CAMFIL HVAC Filtration Solutions

Preventing Staircase Falls

A new generation of epoxy floor coating solutions is preventing slips and falls more effectively in high traffic areas

In commercial facilities across the United States, the most common technique for preventing slip and fall accidents on stairs is the application of non-skid adhesive tapes or epoxy coatings embedded with aggregate. The appeal of this approach is that untrained personnel can quickly and easily apply the protection. However, for high traffic stairways, tape can peel off creating a trip hazard, and coatings abrade away quickly – requiring reapplication every few months to maintain safety standards.

Advances in durable high-tech epoxy are now ensuring superior stair tread footing, safety, and visibility for years without re-application.

The Slip and Fall Epidemic

Slips and falls are a leading factor in workers’ compensation claims, accounting for 15 per cent of all accidental deaths (second only to the 25 per cent reported for motor vehicle accidents) according to the The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), with the institute stating further: “Injuries from falls of all types cause a variety of strains, sprains, fractures, contusions, concussions, back injuries, paralysis, as well as fatalities, particularly when the fall is from a height.”

The risk of a serious fall on stairs inevitably increases when people are inattentive, looking at their smartphones, talking with others, or carrying items. The slip and fall hazard – both in terms of physical injury and potential liability – only increases when the stairs are wet and slippery, or the area is not well illuminated.

To dramatically improve facility safety, enhancing the traction, feel, and visibility of stair treads is the most effective means of reducing slip and fall incidents and injuries. 

A Long-Term Safety Solution

Improving the traction of stair treads to improve safety is not a new concept. However, most options on the market are decidedly low-tech, such as applying non-skid adhesive tape or a coating with embedded aggregate to each tread. 

“We have nice tile stairs throughout the property, and could not find anything that would adequately stick to the porcelain,” says Harry Ramos, Head of Facilities at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach”, who also notes  spiked golf shoes, rain, and hot, humid weather dramatically shorten the lifespan of paint systems by causing peeling and chipping.

Ranis observes that when a seller of a high-traffic paint system suggested a primer be applied to undercoat an epoxy coating, the solution remained unsatisfactory with spiked golfing shoes chipping and deteriorating the paint barely a week after its application.

Another common solution at many facilities is the application of a non-skid tape embedded with aggregate. However, if the adhesive does not adhere well to the surface, it can peel off and become a trip hazard within a few months. The aggregate in the tape is only lightly embedded on the surface as well, and in high traffic areas can quickly wear away. In addition to reducing safety, poorly maintained stairs with worn coatings or peeling tape portray a shoddy, unprofessional image as well.

Fortunately, Ramos discovered a more durable epoxy paste consisting of 100 per cent solids from Form-A-Tread Company which has provided an extremely strong bond to a range of stair tread surfaces, with embedded aggregate to increase traction. 

The epoxy paste can be used indoors or outdoors as well as exposed to chemicals, weather, and temperature extremes. The bond is so strong that a chisel or angle grinder is required to remove the stair tread line, an advantage in high traffic areas.

In the case of Bear Lakes Country Club, the paste has improved safety and continues to minimize the possibility of members slipping on stairs given the hot, humid, and wet weather in Florida.  

Ramos says: “The epoxy sticks to just about anything – including the porcelain tile – and really lasts. A year after we applied the epoxy to our stairs the original [tread] traction is still there, and I do not see any wear and tear.  It looks like it was applied last week.

“The epoxy dried enough that it could be walked on in only a few hours, even here in Florida. That meant we didn’t need to shut down the stairs for too long.”

The high-strength epoxy paste is designed to be easy to apply to stair treads by even untrained personnel. In a kit supplied by Form-A-Tread, there is a 400 ml cartridge of material that can produce 25 and 40 linear feet of one-inch-wide tread. A special tool is then used to dispense and mix the material at the time of application in the correct ratio – eliminating the risk of human error. 

The kit includes a stencil system, so the one-inch-wide tread lines remain clean, neat, and parallel. In addition to straight line treads, instructions such as “Exit Here”, or a corporate logo can be applied using the material and a stencil.

For added safety, the 100 per cent epoxy tread line does not shrink and so provides a superior tactile sensation that creates greater awareness of footing when climbing or descending stairs. 

The product is available in black and safety yellow to delineate the edge of each stair tread. To increase safety in low light, indoor facility settings, the company also offers a photoluminescent version of the stair tread safety product which glows-in-the-dark to provide greater visibility.

Facility managers like Ramos have long sought to improve the safety of stairs. However, the traditional methods of adding traction and visibility to stair treads are short-lived and high maintenance. With advanced durable all-solid epoxy pastes that adhere to stair treads for many years, facility managers now have an easy-to-use tool that can improve safety for the long-term.

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CAMFIL HVAC Filtration Solutions

Staff Reporter covers the latest news, trends and opinion from the facilities management (FM) and corporate real estate (CRE) sectors. The FM market is currently estimated to be worth USD 1 trillion annually and is projected to grow at a compounded annualised rate of approximately 5% between now and 2026.

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