As with everything else around us, floors and floor care are changing almost as fast as we walk on them.
A wide a variety of new surfaces from around the world are entering the marketplace and showing up under foot where you work, live and play.
At the recent SURFACES Floor Covering Show in Las Vegas, I was awed by the number of booths from China displaying every type of floor covering imaginable.
Hard flooring used to be dominated by vinyl composition tile (VCT) made in the USA.
This surface is now being replaced by vinyl laminates, also known as luxury vinyl flooring, from around the world.
These tiles, planks and sheet goods can be made to resemble any type of floor covering from wood to stone and come prefinished with a mineral impregnated wear layer that resists wear, abrasion, scratches and soiling.
For the most part, these new surfaces require little to no finish or refinishing.
In my mind, these new surfaces spell the end of the era of stripping and refinishing of hard floors.
They do need scrubbing and dry soil removal, but refinishing is not in the maintenance specification for these products.
Other trends include tremendous growth in the use of wood, ceramics, stone and concrete in both residential and commercial properties.
It is important to note that concrete is the fastest growing segment of new flooring materials impacting all markets today.
Whether it be polished and densifed, coated, colored, stained or stamped, concrete is the 900 pound gorilla in the room.
New concrete floors can be self-cleaning and flexible — and it wouldn''t surprise me to see soft concrete within the next few years.
Green and sustainable are the keywords of today.
In fact, some companies are no longer using the term chemicals to describe their cleaning products.
Solvents, volatile organic compounds (VOC) and chemicals are no longer welcome in the workplace or the home.
Customers, end-users, the public and the government are aware and asking questions about toxic contents, odors, gases, disposal and packaging.
At the same time, there has been an explosion of different types of coatings that can be applied to floors.
In an effort to reduce labor costs, water-based multi-component products, ultraviolet (UV) coatings cured with light, epoxies and hybrid densifiers are finding their way on to concrete, wood, stone and vinyl tile.
Over the last couple of years, several companies have introduced cleaning processes that do not require the use of water, detergents or strippers for daily or periodic floor care.
These innovations require that we rethink how, with what and when we clean, maintain and restore floors in all types of facilities.
Safety, Training And Certification
Slips, trips and falls are a major concern for cleaning professionals, building owners and insurance companies.
This means that, as floor care professionals, we must protect ourselves, our customers and employers by taking aggressive measures to prevent slips, trips and falls in the workplace.
This includes requiring the use of barricades, blockades, safety tape, wet signs, off-hour scheduling and anti-slip footwear.
Wet signs are not adequate protection or prevention; at a minimum, work areas must be isolated with caution tape — and better yet, blockaded and barricaded whenever possible to reduce the risk and exposure of slip, trip and fall injuries and claims.
All workers should be required to wear anti-slip footwear when assigned to scrub, strip and refinish projects.
There are too many risks and too much liability to fail to provide ongoing training for all cleaning workers.
The day is fast approaching when you won''t be able to put a person on the job that hasn''t completed a comprehensive training program.
It''s already happening in the fire, water and mold restoration industries, and it''s only a matter of time before training and third-party certification will be required for those who clean homes and commercial buildings.
I could list page after page of resources, but your best source today is Google; learn to use it.
Make keeping yourself and key staff members up to date with changes and new technology regarding cleaning an important and ongoing part of your daily responsibility as a professional cleaner.
Wm R. Griffin is president of the International Custodial Advisors Network Inc. (ICAN). ICAN is a non-profit association comprised of industry consultants with a wide range of expertise in building management, indoor environmental and service disciplines. This network provides free janitorial and building maintenance consultation service to the industry through the Cleaning Management Institute.