Best flooring options for stairwells in healthcare facilities

By Sophia Daukus / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
May 8, 2017

Every aspect of architecture and construction must be thoroughly evaluated when creating safe healthcare facilities that promote healing, while protecting the wellbeing of patients and staff members. With most of the focus directed toward lobby areas, well-trafficked hallways, and treatment rooms, the stairwells of hospitals and other medical facilities are often overlooked. 
But whether the stairway is subject to constant foot traffic or is tucked away for use only in cases of emergency, the materials of which it is composed play a huge role in its safety and durability. Installed as liquids and available in a variety of chemical formulations, epoxy flooring systems can meet the unique demands of these settings. 
The importance of evidence-based design
In facilities where typical occupants are likely to possess compromised immune systems or limited mobility, it is imperative that the flooring and other design elements promote safety and help minimize the risk of spreading infection. 
As the stakes are so high, many architectural and building professionals specializing in healthcare rely on evidence-based design (EBD) principles when planning the construction of a new facility. 
These principles rely on actual research that quantitatively measures the impact of different design elements on outcomes. The focus of this research is to identify design elements that:
• Improve the safety of both patients and staff
• Reduce the incidence of medical errors
• Minimize patient and staff stress
• Improve patient outcomes and recovery times
• Have a positive impact on patient and family experience
• Improve staff efficacy and satisfaction
• Produce an optimal return on investment
For flooring systems, particularly those installed on stairs in healthcare facilities, there are three key elements that are most important in generating positive outcomes: durability, slip resistance, and aesthetics.
Durability is obviously an important factor when choosing a flooring system. This is especially true in a healthcare setting where critical patient access can be affected by the required cordoning off of rooms that takes place whenever replacing or restoring a deteriorated floor. 
By minimizing the occurrence of such downtimes, the exceptionally long usable life of well-selected and installed epoxy flooring and other resinous systems offers a clear advantage. Today’s fast-turnaround formulas further reduce any inconvenience to patients and personnel during flooring installation.
In addition to the time and budgetary costs of insufficiently durable finishes, damaged traffic lanes also present a safety risks, particularly on stairs, where a fall is more likely to result in serious injury. 
Cracks, punctures, and gouges present dangerous trip hazards and simultaneously create places where dirt, debris and spilled substances can accumulate, despite the best housekeeping and facility hygiene protocols. 
Just like a tile floor with its grout lines or luxury vinyl with its heat-welded -- and potentially crack-prone -- joints, any breach in a flooring surface tends to quickly become the perfect dark, moist space for mold and pathogenic microorganisms to gather and flourish. 
High performance epoxy flooring is an ideal alternative in that it is fluid-applied and virtually seamless, and furnishes a heavy duty, monolithic surface possessing excellent resistance to punctures, cuts and abrasion.
Slip resistance
Slip and fall accidents in a healthcare facility present both a serious danger to patients and staff, and invite costly personal injury lawsuits. 
Slip resistance must always be prioritized as an element of a flooring system in a hospital or other medical setting, due to the high levels of foot traffic and the physical difficulties faced by many patients. 
Particularly in settings that provide emergency medical services, staff members need to be able to move quickly and confidently without fear of losing traction on a slippery floor surface. 
On stairs and stairwells, the need for slip-resistant flooring is even greater, as poor footing can result in devastating injury. 
Epoxy and other concrete floor coating systems installed by factory approved contractors offers customizable slip resistance, allowing for an ideal balance between optimal slip inhibiting characteristics and exceptional clean-ability. 
With epoxy flooring systems, healthcare facility managers need not choose between a great-looking floor and a functional, safe walking surface. Patients experience demonstrably better outcomes when their environment is comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, and inviting. 
Whether a highly visible mezzanine level staircase or an enclosed exit stairwell, every area used by patients and their families as well as staff and other visitors plays a role in tying together the overall design vision of the facility. Solid colors, chip blends, and even embedded logos or other graphics are all options with epoxy and other resinous floor coatings. 
Sophia Daukus is Marketing Communications Manager for Florock Polymer Flooring, manufactured in Chicago, Ill. 


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