visible, whereas the carborundum-free particles used in modern ranges are similar to the tone of the floor’s base colour and therefore give the look of smooth vinyl but with the performance of a safety floor.
Thanks to the technological advances from flooring manufacturers, safety flooring with virtually invisible particles and sustainable wet slip resistance has become a major consideration for architects wanting to create a wow factor. Built-in safety has become a client expectation rather than just a wish on their checklist.
Architects have a duty of care to ensure that a suitable safety flooring is selected for areas where there are risks of spillages and surface water. Therefore it is always important to check that the product manufacturer can support slip resistance test method claims in accordance with HSE & UK Slip Resistance Group Guidelines.
In terms of safety floor credentials, all products specified to provide slip resistance in wet conditions should meet EN 13845, which is the European Safety Flooring standard for particle based flooring.
To meet the criteria for this standard, safety flooring must pass the ‘50,000 cycles’ abrasion test to ensure long term, sustainable slip resistant performance of the aggregates used within the product.
Products specified as safety floors should also be Health & Safety Executive (HSE) compliant and offer a low potential for slip. The production processes used
to develop HSE compliant safety flooring are highly sophisticated with slip resistance generated through use of aggregates such as quartz, aluminium oxide, silicon carbide and recycled natural aggregates incorporated in the full performance layer. This ensures that slip resistance is provided throughout the guaranteed life of the product.
To meet HSE requirements, a safety floor must achieve a result of 36+ in the Pendulum Wet Test with a surface roughness of 20 + microns. These tests are portable and can be used to take live readings on site to demonstrate slip resistance over the life of the floor. Specification of safety flooring must not be made solely against Ramp Test (DIN 51130) R value ratings such as R10 as this is an ex-factory method of assessing slip resistance that takes no account of wear and maintenance carried out to the floor over time. Hence, a product with a rough emboss but no embedded particles may be sold as a pseudo safety flooring with an ex-factory R10 rating but in time the emboss will wear, leaving a smooth floor that is not slip resistant in wet conditions.
It is also important that slip resistance does not impinge on the flooring’s overall look and subsequent ease of cleaning. Dispelling the myth that safety flooring is difficult to clean, the development of protective maintenance enhancements mean improved maintenance benefits, optimum appearance retention and life cycle maintenance cost savings.
The key to specifying the right safety floor for your next project is to seek advice from a trusted flooring manufacturer who can advise on suitable products that will perform safely for years to come and can demonstrate conformance to the industry standards.
Tom Rollo is marketing manager at Polyflor