Quality and performance is something that can never be sacrificed when it comes to flooring installations in healthcare and sterile facilities. While many specifiers and design professionals set out to ensure that clients have top performing products that are aesthetically pleasing and functional, not enough attention is paid to the legal requirements involved in these installations.

While the Health Professions Council of South Africa doesn’t have specific guidelines on what each hospital needs to install in terms of flooring, various governing bodies have established their own best practices and guidelines that hospitals need to adhere to. A document published by the Department of Health for the KwaZulu-Natal Province, for example, lists the following requirements for flooring installations in private healthcare facilities:
• The floors of all rooms and corridors shall be of concrete finished to a smooth washable surface or covered with washable material;
• No carpets or wooden skirtings will be allowed in the operating theatre suite, sterilising department, dirty utility room, kitchen, ablution rooms, procedure room, laundry, cleaners room, clean utility room, soiled linen room, delivery room, or treatment room and mortuary;
• The floors of all operating and delivery rooms shall be of impervious material and so laid as to provide a continuous and smooth impervious surface including the joint between the wall and floor.

What questions should tenants and facility owners be asking?
As the South African population continues to grow, increased strain is being put on our local healthcare systems. Many new hospitals and clinics are in the planning stage and a number of existing facilities are in the process of expanding and updating their medical facilities. Flooring is an essential element that can not only help a medical facility meet industry standards, but it can also provide a number of benefits. Here are a few things that tenants, owners and property developers should consider asking when investing in flooring products and installations:

How effective is the product with regards to pathogen control?
Grouted tiles, for example, are often porous and can be tough to sanitise because of the crack-prone grout between tiles. Certain composite sheet flooring that is glued to a slab can similarly be a breeding ground for dangerous microbe proliferation if dark pockets of moisture develop between the concrete substrate and the floor. While these flooring materials have successfully been installed in healthcare facilities in the past, it’s vital that the supplier and installer can ensure that the final installation will be seamless.

Invest in a flooring solution that provides a seamless and grout-free surface that is completely bonded to the substrate. It is crucial that you question the flooring supplier about how their solution accounts for pathogen-control risks. Interlocking and glued down LVT flooring, for example, can be used in reception areas, corridors, general wards and doctors consulting rooms instead of high care areas.

Can your flooring product withstand vigorous and stringent cleaning and sanitation?
The biohazards and pathogens that are present in operating rooms, emergency rooms and patient rooms can threaten the well-being of hospital employees and patients. It is for this reason that medical facilities adhere to stringent cleaning and sanitation regimens. The flooring product that you invest in needs to be extremely resistant to solvents, extreme pH chemicals and staining, which is why you need to find flooring products that have been treated with high-performance coatings tailored to the medical sector.

What additional safety benefits does your flooring offer?
Medical facilities are bustling places, with people moving about at a rapid pace 24/7. Adding to this is the requirement of mobility-impaired individuals who need to be able to move about freely. As a tenant or facility owner, you need to make sure that your flooring is not only level and free of inconsistencies, but that it is slip-resistant. Many high performance flooring products can be produced to meet the exact slip-resistance needs of a particular installation, so determine your facility’s needs and make sure that the product you invest in can be manufactured according to the required skid-resistance for each space.

Will your flooring keep my facilities accessible and my staff comfortable?
Doctors, nurses, surgeons and hospital staff are often on their feet for long stretches of time. In order to reduce the physical strain on workers while simultaneously offering mobility for wheelchairs and carts, flooring manufacturers have been creating ergonomic systems with resinous flooring products. Ask your flooring supplier how their product will help absorb footfall shock without interfering with wheeled apparatus.

Specialised tip: Invest in a flooring solution that is seamless and provides a grout-free surface that is completely bonded to the substrate.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.floorworx.co.za , www.healthcarefacilitiestoday.com , www.hpcsa.co.za, www.kznhealth.gov.za, www.polyflor.co.za and www.traviata.co.za for the information contained in this article.