Programmed for Results

May 1, 2000
Establishing a floor-care maintenance program can reduce costs, improve safety and enhance a school's appearance.

No matter how hard you work to enhance a school building's appearance, dirty floors can immediately detract from a facility's overall image and reputation.

That can become obvious in the winter: a building that accumulates one pound of dirt on its floors in the summer can collect 12 to 15 pounds when the weather is cold and wet.

But floor care is not only a winter chore. A year-round floor-care maintenance program is the best way to keep your floors clean.

Floor maintenance can be difficult. School campuses often comprise several buildings with thousands of square feet of floors. Each building may have a variety of floor surfaces and traffic levels. Nonetheless, the importance of floor care goes beyond mere maintenance.

A preventive program will help you meet the challenge floor care presents, provide increased safety, help employees remain trained properly and decrease costs by adding to the life of a floor surface.

More than meets the eye Keeping costs down is a high priority for facility managers. Investing in prevention can save money. You can lessen the need for expensive floor-care processes, such as stripping and refinishing, by regularly performing preventive tasks with the proper equipment and techniques.

Liability issues are a concern for maintenance professionals in schools and colleges, and floor care is no exception. Slips, trips and falls are the leading cause of occupational accidents and result in more than 300,000 disabling injuries each year, according to the National Safety Council. These accidents often occur on wet or dirty surfaces.

Image is important in education. Attractive floors reflect positively on the image of a school campus and its staff, and exemplify the institution's commitment to cleanliness and appearance.

No train, no gain Keeping floors clean, safe and attractive doesn't have to be complex, but it does require attention to detail.

The key to any maintenance program is the people performing the work. Establish a thorough training program with regular review sessions so your housekeeping staff knows what the school expects of them. In addition, trained employees are more likely to follow industry regulations and guidelines.

Regularly scheduled training sessions on floor-care techniques should be interactive and hands-on, and include skills testing and performance evaluations. Common teaching methods include lectures, demonstrations and videos. In some cases, facility managers are turning to technology-delivered methods of learning, such as CD-ROM-based programs that can be customized to an individual facility's maintenance needs. The technology allows a school to cuts costs, improve effectiveness and keep a record of employee progress.

Mats Matter Effective entrance matting can remove nearly 100 percent of dirt and water from people's shoes by the time they reach a floor surface.

As much as 80 percent of the dust, dirt and grime in a building is tracked through entrances and can damage floors and carpets permanently. According to reports by the International Sanitary Supply Association, it can cost more than $500 to remove a pound of dirt after it has been tracked into a building.

Further studies indicate that without adequate matting, just 1,500 people entering a building will remove 42 percent of a floor's finish within the first six feet of an entrance.

Because schools and colleges usually consist of several buildings with many entrances, you need to evaluate variables, such as traffic levels and climate, when choosing a matting system. An ideal entrance matting system should include two to three mat components: a 15-foot outside mat, a five-foot foyer mat, if applicable, and a 10-foot inside mat. That totals 30 feet of matting.

To produce the highest results, matting should remove, trap, hold and hide the dirt it collects; dirt and water should not simply collect on the mat's surface. An effective mat will allow the dirt to absorb right into the mat, reducing the possibility that others will track it onto the floor.

Over time, entrance matting pays for itself through reduced labor expenses and floor-replacement costs, and increased safety to students, employees and visitors.

Floor pad power Floor pads and brushes represent less than 1 percent of the total cost of maintaining a floor, but they pack a much more powerful punch than their expense reflects. Floor pads and brushes attach to drive assemblies of floor cleaning machines.

It's important to choose the proper pad. The most expensive, highest-quality mechanical floor-care equipment will be ineffective if you're using the wrong pad.

Since their introduction in 1958, non-woven floor pads have been some maintenance workers' tool of choice to clean hard floors. Floor pads are effective for cleaning smooth surfaces, but they are not designed to clean uneven surfaces. For uneven surfaces, such as tiled floors in restrooms or other surfaces with irregularities, floor brushes are the most effective.

Floor pads clean, strip, scrub, buff and burnish. The type of floor pad you use depends on which job you are doing.

-Cleaning. Everyday soil removal requires a light, non-aggressive floor pad that will not dull, damage or remove the floor's finish.

-Stripping and scrubbing. Performed at the start of a floor- care program, these processes require aggressive floor pads designed for use at low speeds.

-Buffing. Floor pads designed for buffing or spray buffing remove scuffs and heel marks while polishing the floor and providing a glossy finish.

-Burnishing. High-speed burnishing, which can repair finish and improve the gloss of a floor's surface, requires a floor pad designed for use with an electric, battery or propane floor machine.

There are several qualities to look for when purchasing floor pads and brushes. The product should perfrom consistently. Because floor pads often get clogged with chemicals and dirt, a pad that is easily cleaned is desirable. A floor pad or brush also should be compatible with your existing floor- care equipment.

Chemical control The chemicals used to clean, finish, coat and seal hard floors will enhance the shine and gloss of a building's floors.

Traditionally, when maintenance professionals used chemicals, such as floor strippers and disinfectants, they often had to manually mix and dilute chemicals for the job. Inappropriately mixing chemicals can result in waste, hazard to employees and floor surfaces, and an unnecessary loss of inventory.

This has led to the development of "cleaning chemical management systems." They provide a way to properly formulate the correct chemicals for the job by automatically mixing and diluting the cleaning chemicals.

Examples of cleaning chemical management systems include tip-and-pour devices, faucet systems, gravity-fed dilution systems and electric blenders. These devices can reduce the opportunity for inaccuracy and waste by automatically measuring, blending and dispensing the cleaning solution.

Making the grade A building's maintenance needs constantly change, especially with the seasons, so you should evaluate a floor- maintenance program regularly to ensure efforts are worth the time and energy.

Look for improved appearance and reduced labor costs. Are the preventive measures saving the maintenance program money? Are expensive floor-care processes performed less often, and are floors lasting longer? By assessing the quality of employees' work, the performance of your equipment and the proper use of chemicals, you can determine the right amount of floor-care maintenance for each facility on campus, and stop unwanted buildup on your bottom line.

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