Dont slip up on choosing flooring

Safety, hygiene, cost and comfort – there’s a lot to consider when it comes to kitchen flooring, says Glen Lister, Altro’s Key Account Manager, Food & Drink.

Flooring in commercial kitchens and food preparation areas needs to work hard, with safety top of the list. However, keeping people safe is about more than slip-resistance and cleaning, it’s also about preventing surfaces from harbouring bacteria. Cost and comfort will also feature high on the agenda when it comes to choosing kitchen flooring.

Risks and realities

The commercial kitchen can be a dangerous place. Oil evaporates into the air and settles on the floor when it cools – requiring constant cleaning to prevent a slippery surface. Small spills like milk or flour could cause a very real slip hazard. A busy lunch hour would mean a lot of oil and cooking ingredients on the floor, and not enough time to keep the floor clean and hazard-free at all times.

The law requires that employers ensure the health and safety of all employees, which is why safety flooring is a popular choice in commercial kitchens. However, there’s more to choosing the right safety flooring than meets the eye. It’s well worth spending a little time to understand the mechanics of safety flooring because getting it wrong can be costly in many, many ways.

Understanding slip-resistance

Safety flooring in the UK is often given a PTV – Pendulum Test Value – to show the level of slip-resistance it provides. Wet flooring that measures PTV ≥36 translates to a one in a million chance of slipping and is classed as having a low slip potential. However, the contaminant used for this test is water – perfectly suitable for most areas, but as you’ll know well, not commercial kitchens.

For this reason, we put safety flooring to a real-world test, using a variety of common contaminants found in a commercial kitchen. We used the standard PTV pendulum test BS7976 to test a range of typical kitchen contaminants, using three of our safety floors, all classed as having a low slip potential.

As expected, all three performed well with clean water as the contaminant, but when it came to greasy washing up water or vegetable oil, safety flooring that meets the ‘low slip potential’ figure of PTV ≥36 saw a hugely increased risk of slipping of just 1 in 20. Only the specialist safety flooring with our highest PTV of ≥55 continued to provide a 1 in a million risk of slipping. Your chosen flooring needs to be able to perform against wet and dry contaminants and provide sustained lifetime slip resistance, so consult the slip-resistance figures and ask tough questions about performance over time. You need confidence that your chosen flooring will continue to perform like new, year after year after year.

Hygiene matters

The surfaces you choose for kitchens and food preparation areas must meet exceptionally high health and safety and food hygiene standards – increasingly this spells problems for many traditionally used finishes, such as ceramic tiles which can provide a breeding ground for bacterial growth.

The EU food safety guidelines say that every food business operation must ensure food safety is never compromised. The layout, design and construction of food premises must prevent the accumulation of dirt and the shedding of particles. Floors, walls, ceilings, windows and doors must have impervious, non-absorbent and washable surfaces. All surfaces should be maintained in a sound condition, and therefore be easy to clean and disinfect. This will require all surfaces to be smooth, washable, corrosion-resistant and made from non-toxic materials.

HACCP is an international system for food safety management. It is a legal requirement in Europe under EC Regulation 852/2004. To conform to HACCP standards, excellent hygiene and rigorous cleaning routines are essential, and surfaces must be impervious to bacteria ingress and easy to clean to prevent contamination. We recommend using a system designed to work together, such as Altro Stronghold safety flooring and Altro Whiterock hygienic wall cladding – both of which are HACCP approved.

Consider long term costs

Cost, of course, is a constraint, but consider life cycle costs as well as installation processes. Downtime costs money, so ease and speed of installation are key, choose products designed to minimise downtime and cause the least disruption to busy kitchens and production runs. For the same reasons consider durability – fit products that are manufactured to perform to a high standard over a long period of time even in the most demanding environments.

Comfort matters

Specialist safety flooring tough enough for commercial kitchens will also be thicker than standard safety flooring. Look for 3mm thick rather than 2mm and you’ll see a range of additional benefits including reduced staff fatigue, noise reduction and comfort underfoot.

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