Warehouse safety is often in the news but forklift trucks and other moving equipment tend to hog the limelight while flooring takes a back seat even though floors can influence mobile-type accidents, impair productivity, damage trucks and increase driver fatigue and absenteeism. Contributing to this is the fact that floor maintenance is still not receiving adequate support as warehouse operators apply only fire-fighting attitudes when something goes seriously wrong. Typical excuses trotted out for this include no time for repairs, inadequate maintenance manpower, not a corporate priority, no money in the budget and intolerance to dust and noise during floor repairs.

In certain industries like food, pharma and drinks floor care is given its due attention because there are obvious hygiene issues which, if neglected, could even temporarily close down a warehouse. But outside these industries the picture can be very different, where not even cheap safety applications, like safety floor line markings to segregate pedestrian and truck traffic, are visible. Accident figures bear this out. In 2015 about 7,600 persons suffered serious injuries from slips, trips and same level falls in the workplace and over 13,000 had similar accidents leading to at least seven days off work.

The floor cleaning industry today offers a wide range of care solutions from mop and bucket to ride-on scrubber/driers but they may not all be suitable. A mop and bucket may be useful up to a point but they can spread contaminants over a wider area and leave a film of liquid that increases the overall risks. Micro fibre cloths and mops could be a better alternative. It is also worth remembering that more costly solutions like ride-on scrubber/driers will be no use where cracks in concrete floors have been allowed to go unattended too long because these cracks, which harbour dirt and debris, made worse by scrubbers leaving moisture in the crevices, creating a climate of mildew, mould and insects, may be too deep for the cleaning machines. Cracks and potholes, therefore, should be remedied before they worsen.

A common problem in many warehouses is uneven floors, which could become problematic if a warehouse converts to a VNA operation because a few millimetres out at ground level would be greatly magnified at heights of over 10 mt, causing truck mast collisions with racking. Remedial solutions, however, are no longer as disruptive as they once were thanks to developments like Cogri’s laserguided floor grinders. A worse scenario, however, is when a floor starts to dish, once a hugely expensive exercise to remedy, often by pile driving. Concrete floor slabs can dish for several reasons. One is caused by settlement where the original foundations of the facility were unsuitable for the ground it was built on, possibly because one’s preliminary soil testing and proper compaction of earth had not been done. Another cause can be when a change in storage methods, like a move to narrow or VNA racking and automation systems, impose floor weights above the original load limits of the warehouse.

Fortunately, the remedy for this problem, which could have involved tearing up the whole floor slab and pile-driving, is now much cheaper and less disruptive through foam injection techniques like those from Uretek. This company now helps clients looking at new facilities where an increased load is required. This problem-preventative solution involves a stabilisation and ground improvement approach to enable a facility to change to its intended use.

Mezzanine floors are also benefitting from improvements to new decking, like those recently launched be Egger UK, namely the OSB HDX, 30 mm thick loadbearing panel suitable for humid environments. At 20% lighter this replaces its 38 mm HDX chipboard while at the same time offering greater strength and stiffness, and its low swelling properties mean it is less likely to pick up moisture, which can lead to uneven floors.