Cleaning was a significant factor in assessments this week, so why is cleaning important for slip resistance?
The purpose of cleaning for slip resistance is to remove the build up of ingrained dirt within the profile of the floor surface.
Over time dirt builds up within the floor profile, smoothing it and making it slippery in wet conditions.
A simple analogy is that of a car tyre, with sufficient tread it performs in the wet, like a clean floor, when smooth/bald it is dangerously slippery, like a dirty floor.
In the worst cases of both cleaning and contamination we have seen floor surfaces move from a low to high slip risk classification in the space of a week.
Sanitising and/or disinfecting a surface, hygienic as it is, will not help slip resistance as dirt deposits have not been removed.
Buffing or polishing a surface to improve aesthetic appearance will be similarly ineffective for the same reason.
An effective cleaning regime will include;
The correct cleaning solution for both floor and contaminants. Flooring should be supplied with appropriate directions for cleaning chemicals. Specialist products are available for particularly demanding environments.
The solution used should be applied at the correct dilution. Too weak and dirt deposits will not be broken down. Too strong and residues will be left on the surface, negating the cleaning effort.
The surface should be agitated to lift dirt from the profile. Mechanical aids are far better than human effort where large areas are concerned, not least for the human involved! A mechanical scrubber, jet washer or high pressure steamer may do the job but ensure you consult the flooring manual first to avoid damage.
The cleaning solution should be left to dwell for an appropriate period. The chemicals need time to break down and bond with the contaminants in the floor surface.
The water/chemical/dirt mixture needs to be removed from the surface. Vacuum pick up works well, but rinsing with clean water is probably more common. The water must be clean, and of sufficient quantity to effectively remove all soiled water from the surface.
Finally, and crucially, if the surface is slippery when wet, ensure it has dried fully before permitting access. Vacuum pick ups are rarely 100% effective and only a tiny amount of water is required to lubricate a slip. Working in sections and cordoning off the cleaned area to air dry, opening only when completely dry, is the best option.
Additional points to consider are;
For floors which fail to offer sufficient wet slip resistance from new, no amount of cleaning will improve wet slip resistance. This is because cleaning does not (should not!) affect the surface profile of the floor beyond removing dirt.
Mopping a surface is probably the most common method of ‘cleaning’, and yet is wholly ineffective in terms of maintaining slip resistance.
We find that around half the floors that present a slip risk in the wet would offer safe grip levels if subject to an effective cleaning regime.
When considering the costs of cleaning staff, equipment and chemicals, it would be prudent to balance potential economising measures with the potential costs of a slip compensation claim. Many slip accident claims that we have been involved with could have been avoided with an effective cleaning regime.
Regular slip testing will alert you to a drop off in the performance of your cleaning regime, allowing improvements to be made before a member of your staff or the public is injured and the resource consuming slip claim arises.