January 7, 2013
Greetings and Happy New Year to One and All:

I see the reality of winter has finally joined us here in the Northeast, as snowfall has been a stranger to us over the past two winter seasons.  The onset of winter and frozen precipitation brings huge challenges to Custodial Operations as the ice melt and traction materials utilized to improve safety and reducing risk of slips and falls finds its way into our buildings.

The chemistry of the ice melt treatment used and the spreading technique may have a negative impact on your building interiors as such residue alters the Ph of finished flooring and the aggregate sands off finish coatings.  The end result is a higher risk of slips and falls on the interior of the building rather than on the snow and ice-coated walks outside of your buildings.

The effects of tracked winter soil introduction to properly finished flooring changes everything that is working favorably in your finished floor care program.

The use of neutral cleaners and burnishing techniques will no longer yield the intended outcomes as high alkalinity residues will make finishes surfaces slippery as it breaks down the finish and its bond to floor surfaces.  In addition to the chemical reaction that alters appearance of finished flooring the continued use of burnishing and polishing equipment will further distort the slip coefficient of the surface increasing the risk of slips and falls.

The argument of attacking those staff members responsible for the treatment of sidewalks, stairs and entrances may be a losing battle as your facility cannot let conservation of product or your concerns on how it destroys your showplace flooring outweigh “Best Practices” associated with proper risk management and liability.

The solution to this situation requires a proactive surveillance of what is going on directly outside the entry as well as the behavior of your matting system

The selection of matting requires knowledge of what need to occur to foot traffic in order to properly and effectively reduce tracked soils throughout your facility.  The ideal layout is to have a “scrapper” matting product designed to remove bulky soils and should be of ample width and length to support at least six steps (12 linear feet) complimented with a “drying” mat located on the interior of proper design and length to afford at least six addition foot steps (12 linear feet).

The “scrapper” is a mat or a pit system that has either a bristle type nap or a slat design that moves as foot traffic moves across the surface.  The scraping action of the matting to the footwear allows salts, sands and debris to fall from shoes and become deposited in the nap or in a pit tray.  One of the cardinal sins of matting science is to put a soft matting segment over the top of an entry foyer trap or pit matting system.  In such cases the matting should be placed inside the lobby in order to dry the foot traffic.

Once the foot traffic has deposited any/all bulky soils the next matting segment should be able to “dry” shoe soles.  The “drying” segment should be of material that absorbs great quantities of moisture and in the height of a storm such segments should be replaced or wet vacuumed frequently to improve absorbency.   In the case of a wide or multi-entrance lobby investment in stanchions filtering or directing to fresh matting locations will enhance the soil and moisture introduction to your building.

Ideally you should have enough matting to provide a four par system:

a.       A clean segment in use

b.      A backup segment ready to install

c.       A freshly cleaned and drying segment

d.      A soiled segment scheduled to be cleaned

Many facilities use mat rental services and have found this a very convenient program.  However, it is important to monitor the matting that you are getting and to make sure the frequency is adequate for weather and traffic conditions at your location.  Most rental companies like to provide “specials” on matting that is easy for their delivery technicians to handle and may not be the best for your facility.  The four or six foot matting segment is most popular and priced to be more attractive than the mat that you may “really” need.

Undercover investigations have shown that some less than ethical rental firms “eyeball” the mat and replace or leave as appearance dictates.  You do not want a mat that is only 50% absorbent as a major storm approaches.  When shopping for matting through a rental service it is important to consider the possible benefit of ownership and the ROI that can be favorable on larger matting segments.

The other area that few people consider as a “matting” opportunity is the elevator.  It is where people can spend several minutes during which time melts the snow and ice from sides and tops of overshoes that did not come in contact with the entry matting. The elevator is a perfect place to mat during winter months. When considering matting for elevators and foyers it is important to select a size that provides full protection or “wall to wall” as exposed hard surfaces will require additional effort during cleaning rather than the vacuuming that is a designated service for matted surfaces.

Wishing you a safe and happy 2013.

John M. Moran