Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Operate on secure footing

October 11, 2010

Possibly one of the most overlooked aspects of any carwash or detail facility is the floor surface. After all, what is there to do with our floors that would have a positive impact on our bottom line or improving profits?

In the bid to develop our businesses, be it a detail shop or a conveyor system, we all had to put in some thought as to the type of material, structure and finishing process of the site’s flooring. In addition, any special features needed to make it practical, as well as fuanctional for our operations.

A slip prevention program saves a lot of anguish
Tens of thousands of slip and fall accidents happen every day. The scenario then becomes when a slip and fall accident will happen at your location — not if an incident will occur. Therefore one of the single most important safety programs your business requires is a slip-and-fall prevention plan. This includes training employees on the care and maintenance of floor surfaces, proper workplace behaviors, and ensuring that all floor surfaces are made of a slip-resistant material.

A slip prevention program will greatly reduce the impact of a lawsuit, should lower workman’s compensation insurance and liability insurance premiums, increase worker productivity and moral, give better peace of mind, and help protect profits.

Weighing the options, understanding the risks
We know that in the operational areas the floors need to slope towards a drainage system for either final treatment or to be recycled. We know that our options for the type of materials required are limited as well.

First off, the surfaces that we work on must be practical. They must be durable and easy to maintain. It certainly would not be practical to finish our tunnel washes off with stain-free carpet or marble tile, or to surface our detail shop floors with beautiful polished granite or ceramic tiles.

The challenge then becomes choosing a surface that meets our practical needs but also prevents employees (and in some instances, customers) from slipping and getting hurt while still maintaining the beauty along with cleaning ease of these hard surface materials.

Surface treatments or applications can impart increased slip-resistance to problem surfaces. This is achieved during the construction phase by scoring, grooving and brushing newly poured concrete, or with existing concrete surfaces, etching is performed. However, etching is not recommended, as it will help deteriorate concrete much too fast, especially in the carwash environment where water is consistently on much of the surfaces.

Certain paint-on or trowel-on applications can also enhance slip-resistance, as can adhesive tape strips. It is important to select a tape that will adhere tenaciously to the substrate. Cleanability and durability should be a consideration.

Unfortunately in the carwash business, many surface treatments are ruled out because of the inherently slippery conditions of water contaminating the walking/working surfaces. Those of us who have tried coatings know how they tend to peel, chip and crack soon after their installation. Even scored, grooved or brushed concrete become slippery after some wear.

Increasing traction is nothing to SCOF about
In the world of floor safety, we use the term “Static Coefficient of Friction” or SCOF. SCOF is a measurement value used in slip testing machines that simulate the walking pressure of human gait and motion. Standard values have been analyzed, assessed, and a standard is set and used by the courts. The ADA requires a SCOF of 0.5 for all public access areas, or where the public could access, and OSHA requires a SCOF of 0.6 on walkways/work surfaces and 0.8 on ramps.

Without a method to test the SCOF of a floor surface there is no way to be certain if a problem exists, or if so, just how serious the problem is. The absence of this knowledge can be the cause of expensive litigation, workers’ compensation claims (and raised premiums), as well as punitive fines for noncompliance of recent rules and regulations.

There is a technology available for commercial floor safety standards set by the federal government called PosiGrip (TM).. When applied, this unique new treatment will increase the SCOF on hard-to-deal-with surfaces making them less slippery wet than dry.

Designed as a process, this new technology reacts with the silica sand in any mineral surface such as concrete, ceramic tile, terrazzo, marble, porcelain, slate, quarry tile, river rock, polished stone, granite, or glazed brick. The resulting chemical reaction with the surface is a creation of a tread pattern that provides a positive slip-resistant surface.

This process, once applied, can be reapplied if needed without jeopardizing the structural composition of the material on which is added. According to initial research and development, it will not crack, peel, chip, or discolor with age. There is no set-up, curing, or drying time required. The process works with wet or dry surfaces, and can be used immediately after treatment.

A case study
In the case of improving the SCOF at American Carwash, a full-serve location in Fallon, NV, , areas of concern were:

  • Prep area where employees performed most of their tasks;
  • Tunnel;
  • Around equipment to protect employees and service technicians;
  • In the store/maintenance room; and
  • At the cashier’s area where customers frequently exit their cars to order and pay for their service.

Carwash owner Steve Montana oversaw the treatment process which began with a thorough cleaning to remove oil, grease, and other chemicals and/or wax buildup. Allowed to dry, the floors are tested for dose and dwell time. Then they are tested initially for dry SCOF with those readings recorded. The treatment solution is applied based on dosage and time factors, the solution is neutralized, and then tested again [wet] for SCOF to determine compliance, and recorded again—if in compliance, we are done.

Greg Bynum is owner/operator of Surface Treatment Solutions, an installer of non-slip floor, bath and shower safety treatments. He is a retired fire officer with experience in conducting safety investigations and implementing prevention programs.

Bynum can be reached at