How to make sure your wooden floor isn’t a safety hazard
Every year, thousands of people in the UK are injured through slips and trips. While many of those occur outdoors, a large proportion of them are on polished interior surfaces. Wooden floors, especially highly polished and varnished floors, do represent a potential hazard. But there are ways in which you can ensure that your wooden floor doesn’t become a slippery problem, and that everyone using it stays safe.
Don’t overdo the Pledge…
While a polished, gleaming floor may be your aim, over-polishing not only creates a potential slipping hazard, but can also eventually damage the surface of your floor. To keep them in pristine condition, wooden floors should be polished once every three to four months. In between a simple routine of cleaning with a mop is sufficient to keep your wooden floor looking perfect.
Avoid using astringent cleaners such as vinegar and water combinations, as they will dull the floor’s surface over time. Soap-based cleaners and wax cleaners can leave a residue that really takes the shine off your hardwood floors. A specialist cleaner that is designed for wooden floors is the best option, and these are readily available in most stores.
A decent finish
While DIY floor sanding may be tempting if you’re on a budget, it can result in a less than perfect finish. Gaps in the floor boards, lumps and bumps and even the odd nailhead sticking up can all result in injuries through slips, trips and falls. Make sure your floor is blemish-free and not only will it look better, but it will also help you avoid any safety hazards.
Rugs – the biggest hazard
One of the biggest hazards on polished wooden floors is the use of rugs. While a beautiful rug laid on top of a polished wooden floor might complement your décor perfectly, it can be lethal. The easiest way to avoid slips and trips is to use specially designed rug backing or pads underneath – but be aware that there are a few things to consider before you use these to stop your rugs slipping on polished wooden floors.
While some may be advertised as safe for hardwood surfaces, they can cause discoloration. The reason is that some wooden floor finishes are polyurethane-based, and need to be allowed to ‘breathe’. Rubber underlay for rugs will inhibit the air flow over the surface of the floor, eventually causing discoloration.
It is also wise to talk to your flooring experts about what kind of finishing products have been used on your wooden floors. Rugs that contain a PVC mix or plasticizers can also permanently discolour your floor boards, so look for breathable backing products made from recycled polyurethane foam. You can use a rubber backing by attaching a breathable pad between the rubber backing and the floor surface. This will ensure that the airflow is not inhibited. Whatever you do, don’t use carpet tape to ‘stick’ mats to the wooden surface. The glue used in this tape will cause real damage to a beautifully polished wooden floor, and worse still will not prevent the mat or rug from slipping eventually.
Watch out for wet surfaces
If you are a business owner or are in charge of an area that is accessed by the public then you have a responsibility to ensure that your wooden floor is safe to use. During cleaning, you are required to put out warning signs indicating if a wooden floor surface is particularly slippery due to it being wet or recently polished. Failure to do so could lead to you being sued for compensation if a member of the public slips or falls.