By Richard Aylen, Technical Services Manager, Junckers Ltd
In the last ten years, we have seen much more work on how to ensure flooring is safe to use, especially in terms of reducing slipping. In the last twenty years, the popularity of wooden flooring products has soared. The hard and smooth surface lends itself to high-traffic areas and it is the flooring material of choice for everything from high profile, public buildings to high design commercial installations such as galleries, hotels, bars and restaurants. Making sure the intended flooring surface is safe is one of the most important factors for specifiers, especially for public and commercial spaces.
Safety flooring is required in areas which will be subjected to spillage/contamination as a matter of routine, as opposed to the occasional accident. There are two basic perameters when assessing the safety of a floor: ‘low potential for slip in the dry’ and ‘high potential for slip in the wet’. For a commercial business, we advise a risk assessment on how spillages/contamination would be handled. For example, in areas where food is being served and handled, possibly not wiped up straight away, there would be a need for a slip resistant surface. On the other hand, in a main dining area, where people are seated and the risk of spillage is first of all reduced and secondly, much more likely to be removed immediately, a normal floor finish would be fine. To a large extent, working practices will guide which surface finish is needed.
When specifying flooring with safety in mind, options such as carpet or laminate wood flooring would not be obvious choices. Carpets are not a common choice in areas where contamination/spillage is likely because of difficulties with cleaning and there is no possibility of adding any kind of coating to laminate floors to improve slip resistance. With a solid hardwood floor on the other hand, there is now a way to make them slip resistant, even in wet areas. For some time, the flooring industry was not able to give true wet slip protection to wooden flooring in a way that was easy to apply.
With most wooden floors, the slip resistance is fine in dry conditions and gives a low potential for slip. However, in an area where liquid spills are possible, such as a bar or restaurant, the floor can have a high potential for slip. Junckers started to investigate the introduction of a new, easy to apply product that would meet demand as far back as 2005. The company had envisaged the requirement for a product that would be simple to use and effective in reducing the possibilities of slips from wet spillage on any type of wooden floor. Two years later, a new lacquer that could easily be applied over existing and newly-laid wooden floors whether pre-finished, untreated or machine sanded. The product was tested to BS7976-2 standard to meet the guidelines and the result was Junckers High Performance Friction Plus.
This low-odour, very hard-wearing water based 100% pure polyurethane lacquer provides the high levels of slip resistance needed for a safe floor where spillages are probable. It gives the floor a fine, textured surface, which meets the surface roughness requirements needed for reducing slippage in wet conditions, yet, is still easy to clean. We are confident it is an effective, fast solution for environments such as bars, restaurants and pubs. This is why Junckers now has a policy to recommend to all clients, specifiers, flooring and building contractors that all flooring installed in commercial areas where spillages may occur and cannot be managed, should consider that an extra site-applied coat of this seal to ensure customers’ floors meet the required regulations.
Junckers Friction Plus lacquer has proved one of our most successful seals and members of our Approved Contractors network and flooring contractors all over the UK have quickly realised its efficiency and ease of use to be able to offer their clients a safe floor, where needed. Recent projects include a bar and assembly hall in Hackney Town Hall, London, the main ticket office at Aberdeen train station, the restaurant and social area at Yell.com’s new head office facilities in Reading as well as several hundred square metres at Gatwick Airport.
An important point to keep in mind is not all floors need to be treated as safety floors. It is imperative to properly assess where a slip resistant finish is required and where not – otherwise all our buildings would contain a safety floor, ‘just in case’! Not all smooth/hard floors are to be considered safety floors, the individual environment and how spillage/contamination is managed should always be taken into consideration. Some floors may score well without the need for an extra coating – for example, our standard, factory applied UltraMatt lacquer achieves a low potential for slip, both in its wet and dry states, without the need for High Performance Friction Plus. If a business can manage spillages, i.e. if they can be removed, there may be no need for a slip resistant seal. Management issues should also be assessed in terms of how quickly spillages/contamination can be removed – one spillage left all day may be more dangerous than ten spillages all removed straight away. Good, old fashioned common sense goes a long way, in my humble opinion and using the knowledge and expertise of an experienced flooring contractor will mean our floors will remain safe – whether wet or dry!