Watch Out for Costly Claims from Poor Floor Upkeep

Prepare a Protocol
Everything starts with the specification, says Lezell.

“Sales reps are more interested in getting a product specified than getting it to perform, but approved cleaning protocol should be written into the spec,” she adds. “Put people on the spot. If they want their product sold, they need to tell you how it’s maintained. When a floor gets installed, an FM should get with the technicians and walk through step by step and learn the info without the sales pitch.”

The next step is establishing a cleaning schedule in terms of traffic flow and periodic maintenance vs. daily attention, Lezell says.

Zoning is also a helpful concept, adds David Collette, director of food service for Cintas Corporation, a service provider and manufacturer. “Identify zones like outside, entry, restroom, and common areas. Thinking in those terms helps you know what soils are present,” he says.

Simply changing your cleaning process might also make significant improvements.

“People think swishing a mop around is natural, but they don’t really know how to do it. It’s like brushing your teeth or doing laundry. You need solvent, a chemical, and agitation,” Collette says. “If you don’t do it properly, you’re just spreading dirt.”

Collette suggests a two-sided bucket for wringing dirty liquid. A distinction between wet and damp mopping is also necessary.

“Most people dip a mop in the bucket, wring it out, and then swish, but then you’ve wrung out the good stuff,” he explains. “If you’re picking up a spill, damp mopping is fine, but if you’re cleaning, you need the chemical to do its job.”

Documentation and follow-up is the last item. “A simple metric is a chart in restrooms where someone signs their initials. You need verification to make sure it’s working,” Collette says. “Periodic monitoring should be done by inspectors, just like with food safety. That’s the next step: involving OSHA and getting regulations in place.”

Audits and Avoidance
Materials perform under perfect conditions, but you can’t take the lab out into the field. “As an expert witness, I’m always showing people how something fails even if you think you’re doing everything by the books,” Lezell says.

Certified independent auditors can come to your building and identify problem spots for a fraction of the cost of a claim. An inspection for a grocery store might cost $5,000, Kendzior estimates.

“Tests can be done to show if your materials and products produce high, moderate, or low traction based on the coefficient of friction,” he adds. “If you’re in moderate or low, do something. And a lot of the times it’s very modest. Just change your cleaning procedures or adopt a new product line. It’s not like you have to chisel up your floor.”

Insurance companies are already telling their clients to get in compliance and some even reduce premiums if you have a safe environment, Kendzior adds.

“But if you have an event, your insurance will drop you or your premiums could double, triple, or quadruple,” he says. “Failure to know these standards is not a defense.”

Chris Curtland is assistant editor of BUILDINGS.

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