Floors, it seems, are often the poor relation in any warehouse/factory maintenance budget yet their neglect will leave many regretting their disregard. “Most warehouse users have a misguided belief that a concrete floor is indestructible and treat it with little regard. A maintenance budget for the floor is rarely put in place,” says Kevin Dare, MD of the Cogri Group.

The costs of floor neglect can be very significant, including consequences from accidental injuries. Slips, trips and falls are the single largest cause of major injuries in the workplace, accounting for over 36,000 accidents every year, which according to the HSE is expected to cost the UK economy £850 million a year. Vehicle accidents are the second biggest killer in the workplace, involving 70 fatalities a year and thousands seriously injured. “These accidents usually involve people being struck down or run over by moving vehicles, making road and line markings a critical part of any site,” says Simon Porter, marketing manager of floor marking and care specialist, Rocol.

Forklift drivers are particularly exposed to neglected hazardous floors. Poor joint conditions cause impact load on the truck, driver and floor. This increases maintenance on the truck, driver fatigue and damage to the floor. Telltale signs of poor housekeeping that affect drivers include stretch wrap and banding materials left on the floor which causes serious damage and downtime for both forklifts and cleaning machines as overheated bearings and motors burn out.

Some poor floor conditions, however, have nothing to do with poor housekeeping. Most notably, floor flatness can be a problem caused by floors starting to dish owing to low, load bearing capacity of the soft soil beneath the concrete floor. Flatness is particularly crucial for high bay very narrow aisle operations because a level difference of just 4 mm across a 1,500 mm wide aisle means a narrow aisle truck will have a 32 mm mast deflection at 12 mt high. Fortunately, potentially disruptive floor dishing, which previously might have needed costly pile driving, can be treated by foam injection into the soil voids from specialists like Uretek. It is much cheaper, quicker and far less disruptive than pile driving.

Other advances in recent years have improved disruptive floor levelling issues. At one time, the more conventional approach of using the long strip method would have been highly disruptive. Today, the use of laser screed and the laser ground method within the aisles where necessary could take only a quarter of the time for a 36,000 ft2 warehouse.

Floor cleaning itself is not quite as simple as it was. Cleaning systems, require careful thought to avoid using the wrong approach. Merely sweeping dust from the floor, for example, could sometimes create a fire hazard. To avoid this, the floors should first be washed to turn the dust into a slurry for containment in a scrubber-drier’s tank, which cannot be legally sluiced down conventional drains.

There is no doubt, says Kevin Dare, that a stitch in time philosophy really works for floor maintenance and is not costly. A new, 50,000 ft2 warehouse, for example, should not need more than £2,000-£4,000 a year, he believes. “A reactionary type policy does cost a lot more money in the long run, not just on the floor but on maintenance of the MHE and operators using them,” he says.

Operators should not forget that they have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their employees and visitors and this responsibility extends to the marking of safe traffic routes for pedestrians and vehicles, as laid down by regulations 17-1 and 17-4 of the Workplace Regulations, 1992.

Warehouse & Logistics News

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