Ask Denver from Polyflor SA discusses the several advantages of installing vinyl flooring in healthcare facilities.

With more than 50 years’ experience in the local and international flooring industry, Denver Coleman, Chairman of Polyflor SA, answers questions posed by installers, architects and readers. In this issue, he identifies and discusses the numerous benefits of using vinyl flooring in healthcare facilities and why this flooring is considered ideal for such specialised environments.

“Why is vinyl flooring recommended in healthcare facilities? Is it really the best choice and what are the advantages of using vinyl?” Dale Roberts, Empangeni

When considering flooring options for healthcare facilities, there are several important factors that should play a role. The most important consideration should be that you have a hygienic and seamless floor that will allow for an infection-free environment, and that it was properly installed on a good substrate. Secondly, ensure that you use a slip resistant floor covering in high slip risk areas, before giving consideration to aspects such as aesthetics.

There are therefore certain steps that need to be taken to ensure you have a hygienic, easily maintained flooring installation that reduces the risk of infection.

By installing floor sheeting securely on a level and dry surface, you are able to significantly lower the risk of infection. Hollows and dips accumulate dust and dirt which act as a carrier and add to the risk of infection, especially when only using wet cleaning methods. Having the flooring coved up the walls gives a rounded corner which is easy to clean and does not promote bacteria growth.

Before installation, ensure you have a level, dry and firm substrate by using a good quality self-levelling compound which was correctly mixed and applied by the flooring contractor. It is also important to make sure that your installer has used the proper installation method of overlap, scribe and cut to butt join sheets. Never leave a gap between sheets, groove using the correct tool and weld the sheets together. Good quality welding is essential and the weld should be trimmed correctly twice to ensure it is smooth and level with the flooring. This will give the strongest join possible without a dirt trap.

As mentioned earlier, ensure the safety of your patients and staff by selecting a slip resistant floor for areas with a high slip risk, such as on ramps, in wet areas such as ablutions, sterilizing areas, kitchens and sluice rooms. Stairs are another danger area for slipping and tripping which can cause serious injury. Worldwide, stairs contribute a large degree to accident statistics. Most falls occur when descending down stairs as a result of overstep. The use of non-slip stair nosing and treads is therefore highly recommended.

The maintenance of the floor is an essential part of the hygiene process and plays a huge role in reducing infection risk. Easily maintained floor sheeting is a great help. It is also environmentally responsible, as it facilitates the lower use of water, chemicals and electricity, thus dramatically reducing costs. Ensure that you use a PUR-coated product, and that the correct and strict maintenance regime is enforced. This will result in safer, cleaner floor surfaces at a considerable saving in cost of anything up to 40%. The correct use of entrance matting would also substantially assist in this regard.

Taking into account that bacteria require warmth, moisture and a carrier to breed, excessive wet mopping/scrubbing creates an ideal situation for growth of bacteria unless it is strictly controlled. The use of a dry Masslin cloth is therefore essential for cleaning a PUR coated floor.

There is no doubt that once these above mentioned considerations have been taken into account, aesthetics also play a role in healthcare facilities.  Floor coverings, designs and colours can be used to great effect to create a warm, pleasant and home-like environment. Ample studies have been conducted to prove what an important role floors can play in aiding patients’ wellbeing and recovery. Vinyl allows for great design potential as it offers many types of finishes and options, ranging from bright or muted colours to wood-look finishes, whilst still allowing for easy and efficient maintenance.

When analysing all of these factors, it is clear that vinyl flooring meets all of these requirements and more – without compromising on quality or the functionality of the floors.