May 26/June 2, 2014; Volume 27/Number 28
By Louis Iannaco
Safety flooring—rubber or slip-resistant sheet vinyl—provides peace of mind in applications where moisture and harsh conditions dominate. Whether it be at the gym, in the hospital corridor or a high-traffic commercial setting, rubber and sheet vinyl are being used more often because of the safety they provide as well as their comfort and aesthetic appeal.
Following is a look at some of the latest safety-first products available today.
“Rubber has inherent anti-slip properties simply due to the nature of the material, but we don’t go out and sell it strictly as that,” said Ivan Stoler, president. The fashion-forward company offers a variety of colors and often works in public settings, “where people use rubber because they want a tactile surface. In healthcare, such as operating theaters and corridors, it is used a lot, as well as in public spaces, schools of higher education and corporate settings.”
Allstate is selling high quantities of sheet rubber, which features a smooth surface and non-directional patterns. “It also has fewer seams, and is stain resistant and antibacterial, so it fits in perfectly with the healthcare industry,” Stoler said.
Since 1947, slip-resistant sheet vinyl flooring products have been the core of Altro’s business. “We have more than 12 safety flooring products, all offering different features and benefits,” said Richard Finnegan, marketing manager. The company’s latest innovation is a loose lay sheet vinyl called Altro Xpresslay.
“The new trend has been no-adhesive, loose lay flooring,” Finnegan said. “We believe this trend will be the future of the industry. We created the world’s first adhesive-free safety sheet vinyl flooring by modifying our traditional Altro safety flooring to work in a loose lay system.”
Altro Xpresslay appears smooth on the surface but provides a high level of slip resistance when walked on, Finnegan added. “The pressure created by walking over the flooring causes slip-resistant aggregates embedded in the vinyl to push up and rub against the shoe, which creates friction. Because of this it remains slip resistant even when wet.”
When the company noticed a need to improve upon rubber flooring as a whole, American Biltrite created AB Pure rubber flooring. Specifically, traditional rubber floor formulations shed a yellow haze and kept the product from holding its color. “We went into R&D for over three years to make the first color perfect rubber, great for education, institutional, retail and healthcare environments,” noted Lora Di Fabio, product manager.
AB Pure is PVC and chlorine free, Floorscore certified for indoor air quality, treated to resist the growth of fungus and mold, does not contain latex (an allergen) and meets Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recommendations. Ingredients were also balanced for fire, smoke and wear resistance, Di Fabio noted.
According to Lori Dowling, president of Ecore commercial flooring, most people think of safety flooring as slip resistant—the type of product that will keep someone from slipping and falling. “That’s a big part of the safety floor market, but there’s also the secondary market, where our new products fit in. The question is if someone falls, how can we keep them from getting injured? So there are really two aspects to safety.”
A safety flooring that combines both rubber and vinyl is Forest RX, comprised of 5mm of Ecore’s recycled rubber backing with a vinyl surface on top. “We make surfaces for playgrounds and gyms, so the concept of making a floor with force reduction and properties that protect people is something we know a lot about,” Dowling explained.
Forest RX is constructed using Ecore’s Itstru technology, which fuses a wear layer to recycled rubber backing containing up to 97% post-consumer rubber. “Itstru allows for greater design diversity and more sustainable options for education, health and fitness, retail and healthcare spaces,” she concluded.
The unique property of rubber, according to John Aten, vice president of sales, is its high coefficient of friction, which makes it an inherently safe flooring option. “This gives rubber flooring high anti-slip properties that work great in dry conditions and wet. It far exceeds the ADA limit requirements of a safety floor.”
Regupol’s AktivPro rubber flooring, a 1-inch-thick tile, provides durability and slip resistance, shock absorption and is comfortable underfoot, Aten noted, “where people are going to be standing all day, such as in a commercial setting. We can customize the base of that material to provide even more shock absorption, which is going to add greater ergonomic value for the people standing on the floor.”
Because of AktivPro’s high slip coefficient, it can be installed in areas where hard surfaces were used before, Aten noted. “From a safety standpoint, it can be used in a locker room, [for example], where you have moisture coming out of the shower onto the floor.”
Rolling Traffic transitions, AlphaBase and Ribbed Rubber Inserts are three rubber options from Roppe. Rolling Traffic transitions are designed to promote minimal reaction between flooring systems where rolling loads such as wheelchairs, hospital beds or shopping carts may be present, while AlphaBase was designed to provide signage at the floor to direct traffic flow in the event of smoke/fire or where buildings require direction to promote safety or handicap accessibility. Lastly, Ribbed Rubber Inserts for Roppe’s rubber stair treads have been a popular choice where abrasive strips were the only option to promote safety for the visually impaired at the top and bottom of stairs, and at stair landings.