Hygienic flooring for healing environments
18 February 2019
Dave Ford, Altro’s specifications manger - North, takes a look at the latest trends and developments in hygienic flooring for hospital and healthcare environments, and provides advice on how to find the right solution for your premises
In the past, cleanliness was the main focus of designing a healing environment, leading to healthcare facilities possessing a clinical and cold aesthetic. Thankfully, advances in flooring technology and design mean that the flooring options for healthcare are now many and varied, and hygienic surfaces have plenty of colour choices on offer.
In environments like operating theatres, acute care and sterile areas, there’s an increasing emphasis on aseptic regimes to combat antibiotic resistant infection. This means floors, walls, doors and ceilings must be totally cleanable and resistant to most chemicals and staining. Resistance to inorganic and organic chemicals, spillages and wastes is essential.
Ask manufacturers about the chemical resistance of their products – you’re looking to avoid common issues such as flooring under alcohol hand gel dispensers becoming discoloured and deteriorating; dirt is more likely to get in and the flooring could suffer further damage and create a health hazard.
From a hygiene perspective, hospitals need floor and wall surfaces where there are no cracks, joins or edges. It’s worth considering an integrated system of products that are proven to work together – this will make cleaning easier and more cost-effective.
Many flooring products now incorporate PUR technology. Product names vary, but the basic principle of PUR technology is the same. An additional polymer component (usually polyurethane) is incorporated in the surface layer or throughout the entire wear layer of the flooring. The aim is to increase dirt pick-up and to prevent dirt retention around the slip resistance particles during cleaning. This enables the floor to be maintained more quickly and easily. PUR comes into its own when you analyse life-cycle costs – what appears to be a small daily time and cost saving on cleaning can add up to a significant benefit when seen in terms of the whole life of the flooring.
Flooring for healthcare needs to be fit for purpose and built to last. Most health trusts are looking for flooring to last at least 10 years, so that means you need flooring with long term resistance to wear, abrasion, point-loading and impact – especially from wheeled traffic such as trolleys or mobile equipment. Long warranties are often a good indicator as to how the flooring will hold up over time but heavy duty, resilient flooring at least 2.5mm thick is a sensible choice, especially in high traffic areas.
In bathrooms and kitchens and other wet areas, you need to consider specialist products that combine durability with the highest levels of slip-resistance. For bathroom areas, look for products designed for use in wet and dry, shoe and barefoot use, even with contaminants such as soaps and shower gel, to ensure safety and comfort for patients and staff. For all safety flooring, check whether the slip-resistance lasts for the lifetime of the flooring – with the right selection, you can reduce the chance of a slip from water or contaminants to one in a million to make patients feel safe and staff confident as they are providing support.
Comfort and acoustics
For internal rooms with a low chance of spills, choose smooth vinyl flooring options that provide an easy to clean surface, and include comfort and acoustic options to create an aesthetically pleasing environment that is also comfortable underfoot.
The importance of hand hygiene
A good cleaning regime can keep walls and floors clean without risking the spread of microbes, but other steps are important.
The most critical factor for infection control and prevention is hand hygiene; that is why we are recommending good hand hygiene as essential in preventing the spread of infection.
Finally, once flooring is installed, make sure any specific cleaning regimes needed are well communicated so that it performs as it is supposed to – start by asking the flooring manufacturer for their recommended cleaning instructions.