From the outside a warehouse may seem more-or-less like a gigantic, uncomplicated box – but warehouse operators know that internally there’s an intricate web of complex activity on the go that can involve heavy equipment, expensive assets and safety hazards.
While it’s easy to overlook, the floor area is a crucial element of this environment and if well designed and correctly specified, this part of the building will help to increase productivity, reduce maintenance concerns and minimizes slip risks.
The principle requirement for the floor is that it provides a level and dependable surface for the movement of people and equipment, and it must reliably do so despite heavy loads and trafficking from hard rubber and steel-wheeled forklift vehicles that could quickly damage an insufficiently robust flooring system.
Should the floor finish fail then it instantly affects the safety and operational capabilities of the warehouse while at the same time lowering the building’s value and incurring high repair and refurbishment costs.
Resin floor coatings have become a popular choice for warehouse and distribution centres thanks to the ability of these solutions to provide a robust platform that can withstand the on-site challenges for an extended period of time while simultaneously providing additional operational benefits.
Epoxy solutions are available that have been tailored to resist substantial point loading and hard rubber and steel-wheeled forklift traffic while at the same time ensuring surface flatness. For environments that need a floor finish able to withstand the most intense working conditions, thick polyurethane coatings can be installed to ensure that the floor won’t deteriorate when faced with the site’s daily operational activity.
As a general rule, the thicker the system the longer its service life and the better able it will be to withstand damage from heavy impacts, chemicals and extreme temperatures. This highlights the value of having a detailed knowledge of the site’s future use to avoid specifying an inadequate finish that will crack when faced with the reality of the building’s workload.
Many simple aspects of the working day could lead to an impact or wear related floor failure. If the coating is a thin system, then a heavy impact could expose the substrate and this chip could become an area where oils, water, chemicals and greases can infiltrate the underlying concrete and undermine the coating – causing mass delamination and serious cleanliness problems.
The floor’s impact resistance requirement should be tailored to the environment, the higher the chance and severity of impact, the thicker the floor coating should be to protect the critical bond layer where the coating meets the concrete.
Anticipated traffic loadings need to be particularly accounted for, as just a hand pallet truck when fully loaded could weigh in excess of 1 tonne. When repeatedly moved this will put a lot of pressure into the floor, especially over areas where it is being pulled in a tight turning circle. The compressive strength of the floor system can be used to determine its suitability to the task at hand.
To avoid the potentially dangerous build up of unwanted substances, the seamless nature of resin floors makes them quick and easy to clean. This type of flooring can also be laid to a fall so that wastewater flows effortlessly into stainless steel drains incorporated into the finish. The site’s hygienic integrity could be a significant issue if the warehouse is used to store contamination sensitive produce such as pharmaceuticals, medical equipment or food & beverage items.
In the majority of warehouses, the need to make efficient use of the space often means reducing aisle widths, having high ceilings and selecting Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) racking systems. This in turn requires specialised VNA Lift Trucks or Materials Handling Equipment (MHE), which can reach heights of 18m or more. The clearance between the sides of the lift truck with the pallet it carries and the racking may only be 100 – 150 mm on each side.
This makes floor flatness critical, especially when dealing with a high ceilinged space where the safe operation of high-lifting equipment is paramount, as surface unevenness can lead to excessive vibration on a lift truck, especially when the trucks are moving at maximum speed. With flat floors, health & safety is increased while operator tiredness is decreased. The risk of damage to stock is also minimised, with no risk of racking collapsing as a result of uneven surfaces.
Having the right building design and safety practices is essential to avoiding accidents in what can be a prime environment for serious harm to come to employees or for goods in storage to be damaged if the area is not properly managed.
The slip resistance of the floor is key to reducing the number of accidents. This can make a real difference in the areas where heavy foot traffic and spillages of lubricants, oils and fuel is common. Aggregates can be broadcast into resin floor coatings to enhance its anti-slip profile while maintaining an attractive, seamless coating.
Having a lot of free floor area is not just about the size of the building, but it’s also about how the floor area is utilised. Clever use of walkways, on-site navigation and workflow can all help warehouse facilities make the best use of the available space.
Some warehouse or distribution centres will be bound by regulations that require them to have clearly identifiable walkways and emergency paths as well as boundaries that must be kept clear for passage purposes. Bright and clear signage on the floor is ideal for meeting this requirement. The clever use of floor signage can even help to maximise the available floor space by marking out the best positions for entry, exit or storage.
The vibrant colour of resin floors makes them aesthetically pleasing and warehouse designers can make use of the wide variety of colour options to differentiate between various zones.
When specifying the floor within a warehouse it is important to talk through all of these points with the flooring supplier to ensure that the chosen system will be able to withstand conditions on-site while simultaneously providing safety, signage and longevity advantages.
For further details:
Flowcrete India Private Limited
“Ganesh Towers”, Door no: B-1, 1st Avenue,
Ashok Nagar, Chennai – 600 083.
Tel: +91 44 4017 6600.