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Can Your Choice of Flooring Improve Health and Safety in Your Workplace?

Posted on May 24, 2016, by Michael Eckert

Slips and falls are one of the leading causes of injury in the workplace. The 2016 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index calculated that slips and falls cost employers in the US over $15 billion - covering everything from medical costs and compensation, to missed work days and hiring additional staff to cover sick leave.

Slips and falls accounted for one quarter of the most serious workplace injuries, but your choice of flooring can have a significant impact on the severity of those injuries, and greatly improve health and safety.

Today I’m looking at the 3 factors that can affect the impact your flooring has on health and safety in your workplace.

1) Floor Type

The floor surface has a significant impact on the severity of injuries resulting from a slip or fall. Falls onto a hard surface such as vinyl or wood are likely to cause a more serious injury compared with falls onto carpet, which is a softer and more shock-absorbent surface. In fact, research found that only 17% of people who fell on carpet sustained injuries, compared to 46% who fell on vinyl (source).

Additionally, the likelihood of slipping and falling increases on a wet floor. Hard flooring surfaces like Vinyl Composite Tile (VCT) or wood become slippery as the water remains on the surface, whereas carpet (and, to a lesser extent, Luxury Vinyl Tile) is more absorbent, so the moisture doesn’t sit on the surface of the floor tile. So your choice of flooring type can reduce the likelihood of slips and falls, as well as their severity.

2) Floor Backing

The backing of your office flooring will also contribute to its ability to absorb impact from falls. For example, hardback carpet tiles will absorb less impact than carpets which have a cushion backing.

There are three main types of carpet backing:

  • Hard-backed carpet, which is the worst of the three for absorbing impact.
  • Closed-cell cushion-backed carpet, which is initially good at shock absorption, but gets worse over time as the cushion cells distort and compress through continued use.
  • Open-cell cushion-backed carpet, which is best for sustained impact absorption, both from falls and repeated daily foot traffic.

3) Tiered Entryway

In bad weather, your employees will bring snow, rain and ice into the building on their shoes. Wet floors are a big health and safety risk for any organization, and wet weather can make it difficult to keep your floors clean and dry, to reduce the likelihood of weather-related slips and falls.

A tiered entryway system will help to reduce moisture transfer from outdoors to indoors. Rather than stepping straight off the street and into the building, a tiered entryway breaks the entrance to your office into three zones: outdoors, primary indoors and secondary indoors.

These create a transitional space from outdoors to main office space, designed to remove the majority of dirt and moisture from your shoes in order to maintain a clean and safe work environment. In fact, you can stop up to 80% of dust, dirt and moisture that’s brought into a building within the first 10 to 30 feet with the appropriate entryway system.

Tiered entryway systems combine scraping actions outside (to remove the worst of the dirt or snow from your shoes) with absorbent mats inside (to suck up moisture so it doesn’t pose a slip hazard or damage your flooring) to keep wet weather from turning the entrance of your office into a huge health and safety risk.

The A-Z of Health & Wellness in Interior Design

Michael Eckert

Written by Michael Eckert