Photo courtesy of Diversey

Hospitals pose a number of floor-care challenges. Environmental services (ES) professionals must maintain a sanitary surface as well as an attractive one. Also, hospital floors endure constant traffic. Safety is another factor. It’s important for hospitals to implement cost-effective, floor-care programs that prevent slip-and-fall accidents.

Reducing the noise levels of cleaning equipment is another concern, as well as the need to clean multiple floor surfaces common to health care facilities. For instance, entrances may consist of stone, terrazzo or other epoxy flooring materials. Elsewhere, facilities often have conventional vinyl-composition tile floors, sheet vinyl flooring and rubber flooring. These surfaces may have a textured design or inlays of different types of flooring, making ongoing maintenance a challenge.

To improve the productivity of ES departments, automatic floor machines (AFMs) must be able to tackle the biggest challenge — effective removal, cleaning and refinishing of floors, says Mike Colligan, director of sales for health care, Pacific Floorcare, Muskegon, Mich. “An effective chemical-free, finish-removal program is a must for any ES department. AFMs must be able to efficiently remove floor finish without the lengthy process of chemical stripping.”

Budget and environment

The good news is that the latest floor-cleaning equipment is designed to help hospital ES departments handle both their budgetary and environmental challenges. Mark Palumbo, director of Taski business development, Diversey, Charlotte, N.C., notes the latest developments:

  • Quiet and safe floor-cleaning equipment that is easy to operate is being introduced to solve environmental challenges. For example, no adjustments to water flow or squeegees are required. More low-maintenance machines are available.
  • Equipment that leaves the floor or fabrics (e.g., carpets and upholstery) dry after use, or allows for faster dry times, is being used to solve environmental challenges in busy heath care facilities. These machines reduce downtime and the risk of potential slips and falls.
  • Solutions for no-maintenance floors and wet burnishing that restore patient-room floors quickly and without a mess are other innovations. These systems also improve indoor air quality.
  • Hands-free cleaning addresses budgetary challenges and is easier to do with new robotic machines, such as Diversey’s Taski Intellibot. These machines autonomously clean floors in hallways, cafeterias and other large areas, allowing employees to focus on other high-priority cleaning tasks as well as detailing.

The use of autonomous floor scrubbers can help hospitals improve productivity while maintaining a clean and green environment, according to Matt Fussy, director of product management for connected autonomous solutions, Nilfisk, Brooklyn Park, Minn. He points to Nilfisk’s Liberty A50 autonomous scrubber featuring EcoFlex as a good example. “EcoFlex provides flexible and green cleaning that allows operators to select the right blend of brush pressure, water and detergent to tackle a variety of cleaning challenges. They can switch between water-only cleaning and various cleaning intensities at the touch of a button. Default start-up mode is green, low-flow and detergent-free.”

What to consider

Beyond cost, some floor-care equipment considerations include training the personnel who will be running the equipment; the environmental impact and the safety of patients and staff; and how the equipment will be used as part of a complete floor-care maintenance program, says Micah Petersen, director of floor care, Betco Corp., Bowling Green, Ohio.

Making sure that floor-care technicians see the value of the equipment is another consideration. Technicians should have a chance to review all equipment being considered, experts say. They need to understand how the equipment will solve the challenges they face daily.

Automatic floor-cleaning equipment has features that reduce noise levels, improve indoor air quality, lower maintenance requirements and facilitate maneuverability.

The new T-Series automatic floor scrubbers from Tennant Co., Minneapolis, for example, have a QuietMode feature that reduces sound levels to allow cleaning in active facilities with minimal disruption. “We also designed a line of battery burnishers with the health care market in mind. These units have HEPA filtration on the dust-collection systems to help maintain indoor air quality and operate at low noise levels,” says Rick Cohn, director of sales.

In addition, all battery-powered Tennant machines have a SmartFill feature, which automatically maintains the necessary water levels in batteries. This improves safety by eliminating operator exposure to battery acids while increasing battery life.

Another Tennant solution is the ec-H2O, an on-board system that transforms tap water into a safe, effective cleaning solution. It increases traction on the floor while using less than one-third the amount of water used with traditional chemicals. “This allows the operator to scrub three times longer on one tank of solution before having to refill the machine. Other advantages include the reduction of exposure to patients and operators from potentially harsh chemicals when mixing, storing or using those products. The ec-H2O has no irritating fragrances or volatile organic compounds,” Cohn says.

The new B-Series of scrubbers from Karcher North America, Denver, have adjustable settings that include a patented Eco mode that reduces power consumption while reducing noise levels. “Our intelligent key feature allows for additional settings for a variety of floor-cleaning applications. The key is inserted into the control system and allows adjustments to brush speed, vacuum power and speed settings,” says Rex Shull, director of product management.

The Nilfisk Liberty A50 autonomous scrubber features machine sensors that feed input into an independent safety board, thereby detecting potential hazards, overriding the machine and stopping it before an accident can occur. It also offers two ways to create a cleaning path. The operator can simply drive it to create a path (copycat mapping) or the machine can run independently to determine the best path to clean the space.

The eForce Scrubber is the latest automatic scrubber introduced to the hospital market by NSS Enterprises Inc., Toledo, Ohio. It uses a patented joystick control system that allows the operator to work in a natural position. No steering wheel or standing is required. In addition, the squeegee is located directly behind the scrub deck to allow complete water recovery, even in tight turns.

“To address the challenges specific to hospital facilities maintenance, the eForce Scrubber’s recovery tank is fully accessible and easily cleaned,” says Dale Krausnick, vice president of marketing. “Also, NSS Enterprises has equipped the scrubber with a conservation mode. In this mode, the scrubber makes less noise, and uses less water and less power. At 62 decibels, it is well-suited for areas of a hospital where quiet operation is essential.”

Tornado Industries Inc., Fort Worth, Texas, has introduced the BDSO 27/28 Stand-On Scrubber that offers the productivity of a larger scrubber in the footprint of a 24-inch walk-behind unit, according to James Young, director of sales. “By placing the operator on the machine in a standing position, the overall size of the machine is reduced while increasing sight lines and mobility. The 27/28 fits into most standard public elevators with the operator in place.”

The BDSO 27/28 also offers a Quiet Clean mode that reduces noise levels so that night cleaning is possible. In addition, a headlight allows the operator to clean in low-light situations. “The 27/28 allows operators to clean 90 percent of a hospital’s hard floors without the need for multiple-sized scrubbers,” Young says.

Battery protection is another key area of development. For example, Pacific Floorcare offers a BatteryShield protection system that maximizes battery life by protecting wet batteries from low water-level damage. “The system improves facility maintenance operations by creating a safer work environment when batteries need servicing on scrubbers,” Colligan explains. “The system extends the life of batteries and eliminates the pre-disposal of wet-lead acid batteries into landfills.”

The S-Series scrubbers from Pacific Floorcare can be equipped with this BatteryShield protection system. Also, the mid-size scrubbers feature a recovery-tank treatment system that impedes the growth of malodors in the tank, eliminating their dispersion into the hospital environment, Colligan adds.

The development of complete floor-cleaning systems is another innovation that can benefit hospitals. For example, Diversey has introduced a no-maintenance floor system that extends the life of floor substrates and keeps areas looking fresh and clean. “The program includes a daily cleaning regimen, along with products that restore and rejuvenate flooring surfaces in minutes,” Palumbo says. “It is quick and simple, and expands the life cycle of floors.”

Betco recently introduced the Crete Rx Polished Concrete & Terrazzo Maintenance System, which integrates resin into the concrete to polish the floor from the ground up. “The system’s advantage is its simplicity — giving hospitals a low-maintenance floor that is clean and durable,” Petersen says. On a smaller scale, Betco offers the MotoMop small-area cleaning machine, designed to be 38 times more effective than a mop and bucket. It has been engineered to leave the floor dry, reducing the potential for slip-and-fall accidents. “Cross-contamination starts with the floor. In fact, studies have shown that a mop and bucket can contribute to the spread of disease in hospitals. The MotoMop can help hospitals reduce the spread of germs,” Petersen adds.

On the horizon

Continued advances in automatic floor-cleaning technology center on robotics and the “internet of things.”

“The most logical advance will involve autonomous cleaning and robotics. The cost of these technologies is quickly reaching the point at which they are effective, safe and affordable,” Shull says.

“Many manufacturers, including NSS Enterprises, are working on robotic scrubbers,” Krausnick comments. “In fact, NSS Enterprises has partnered with Brain Corp., San Diego, to develop a robotic version of the eForce Scrubber.”

In the area of the internet of things, NSS’s Sentry wireless-equipment monitoring system uses cellphone networks to track machine use, charging cycles, battery maintenance and sudden impacts. It also allows the operator to call for service directly from the machine.

Tennant likewise offers a system that tracks machine performance and usage, according to Cohn. “The Iris System can be accessed through a digital portal. It provides visibility into the hours a machine is used, how it is being used and other key metrics that help improve battery life and ensure that machines are operating at optimal performance.” Tennant also is working on an autonomous, mobile robot scrubber that will be available later this year.

Finally, the evolution of battery technology is important to automatic floor-cleaning technology. “Automatic scrubbers need to run longer, with less maintenance required for the batteries,” Young says. “This is where Lithium-ion batteries come into play. This technology is very close to being available in the size necessary for larger automatic scrubbers and at a cost level that end-users can accept.”

Neal Lorenzi is a freelance writer based in Mundelein, Ill.

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Time saver

Taski Intellibot machines autonomously clean floors so employees can focus on other key cleaning tasks throughout health care facilities. Diversey

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Scrub smart

The Liberty A50 Autonomous Scrubber includes a sensor suite, software and camera to facilitate cleaning in health care environments.  Nilfisk

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Safe environment

The B10 battery rider burnisher’s HEPA filtration on the dust-collection system helps to maintain indoor air quality and operate at low noise levels.  Tennant Co.

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Total control

The eForce Scrubber features a joystick control that allows the operator to work in a natural position; no steering wheel or standing is required. NSS Enterprises Inc.

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Green clean

The S-series family of scrubbers features patented orbital technology, which provides optimum chemical-free finish removal. Pacific Floorcare

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Getting the job done

The MotoMop small-area cleaning machine is more effective at picking up soils than a mop and bucket. Betco Corp.

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Smooth glide

Due to its forward cleaning motion, the Armada offers a significant increase in productivity. Karcher North America

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Walk this way

The Stand-On Scrubber combines the convenience of a ride-on scrubber with the affordability of a walk-behind machine. Tornado Industries Inc.