Elizabeth Butcher, Segment Marketing Manager – Education & Healthcare at Tarkett, says the public sector can reimagine its approach to safety flooring thanks to advances in technology.

The UK has some of the most stringent rules and regulations around safety, and it is a key building design consideration for the public sector. It’s not hard to understand why when slips, trips and falls accounted for more than 46% of accidents in school environments over the last three years, whilst they cost the health service in excess of £133m a year, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The importance of having the correct safety flooring cannot therefore be overstated, and public sector organisations have a duty to ensure appropriate measures are taken in order to reduce the risks to both employees and visitors.


LOOK AND FEEL OF SAFETY FLOORS Whatever the setting, safety flooring also has a role to play in contributing to a positive environment, improving air quality and enhancing wellbeing. This is never more important when considering education or healthcare environments – where thoughtful interior design can help to foster productivity and even aid recovery.

When recommending the right slip resistance flooring, many contractors have focused on practical aspects such as safety, comfort of use and maintenance, whilst more often than not, aesthetic appeal was lower down the priority list. Historically this was because traditional safety flooring offered limited design choices due to its ‘speckled’ appearance. The black specks are very hard particles called silicon carbide, which ensure that slip resistance does not diminish over time. On the Mohs scale, which identifies hardness of the crystal from 0 to 10, the hardness of silicon measures 9.5. It may mean the flooring will not wear down after thousands of steps, but from a visual point of view, they are a source of frustration when it comes to creativity.

However, advances in material technology are now opening up greater design possibilities for safety flooring. A next generation transparent particle called aluminum oxide offers the same resistance benefits as the traditional ‘black specks’, but is invisible. Tarkett’s Safetred Design collections uses his product innovation to offer a wide range of colours and styles, including beautiful wood grains, a welcoming textile linen and the realism of natural stone.

Whilst the sustainably slip resistant floor meets the requirements of the manufacturing standard, EN 13845, Safetred also has exceptional air quality credentials with total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) levels 10 times lower than the most stringent European standards. Meanwhile, with all design available with an acoustic backing, the Safetred Acoustic product range can reduce the impact of sound by as much as 17dB, helping to reduce stress, fear and aggression whilst increasing learning capacity.

CLOSING THE LOOP As expectations around the aesthetic appeal of safety flooring grow, so too does the demand for sustainable products that can be recycled at the end of their life.

Traditionally, safety floors have been problematic in terms of recycling due to the nature of the aluminium oxide or carborundum inherent in them. Tarkett’s ReStart take-back programme allows them to extract these particles for down- cycling meaning more of the product can be recycled and reused for new flooring solutions. The Safetred Design range is also made using up to 40% recycled content.

With considered approaches, it’s clear that safety flooring can contribute to healthier spaces, are good for people and good for the environment, as well as offering visual appeal. PUBLIC SECTOR | 27

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