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Floor Marking Standards – 5S Visuals

Floor marking (especially as part of 5S) is very important, since it allows your floor to do more than just hold people and things up off the ground.  Floor marking can help to visually show the layout or flow patterns in the facility for people, materials, and information communication.  Our facilities are 3 dimensional spaces of visual information.  We can have important visual communication above, below or on level with our normal field of vision.  People that create very visual work environments understand this and strategically place that critical information at the point of need.

Imagine looking for an emergency exit when you are really in a panic and your normal working environment is tight and cluttered.  Sight lines above you might be restricted, so you would have to look down for the visual cues. Plus, during an evacuation, we are taught to stay close to the ground for other safety reasons like flash-overs, heat build-up, and better air quality with oxygen.

So why do we put emergency exit signs above the doors?  Is that where we are looking?  In the event of an emergency, floor lighting guides passengers to safety on airplanes.

Last week the discussion centered on using temporary markings to help provide a “real-world” experience of the location, color, and size of important floor areas.  Any time we can use simulations that provide people with an understanding of the changes, the more quickly and easily those can be implemented, supported, and sustained.  Now it is time to convert those temporary visual markings into ones that are more permanent.

A frustration that I often encounter is that our regulatory agencies (OSHA, ANSI, etc) don’t provide a universal standard that we can all adopt out-right.  If there was such a universal standard, each and every plant that you walked in to would be marked with the same color scheme.  This lack of standardization provides us with an opportunity to create plant, site, regional, or corporate level color schemes for visual floor marking.  The key is that once that standard is created, everyone in the facility understands completely what the colors indicate. Many facilities opt to follow the ANSI standards, but these only serve as recommendations.

There are two primary methods for marking floors: tape and paint.  The most important requirements are:

  1.  easy application (minimum floor prep; no bubbles, wrinkles or wavy line),
  2.  durability [withstands wheeled traffic and, ideally, heavy items such as loaded skids being dragged over the lines]; and
  3.  easy removal [comes up in one piece, does not leave adhesive residue or damage the floor finish].

Many of us have used traditional vinyl tapes to mark areas (photos below), only to have them quickly torn-up from normal wear. No one method offers the ideal solution to all three requirements.

Floor marking 5S with tape example 1Floor paint tends to be the most durable solution, but is more time and labor intensive to apply and remove.  Floors need to be carefully cleaned and prepped.  Use of a power floor scrubber is recommended along with a concrete “scorer” that cuts small tracks into the floor, allowing the paint to fill in below the surface level for improved durability.  Chalk lines need to be snapped in place and painter’s tape needs to be laid down both sides for masking.  Moreover, the paint can take 24 hours or longer to dry and cure and often have vapors that require additional worker protection.

Another major concern with paint is removal.  A common lean saying is “the only constant is change.”  The goal of continuous improvement is to continually improve, and that means continually change.  Removal of paint requires use of hand grinder and / or chemical release agent.

Progress can literally be only inches per minute and often specialized training and PPE may be required for working with hazardous chemicals.

Floor tape is easier to apply and remove than paint, but is not as durable.  Floor prep requirements are generally minimal, and the lines can be quickly laid down by one or two people.  Watch out for thin vinyl floor tapes, as these tend to stretch and wrinkle as they are pulled off the roll, leading to wavy lines with bubbles in them.  Thicker tapes or those made from stiffer polyester lay down flat and smooth, and are more durable as well.

Floor marking 5S with tape

When testing tape for durability, be aware that the two main causes of damage to floor marking comes from forklifts driving over the lines and from skids or pallets being dragged over the lines.  Be sure to always test the tape in one area before using across the facility, since certain types of adhesives don’t work well on certain flooring materials and surfaces.  If tape is to be used in heavy traffic areas, be sure to run a fork lift over a test sample, and perhaps even turn or pivot on the tape, in order to ensure it holds up to the pressure.

Floor marking 5S with dashes and corners

No tape will withstand a 2,000 lb skid with rough edges and the lines will either tear or be pulled up from the force of impact.  In these situations, try using dashed lines or corner marks.  The nail or other protrusion may miss the tape entirely.  And even if a dash or corner mark does become damaged, it’s much easier to replace than a full line.

Now that we have our floors clearly conveying critical visual information, we will turn to those cues that are above our normal field of view.  Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

Here’s our Brady Workplace Organization Color Codes Recommendations – you can download and use at your facility.

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