As this is being written, it’s about 90 degrees (F) in most of Alabama and few people are giving any thought to winter. But it will come. Likely this is why the managers of office buildings are meeting now with their custodial crew and janitorial distributor to discuss which measures they should take now to help protect tenants and visitors from slip-and-fall accidents come winter. While it may seem a tad early, what their efforts say, is that planning for the winter months and the safety of building tenants should be performed months before winter arrives.
The first step in this process does not start inside the building at all. It starts in building parking lots, walkways, sidewalks, and driveways. Parking lots are a problem area because they typically have a blacktop surface. During the winter months, moisture can build up and freeze, not only on the surface of blacktop, which is known as black glass, but also in the cracks and holes that naturally develop with this type of surface over time. Sometimes the surface is safe but moisture in cracks and holes has turned to ice, which can trigger a slip-and-fall accident.
The cracks, holes, and any other damage to the blacktop should be corrected before winter arrives. Make sure enough safety cones are available to install in strategic – many strategic – areas throughout the parking lot when winter arrives.
Also, work with a janitorial distributor to determine how much ice melt and what kind of ice melt should be selected. There are free software applications available that can assist. Working with these software programs as well as a distributor to select and compare all types of products, including ice melt, helps eliminate trial and error purchasing.
An important note when looking for “green” ice melt: Some manufacturers self-certify their ice melt as environmentally safe. Because ice melt can be harmful to vegetation and the environment, not to mention floors, select ice melt that has been certified by the EPA’s Safer Choice program.
While preparing for winter on the outside of the building, be sure to check outdoor lighting. Many accidents occur in the evening because walkers cannot see ice buildup. If there is an area where accidents have happened frequently in the past, now is the time to install additional lighting.
Preparing Lobby Floors for Winter
Whether your facility has a large formal lobby entrance or something smaller, the first step tenants and visitors will take in the building is onto a hard-surface floor. So sometime before October, those hard-surface floors should be stripped and refinished. This helps build up the floor’s defenses.
Remember, the main function of floor finish is not the shine but the protection it provides the floor. View floor finish as a thin layer of glass over the floor, helping to keep soils and moisture from penetrating the flooring.
Most floor finish is designed to dry and adhere under moderate climate conditions. Too cold or too humid and the finish not dry properly or harden properly either. It’s the hardening of the floor finish that protects the floor.
Protective Matting from the Outside In
As most building owners and managers likely know, floor mats are a key component in floor safety all year round, but especially during the winter months. What they may not know is that there are mats specifically designed to address many of the conditions faced during the winter months.
While some rental services will have mats for the winter months, for the most part mats should be purchased for the facility. Purchased mats tend to be of higher quality and more effective. Working with a distributor or one of the free software applications mentioned earlier should help in selecting mats for winter applications easier.
Directly outside of a facility, place a “scraper” mat, designed to scrape soil and moisture off shoe bottoms so contaminants are not walked into the facility. Because your facility will likely have ice melt applied to surfaces, select a matting system that resists common acids, alkalis, and salt, helping to reduce degradation of the mat. A durable, higher quality scraper mat will stand up to acids and soils, as well as capture the majority of dirt from soles of shoes, keeping the inside of your building cleaner and more attractive.
Michael Wilson is vice president of Marketing for AFFLINK, a global leader in supply chain optimization, providing clients with innovative processes such as the ELEVATE™ process as well as procurement solutions to drive efficiencies in today’s leading businesses. He can be reached thru his company website at www.AFFLINK.com