Floor polishing made easy

5th of June 2023
Floor polishing made easy
Floor polishing made easy

How do companies ensure that their floor polishing systems are intuitive and user-friendly for the operator? ECJ looks at the importance of ergonomics in floor polishing compared with other purchasing considerations.

Polishing a floor should be cost-effective. It should also ideally be carried out sustainably. And it should ensure a high quality result. But the operator’s role in polishing a floor can be critical.
Anyone tasked with this important job needs to know what they are doing – otherwise they could potentially cause damage to the surface and put their own welfare at risk.

But how easy does the task need to be? Should the health, safety and well-being of the operator take priority for manufacturers when designing a floor polishing system? And just how important is ease of use at a time when factors such as cost, productivity and results are also all-important?

Ergonomics and ease of operation can be pivotal to the success of any floor polishing operation, says Kärcher’s floorcare product manager Christian Mrowka.“In general the cleaning result can be improved by reducing the strain involved,” he said. “When cleaners are given the right tools and knowledge for the task they will be protected from chronic physical conditions. And at the same time, better results can be achieved more quickly.”

He says the issue of ease of use is gaining greater prominence. “Ergonomics can become a competitive advantage for building service providers, particularly in view of the current staff shortages and the increasing cost pressures on the industry,” he said. “Moreover, any damage to the floor and subsequent need for re-working due to the wrong application can be prevented if the polishing machine is user-friendly and easy to operate.”

When a machine or system is used in the wrong way it could have serious consequences, he says. “It could cause permanent damage to the floor or deliver a bad or uneven polishing result,” said Mrowka. “If a machine were to remain in place for too long on a temperature-sensitive floor it could cause permanent damage and possibly burn marks. And damage to the floor could lead to extra work which would substantially increase the costs.”

Training vital

Floor polishing can be a complicated task depending on the floor type and the polishing method used, says Mrowka. “Ensuring that operatives receive the right training and instruction is essential,” he said. “Manufacturers can also support operators by providing user-friendly machines with simple controls along with triggers that prevent the machine from being started up unintentionally.”

Compact and lightweight machines are particularly user-friendly, according to Mrowka. “They are easier to manoeuvre,” he said. “Large wheels can also make the machine easier to transport.
And all handles and operating elements should be easily accessible with the minimum of effort.”
Adjustable handles will add to the machine’s ergonomic use, he said.

“These will allow the right working height to be set for each operator,” said Mrowka. “And simple and intuitive control elements will ensure the machine can be operated without extensive training. For example, features such as a central auxiliary impeller ensures easy manoeuvrability even for untrained operators, whereas floating pad drive boards will automatically adapt to uneven floors and ensure the best results.”

Kärcher’s compact BDP 50/1500 C is said to be easy to manoeuvre due to a central auxiliary impeller that enables the machine to travel consistently in a straight line. It also has simple controls for intuitive handling and an adjustable handle to ensure a comfortable working height, says Mrowka. Also from Kärcher is the BDP 43/400 C which features a soft start and large wheels for ease of transport.

Injury to the operator could be the result of using a floor polishing system that is neither user-friendly nor intuitive, says IPC’s sales enablement specialist Gabriella Bianco.“People could be injured as a result of moving machinery parts or ejected material,” she said.

“Sharp edges could cause cuts or severing injuries while sharp-pointed components could puncture the skin. Rough surface parts could cause friction or abrasion. And certain elements of the machine – plus any steam or water emitted - could be hot or cold enough to cause burns or scalds while the electricity supply could lead to burns and shocks.”

She says intuitive controls will ensure that the operator immediately understands any machine alerts. “This will help to prevent serious damage to the floor,” she said.

Adjustable handles

All instruction manuals should be supplied in multiple languages, according to Bianco. “A low machine weight and adjustable handles are also very important,” she adds. IPC single disc machines are said to feature ergonomic handles as well as optimum weight distribution and vibration-dampening technology to improve operator comfort.

It is vitally important that floor polishing systems are easy to use for reasons of health, safety and quality says service provider Cleanology’s head of marketing Kate Lovell. “If a system is neither user-friendly nor intuitive it could result in damage to the floor which would require the need for re-working or replacing it” she said. “Time would be wasted and businesses would be out of pocket. And the operator could also suffer from fatigue and become demoralised.”

She says the type of polishing technique in question will dictate how easy it is to use. “For example, care needs to be taken to choose the right pad colour when carrying out diamond polishing,” she said. “Other systems are set up to work in number order which means you need to follow a simple number sequence. And in these cases it is very difficult to get it wrong.”

Floor polishing machines tend to be easy to use once the operator knows how to do so correctly, according to Lovell. “Training and experience are therefore essential,” she said. Number ordering and easy step-by-step processes will help to enhance ease of use, she says. “Our operatives are also multilingual which means they require instructions to be relayed in their native language to avoid mistakes,” she said.

Cleanology carries out research and fully tests all its products before handing them over to operatives, says Lovell. “This helps to ensure they are user-friendly and will provide the best results,” she said. “We also offer full training on how to use and maintain them."

Functional and easy-to-use tools will improve cleaning outcomes and safeguard the operator’s health, says business development manager for mopping equipment specialist Filmop, Paolo Scapinello.

“The continued adoption of bad posture is one of the main risk factors for musculoskeletal conditions, while repeated wrist flexion-extension can lead to other disorders,” he said. “These sorts of issues can be prevented by means of simple measures such as using ergonomic equipment and adjusting the telescopic handle to the operator’s height. And such refinements can bring great benefits in terms of psychophysical well-being.”

Impact of design

The design of the equipment will have a direct impact on cleaning results, says Scapinello. “Using an uncomfortable product or system results in more strain and decreased productivity coupled with an inferior floor cleaning performance.”

The likelihood of human error also increases in direct relation to the difficulty in using any system, says Scapinello.  “The manufacturer must therefore design equipment in such a way as to reduce errors to a minimum,” he said. “Poor ergonomics could lead to the onset of occupational diseases, and this needs to be considered at the design stage. Certain technical features can make a real difference: a handle that can be lengthened or shortened, for example, can be adapted to suit the task to be performed and to the operator’s height which will help to avoid muscle pain.”

All Filmop equipment is designed to be user-friendly and improve the operator’s working conditions, he says. The company’s ErgoSwing is comprised of a telescopic handle, a turning grip and a mop holder that together facilitate an ‘S’ movement which is said to reduce the level of effort required by the operator.

Good investment

So, is ease of use a high priority for today’s floorcare systems manufacturers and customers? Or do other factors such as cost, productivity, sustainability or the end result matter more than ergonomics?

Ease of use is important - but other factors also matter, says Scapinello. “Floorcare systems should ensure a high performance and impeccable cleaning as well as lower consumption of cleaning solution for a reduced environmental impact,” he said.

Ergonomics, cleaner comfort and ease of use are all key priorities for Cleanology – but so are cost, productivity and sustainability, says Kate Lovell. “Our operations are based on the four pillars of People, Environment, Innovation and Quality and sustainability is always at the heart of our business,” she said.

Ease of use is crucial because it contributes to improved end results and cuts costs by reducing the need for re-working, says Kärcher’s Christian Mrowka. “A machine that is simple to use will also enhance productivity if it can easily travel consistently in a straight line without drifting off course,” he said.

And ease of use, operator safety and a sustainable approach are all key requirements for anyone considering purchasing a single disc machine, says IPC’s Gabriella Bianco. “Cost is still an important factor, but a safe and reliable machine will always be a good investment,” she said.


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