There is still a pervasive culture that floors, especially the concrete kind, once installed can be more or less ignored for the most part and so there is no need for any annual budget for maintenance. Moreover, as with purchasing any kind of MHE, it is cost that is the driving factor, an attitude that could be at the expense of functionality. This is a curious attitude given that the floor is often exposed to a heavy hammering and so can be the source of many costly problems, including accidents, if they are wrongly specified, poorly installed and neglected.
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One way of assessing all the potential floor problems is to look at the problem as though it was an onion with the outermost ring representing the top surface. Here is where the application of inappropriate surface finishes or materials worsens the slip risk. Slippery materials include laminate flooring, which is inappropriate for warehouses and walkways, but a simple solution for a slippery floor is the application of a floor coating that is durable, nonslip and water dispersable. If hygiene is of the utmost importance owing to the nature of stored products then advice on the use of powered floor cleaners and cleaning chemicals should be sought regarding the recommended cleaning frequency and most suitable cleaning agents. Dust is a problem in most warehouses and is dependent, to some extent, on the type of forklift used. Diesel, for example, can cause black dust to settle on stored goods as well as floors, so electric trucks would be a cleaner choice in this respect. The dust problem solution does not have to be floorbased, as with cleaning machines.

One could investigate air filtration systems that could help companies save up to 70% on cleaning costs. Safety can be further enhanced where pedestrians and forklifts work in close proximity by ensuring safety floor markings are used. This is a legal requirement under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) regulations 1992, which state: “Every workplace shall be organised in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles can circulate in a safe manner,” and “All traffic routes shall be suitably indicated where necessary for reasons of health and safety.” Ordinary floor paints for safety markings, however, are best avoided in favour of a harder wearing resin.

Below the top floor covering, more expensive problems can reveal themselves, like crumbling joints, potholes and uneven surfaces. These can seriously impact forklifts, driver fatigue and hygiene, especially where the cracks are so deep that cleaning cannot help much. In a food and pharma environment deep cracks, where mould and even rodent infestation can flourish, should never be tolerated. Fortunately, new techniques have been developed to cope with crumbling joints like the Permaban Signature AR, which replaces short-term fixes like using only mortar so that future joint damage cannot recur. Other preventative techniques for joint crumbling include, at least at the new construction stage, the use of large jointless concrete slabs and a choice of VNA lift trucks that do not use hard, small wheels like, for example, articulated forklifts.

Continuing the onion peeling, deeper down still is the potential for floor dishing caused by poor sub soil conditions. This can lead to VNA masts crashing against racking during high lifts. At one time the remedial cost would have been horrifically high because of the pile driving involved but nowadays foam injection techniques to fill any sub slab voids are very much cheaper, quicker and less disruptive. Uneven floors today can be remedied with laser-guided grinding machines, which are far more time and cost effective than applying selflevelling compounds. One may also find that floor screeding can be effective and less time consuming than floor-grinding methods.

If flooring care is lacking and epitomised only by post-problem fire-fighting then the long-term costs of that will substantially exceed the cost of appropriate, preventative maintenance schemes.