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Mid Atlantic Lab Flooring

Durable Flooring for Life Science & Pharmaceutical Facilities

Flooring design choices play a crucial role in lab safety

by Sophia Daukus
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Life science organizations and pharmaceutical companies operate in unique environments, where high-concentration chemicals, sensitive electronic equipment, and extreme temperatures can be part of the daily routine. In these high-risk conditions, the safeguarding of employees, costly machinery, and valuable research data is critical. Yet as scientific investigations evolve to reach new levels of complexity, maintaining facility safety becomes ever more challenging. Ubiquitous throughout the building, optimal facility flooring can play an important role in supporting GMPs and efficiency throughout the organization.

The biotech, pharmaceutical, and life science industries require exceptionally durable flooring capable of withstanding stringent cleaning protocols over time. Lesser surfaces can start to break down early in these harsh environments, developing tiny, nearly invisible surface fissures that invite contamination long before obvious damage develops. By selecting optimal biotech flooring solutions, laboratory and research operations can be confident that their indoor traffic surfaces can tolerate repeated auto-scrubbing, exposure to harsh disinfectants and detergents, high temperature power washing or hose downs, among other punishing procedures. Floors with proven performance, such as industrial-grade concrete coating systems, can be ideal value-based options for life science and pharmaceutical facilities.

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Science facility managers can look to recent findings by medical design and construction professionals, who, through the practice of evidence-based design, are recognizing the role of floors in the infection cycle. As a result, while floor surfaces continue to be officially classified as “low-touch,” in some critical environments knowledgeable experts are treating floor coverings as “high touch surfaces.” This type of research-based design can also be useful in sensitive biotech and pharma environments to help improve R&D facility workflow and outcomes.

Why floors are high-touch

When managers create a disinfection plan, they often focus on “high-touch surfaces.” Some of the most common examples include:

  • Hand Railings
  • Door Handles
  • Soap Dispensers
  • Computer Keyboards
  • Counters

Aside from cleanrooms and similarly sensitive spaces, other floor areas within science facilities can sometimes be overlooked when it comes to infection cycle risks. Yet, the law of gravity ensures myriad ways floors can become exposed and then spread contaminants throughout the operation. Below are some typical examples:

  • Soles of employees’ and visitors’ shoes, as well as delivery cart wheels, can carry soil and microbes into the building
  • Air management systems can spread contaminants that eventually land on floors
  • Vapor from partially evaporated spilled fluids, such as chemicals, experimental reagents, and biological substances, can circulate and end up on the ground

In addition, there are many ways that pollutants can transfer from the floor to other surfaces. A few common examples include:

  • Replacing a shelved item that has fallen on the ground before first disinfecting it
  • Touching a contaminated broom or mop head and then opening a door
  • Touching an item that has either fallen or been placed on the floor and then taking a drink of coffee
  • Removing shoe covers or shoes and then touching the wall

Despite floors not being categorized as “high-touch,” in fact, we interact with floor coverings more than any other surface throughout the day. Understanding how your floors may be contributing to cross-contamination within your operation can allow you to implement a more effective and efficient facility sanitation plan.

Comprehensive cleaning plans for floors

In the life science and pharmaceutical world, even small degrees of contamination can impact research projects and eventual patient outcomes. It is thus imperative to clean floors effectively. After removing dust, debris, and dirt, some of the key tips to keep in mind include:

  • Decontaminate Equipment: Ensure that floor cleaning machines and tools are regularly and properly sanitized in accordance with manufacturers’ recommendations to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.   
  • Avoid Physical Strain: Comprehensive cleaning can require custodians to use repetitive motion techniques. Utilize ergonomic cleaning tools to help minimize muscle and joint fatigue.
  • Select Appropriate Chemicals:  Choosing the right floor cleaning products for a given space and ensuring proper usage is essential.

The quality of your science facility sanitation process directly impacts the health and safety of building occupants as well as patients and clients. However, some commercial floor coverings can break down early when regularly exposed to stringent cleaning best practices. In contrast, high performance concrete floor coating systems offer outstanding functional properties suited to the needs of life science facilities.

The advantages of using concrete coated floors

When it comes to durable flooring for the pharmaceutical and life science industries, concrete coated floors offer a variety of advantages. Some of the key benefits include:

  • Low odor and fast turnaround installation options
  • Wide array of product types and ability to customize, based on specific facility needs
  • Very low to zero VOC content in liquid form; virtually inert after full cure
  • Systems capable of withstanding ongoing moist conditions and extreme temperature cycling, as found in wet-processing plants, walk-in coolers, and freezers
  • Resistance to physical damage from abrasion, compression, and impact
  • Ability to handle contact with a broad range of chemicals in varying concentrations and lengths of exposure
  • Provide monolithic, virtually seamless surfaces that support facility hygiene and biosafety protocols
  • Can be used to repair/resurface old concrete or protect new concrete from deterioration, helping avoid potential slab replacement
  • Can be used to coat containment curbs, drainage troughs, and other floor structures
  • Choice of slip-resistance and level of traction to help avoid fall events
  • Offer static control formulas for locations that store sensitive electronics, run web-fed plastics, house combustible powders, and the like
  • Provide an impervious surface, isolating spilled contaminants on the surface for proper clean-up, rather than allowing pollutants to enter the porous concrete slab underneath
  • Choice of standard and unlimited custom colors/blends to harmonize with workplace design

Industrial-grade concrete floor coating systems provide ideal protective surfaces for operations requiring heavy-duty durability in the face of stringent sanitation protocols. By consulting with a high quality resinous coating manufacturer, life science, research, and pharmaceutical facilities can be assured of well-selected and installed flooring solutions that meet their criteria.

Sophia Daukus is a business development manager for Florock Polymer Flooring, manufactured by Crawford Laboratories, Inc., Chicago. Founded in 1952, Florock offers one of the most complete lines of epoxy flooring and concrete floor coatings on the market with decorative, high performance solutions to address the unique conditions of nearly every application. From manufacturing to food processing, from education to retail and beyond, Florock provides facilities across a broad spectrum of industries with optimal protection and outstanding flooring value.