Commercial floor coatings make healthier workplaces

by Peter Morgan
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As industrial facilities get larger and production processes get faster to cope with increasing global demand, plant designers still have to make sure that they adhere to regulations and guidelines set down by standards agencies, accreditation bodies and health and safety organisations.

There are challenging conditions and demands on modern business. One very important one is ensuring that the workplace is safe and comfortable for staff and visitors. The floor of any workplace is a key component that is increasingly being seen as a vital part of meeting certification requirements.

Some industrial workplaces, such as research laboratories, food processing plants or hospitals, place a range of additional stresses on any flooring used. Flooring may be exposed to corrosive substances such as fats, hot oils, blood, sugar solutions and food acids.

In addition, there may be multiple sources of thermal shock, such as blasts of -25 degrees Celsius air from an open cold storage unit or steam cleaning at 120 degrees Celsius. Rigorous cleaning processes using caustic solutions or chlorine-based solutions also place a lot of stress on any floor covering.

Preparing a floor and applying a flooring system requires a special range of skills and understanding of the physical nature of the material being handled. It is essential that time is spent at the planning stage to ensure that the customer’s expectations are matched.

For the majority of its flooring projects, Rhino Linings Australasia (RLA) produces a range of 100 percent solids epoxy coatings. The term ‘100 percent solids’ means that whatever is put on the floor is what stays there – nothing is lost as solvent.

The structure of the polymer used for industrial flooring has to be resistant to abrasion and chemical attack. The good mechanical, chemical and heat resistant properties of an epoxy coating are obtained by reacting the linear epoxy resin molecules with suitable curatives to form three-dimensional cross-linked thermoset structures in a process commonly referred to as curing.

[quote style=’1′ cite=”]Preparing a floor and applying a flooring system requires a special range of skills and understanding of the physical nature of the material being handled.[/quote]

Most epoxy resin/hardener combinations will cure at ambient temperature, but some need heat for the most effective curing. Insufficient heat during the curing process will result in a network with incomplete polymerisation, and thus reduced mechanical, chemical and heat resistance.

There are many constraints that have to be considered for a successful floor-coating project. It is essential that the floor is clean, dry and free from contaminants. Prior to applying any coating, a floor must be properly prepared, which usually means that it should be ‘scarified’ or ‘shot blasted’ to give it the correct profile to ensure optimum adhesion.

While the ideal situation would be to apply a floor coating system to the clear, open expanse of a new warehouse, the majority of projects are remedial, where the system has to be applied around, under or through existing equipment or furniture.

If the coating can be applied in one application to any thickness, and has rapid curing properties, this dramatically reduces the downtime normally associated with multi-coat flooring systems. A RLA flooring system will not need repainting in the short term and will provide many years of service, which also saves money by reducing maintenance expenditure and minimising interruptions to operations.

Customers will always want a quick return to service, with no smell and a rapid cure time. This is even more important where food is handled. Some floor coating materials have a high solvent content, which is usually because they are less expensive and easier to spread on the substrate. Methyl methacrylate is one high-solvent coating that is still used by some applicators.

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For many years there has been extensive research carried out on water-based coatings. The earliest coatings did not have the same strength or durability, but technology and materials have greatly improved the quality and usability of water-based versions.

It is also possible to adapt epoxy flooring systems to provide a non-slip surface for safety. Anti-slip properties are achieved by incorporating various grades of aggregate into the floorings system to achieve the desired anti-slip rating.

The appearance of the flooring can be made an integral part of the health and safety regime of a workplace. Bright colours can differentiate between various zones and can be used to highlight hazardous areas, while glossy tones can make the working environment more pleasant for the staff.

For the food and beverage industry, flooring materials must be able to withstand the sector’s fast pace while effectively minimising contamination risks. Seamless, impervious finishes, such as epoxies, stop contaminants hiding within hard to clean gaps where they can multiply. Durability goes hand in hand with this, as the floor will be subjected to many causes of damage that could turn into an unsightly, unsafe and unsanitary surface. RLA’s range of flooring systems provides these durability and permeability requirements.

The company’s spray or brush-applied industrial surface coatings will not crack, peel or warp. The coatings are highly resistant to impact and abrasion, in additional to being almost impervious to oils, fuels and a wide range of chemical solvents.

When changing the flooring of an industrial site, another consideration is the cleaning protocols required. The cleansing agents and application methods are very different for traditional tiles and a non-slip, epoxy-based flooring system.

Based on the Gold Coast, RLA is an Australian manufacturer of spray-applied high-build polyurethane and polyurea linings and coatings, and also has an extensive range of epoxy and polyaspartic flooring products. The company sources all of its materials from Australian suppliers, except for some specialised chemicals, which are imported from the parent company in the US. Being a local manufacturer allows the company to be more responsive to customer requests.

All coatings developed by Rhino Linings are regularly tested to ensure they comply with the latest standards. Our staff really understands the chemistry of the product. They have a great depth of knowledge and experience about these products along with their application.

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