Wall coatings and impact protection systems help prevent infection in healthcare facilities

  • 15 Aug 2014

Durability is an important consideration, particularly in high traffic areas as cracks, dents and tears, particularly in wall finishes and doors, can harbour dirt and bacteria and may also lead to increased maintenance and cleaning costs.
Additionally, healthcare facilities, by their very nature, must provide for people with a wide range of ambulatory and usage skills, from recovering patients to the elderly and visitors or patients with ongoing mobility and visual impairment issues.
The specification and selection of the most appropriate materials for walls, ceilings, floors and doors to meet these wide-ranging criteria is therefore critical.

A raft of guidance is available to architects, contractors and specifiers, including the Department of Health’s Health Building Notes, published in 2013. In terms of access, the 2013 revision to Approved Document M – Access to and use of buildings, has shifted emphasis from provision for disabled building users to inclusive design. The main objective is to enable everyone to travel around the building without discomfort or risk of personal injury.
All the guidance points to the need for protection measures to be designed-in at the outset of planning and design. Furthermore, specifying the correct internal surface materials at the outset will mean cleaning regimes can be planned and agreed.
Impact damage in the healthcare environment occurs most frequently from wheeled trolleys and chairs, doors being opened by trolleys and feet and chair backs and beds impacting walls. Those selecting the right kind of impact protection should consider a number of factors, including the most appropriate materials, the correct positioning for crashrails and handrails and the best height for corner guards.

The most economical option for wall coatings is conventional emulsion paint. However, there are a number of wall/ceiling coatings available that are more durable and are unaffected by intensive cleaning. Some coatings also include bactericides and fungicides in every layer, so even the most rigorous cleaning regimes do not diminish their ability to inhibit microbial growth. Some also have fibreglass reinforcement for increased abrasion and impact resistance.

Where durability is of particular concern, it is worth considering an impact-resistant wall sheet or panel protection system which also supports IPC and is easy to clean. Both products can be used on flat surfaces and come in a wide range of colours. Sheet products can also be formed or moulded and are therefore suitable for column casing
or reception desk facing, for example.
Doors and door frames are some of the most vulnerable items. Damaged doorsets not only compromise hygiene and interior aesthetics but also fire safety. The same impact resistant sheet materials used for wall protection can be fitted to doors to create full or half height protection, kick plates and push plates, maintaining the doors’ integrity and increasing their working life.

Achieving high levels of protection does not have to come at the cost of aesthetics. Wall coatings can be matched to a number of different colour standards including NCS, RAL and BS, while wall sheet protection systems can be cut into different shapes and also come in an array of colours and finishes. Some panel systems allow high quality images or artwork to be embedded, creating bespoke floor-to-ceiling designs, removing the worry of damage, without compromising on hygiene.
With large numbers of visitors and high internal traffic, healthcare facilities face potentially huge maintenance costs to remedy surface damage, while ensuring safe access to patients, visitors and staff. Failure to keep surfaces damage-free not only poses a health and safety risk but can compromise hygiene standards and complicate cleaning regimes.
Fortunately, a diverse range of products is available to help improve access and maintain high levels of hygiene. These are durable, keeping maintenance and cleaning costs down and remain effective for longer, so long-term costs are also reduced.

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