Industrial Floor Coatings – Are They Safe For Workers?

It’s important for factories and other manufacturing related facilities to provide for industrial floor coatings. Floor coatings provide surface stability, environmental cleanliness as well as aesthetics. Safety is also an important factor in the need to have industrial floor coatings. Companies that provide for industrial floor coatings reduce the risk of accidents due to excess or lack of traction however after several decades, the environmental safety of using these coatings are now in question.

Industrial floor coatings provide a stable, non-broken surface (given the substrate is also hole or crack- free) for staff and products to move on. The coating also serves to protect the substrate from the wear and tear of wheel and foot traffic. Also, the smoother the surface, the faster people and products move. Coatings also provide a sense of order and cleanliness. Brighter coatings also add to the ambient lighting of the workplace. Safety comes into play because industrial floor coatings made from polyurethane or like materials provide sufficient traction to avoid accidents as against ordinary rough concrete/soil floors or overly smooth concrete/tiled flooring. Aside from commercial uses, industrial coatings are also best for gymnasiums and facilities for indoor sports.

However, the use of conventional polyurethane coatings is not without its own hazards. The material, polyurethane, that we’ve used for decades for industrial floor coatings is not safe in itself. The manufacture of polyurethane, a prime ingredient for industrial coatings involves the use of toxic chemicals known as isocyanates. Normally and preferably, isocyanates lose their toxicity after bonding with the other chemicals that form the polyurethane. They become inert. However, recent studies have shown that not all of the applied isocyanates completely bond with the other ingredients leaving behind what is known as post-reactive isocyanates. These post-reactive isocyanates are present in the fumes the coating generates during application on floors and other surfaces of a building.

Application personnel that lack sufficient protective equipment become susceptible to these fumes. Employees are exposed to these chemicals in minute amounts during their day-to-day interactions with the workplace and the facility’s products can become tainted as well. These chemicals also leech into the environment when the coating is disposed for replacement. The effects of isocyanates of the human body include asthma, vomiting, as well as chest and throat irritation. Exposure to large amounts is fatal.

Such dangers then contradict the premise of safety on the use of polyurethane coatings. The risk was not known until recently but floor coatings have remained essential in the industry. Fortunately, new advances in technology has given rise to the manufacture of a non-toxic polyurethane alternative known as green polyurethane. Non-toxic or green polyurethane does not make use of chemically-bonded isocyanates but instead binds its ingredients at the ‘nano’ or atomic level. The ingredients lock together or intertwine to form an impermeable substance with the same properties as polyurethane.

Modern manufacturing techniques, also ensure that excess toxic chemicals are filtered out from the finished product. Thus choosing green polyurethane over conventional polyurethane renders the premise of safety of using industrial floor coatings complete. As green polyurethane continues to grow in popularity, floor coatings as well as other materials that use polyurethane become safer and the industries that use them can breathe safely.

100% Solid Floor Coatings – A Material Selection Guide for Facilities

Normally, facility managers select the materials that they need for their floor coatings systems, with a mind to minimize costs and still get quality performance. Materials selection is not a simple process of going to the nearest store and buying the products. To achieve cost and performance benefits, a careful selection process for the best-manufactured products should be observed.

Factors in Floor Coatings Selection

For floor coatings systems, in particular, facility managers have to study the properties and costs of existing products. They also factor in the specific requirements and conditions of the floors. For instance, if the floor is made of concrete material, and it has sustained cracks and holes, then the facility manager may need a 100%-solid concrete filler to fix the problem and restore the floor’s original good condition.

Once it has been determined that a 100%-solid concrete formulation will get the job done, price considerations come into play. The facility manager then compares properties and pricing to narrow down the floor coatings choice. When product manufacturers price their products, they cost it on the basis of expected and deliverable performance, as determined by laboratory testing and analysis. They also weigh in the quality of the raw materials they used in the formulation. Facility managers, on the other hand, must weigh the floor coatings’ cost not only in terms of its properties or performance alone, but also if it is able to meet the specific requirements of the facility floors.

The Material Selection Guide

Material selection for floor coatings involves comparing products and getting the best-fit product for facility requirements. The properties of each product are compared both technically and economics-wise. To get to the most appropriate product, the facility manager must rely on accurate information about the products as a basis for his or her decision-making.

This guide to material selection is provided by the manufacturer’s product information sheet or, as often the case, by the material safety data sheet (MSDS). These sources of information provide a complete profile about the product and lists down the properties of each.

The selection guide is often a lengthy document, because every product feature is disclosed. The general product profile is outlined, and the rest of the guide contains technical application methodologies — from surface preparation, mixing, handling and even disposal of the floor coatings product.

Product Profile for 100% Solid Formulations

The material selection guide for 100% solid floor coatings may contain the generic description of the product and its common usage, such as whether it is to be used as a filler, surfacer, or for patching holes and cracks. The guide will also indicate surface suitability, be it concrete or steel surface, or application acceptability, such as in water tank interiors, as protective coatings, or whether or not the product requires a topcoat.

The product guide will disclose the technical properties of the coating system and the appropriate methodologies to handle the product. For steel applications for example, the recommended surface preparation may be according to SSPC-SP6/NACE 3 or SSPC-SP10/NACE 2 blast cleaning with a minimum mil anchor profile. For concrete applications, the curing days will be indicated, with a dryness verification test conforming to ASTM D 4263 or “plastic film tapedown test”.

Lastly, safety recommendations are also contained therein, such as the amount of volatile organic compounds that the floor coatings product may contain, and the proper handling, equipments, gears, and safety precautions that must be observed when handling these products.

High-Performance Warehouse Floor Coatings

Floor cracks, tiny rents, increased slip potential, decreased hygiene — these are a few signs that warehouse floor coatings are falling apart. The facility must then take the necessary steps to restore the coatings system back to its former good condition. The search is on for the highest-performing coatings to restore warehouse floors.

The search is easy in today’s age of technological advancements. Coatings have been improved to amazing levels, allowing facility managers the freedom to choose from a variety of high-performance warehouse floor coatings. The market is now filled with advanced formulations with modified chemical properties. Super-paints that bond well, harden better, and cure quickly. They are more durable, more resistant to many types of damage, and have improved aesthetics. Warehouse floor coatings of today provide higher value for money than before.

Taken for Granted, but Not Forgotten, Warehouse Floors

When floor coatings perform well, they do so silently. Good floor conditions allow for unimpeded pedestrian and mechanical traffic. The coating system is a silent workhorse that protects floors better and preserves floor quality longer. When no cracks, tears or adverse floor conditions cause skids, slips or accidents from happening, then the warehouse floor coatings system is doing its job quite well.

The key is in choosing the right coatings based on the types of hazards that warehouse floors are commonly exposed to. Commercial and industrial facilities have their warehouses exposed to chemicals, corrosive and abrasive agents, and load impacts. Resistance to such damage agents is essential. These coatings should also stand up to varying environmental conditions such as cold and hot temperatures, water intrusion and soaring humidity.

The Right Paint for Warehouse Floors

Painting contractors today specify and use floor coatings that are a product of modern paint technology. Improved chemistries have increased the adhesive bonding and imbued coatings with excellent resistance against most damage catalysts. Why go for already obsolete technology that can no longer guarantee a failure-proof coatings application? Even raw materials used to manufacture modern paints have been enhanced to increase the performance of warehouse floor coatings.

In today’s culture of information-sharing, paint manufacturers are also releasing results of laboratory performance testing done to their products. This has also become a good source of information for facility managers and painting contractors to better assess the coating quality prior to actual purchase.

Technology enhancements may be a given criteria in choosing the best warehouse floor coatings, but this must meet halfway with the facility’s own unique performance criteria. Ease of applicability, high tolerance to the environment, and paints that improve floor appearance are also a must.

Also important is the facility’s preference for environment-friendly warehouse floor coatings that are VOC regulations-compliant and do not release hazardous substances to the environment.

Conclusion

It is very important to restore floor coatings back to their good condition when they fall to damages, to avoid interruptions to facility operations and pose safety risks to facility occupants. Chemistry-modified coatings offer better performance than old paints. Facility managers are given more options to choose from, but they must keep in mind that practical requirements such as ease-of-use, cost, and the specific need of the facility’s warehouse are still relevant factors to consider.