The safety-first approach to specifying sports flooring

David Carter, Sport Marketing Communications Manager for international flooring manufacturer Gerflor, explains to Paul Groves how the company’s investment in creating safe and durable sports flooring could help schools and communities tackle the UK’s childhood obesity problem.

The Priority School Building Programme is aimed at ensuring the UK is creating the highest quality learning environment for pupils. And yet the Education and Skills Funding Agency has sometimes drawn  criticism that its approach has led to a straight-forward tick box exercise rather than a rigorous programme that drives quality and improvements to our school building stock.

The likes of the Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA) has lobbied consistently for recognition that architects and specifiers need the ability and support to design learning environments that will improve the performance of schools and pupils. The focus, understandably, is on academic achievement. Yet the UK is also facing a childhood obesity crisis and organisations such as Sport England are funding initiatives to provide greater access to physical activities.

These schemes are also subject to the Priority School Building Programme, but many of the criticisms of the scheme remain when it comes to developing new sporting facilities.

Q: Is there sufficient recognition of the importance of specifying the right sport flooring products in education environments?

A: There continues to be an uphill battle in regards to the specification process. The Priority School Building Programme creates its own set of challenges and, in our view, this can be too restrictive as it simply offers a baseline design. We believe architects and specifiers actually feel hampered by the programme itself as they do not necessarily have the freedom to choose what they feel are the right products for individual projects. For example, the programme sets clear guidelines on shock absorption and yet there is little recognition of how safe a flooring product really is for the profiles of users. The Gerflor Taraflex® ranges not only exceed the required standards set out in the programme, but offer so much more in terms of durability and primarily the safety of users which can play a minimal role in the decision-making process. But Gerflor proposes it is just as important, if not more important.

Q: Why is safety becoming such an important issue in the specification process?

A: In sport there is greater understanding of the importance of managing the safety of all those who participate in activities and minimising their risk of injury. This is especially true when it comes to head injuries. In most outdoor sports now, we have far greater understanding and protocols for dealing with head injuries and, yet, that is not always the case when it comes to indoor sports and activities. Gerflor has invested a lot of time, research and resources into ensuring our range of vinyl sports flooring minimises the risk of injury. Taraflex® offers a high level of shock absorption, minimising the force of impact on the body and reducing long term injury risk, however, there are certain specifications where impact protection is not necessarily taken into account. Taraflex® offers both shock absorption and impact protection making it a much safer floor type than traditional area elastic solutions such as sprung timber floors.

There is a new study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine Study that has found almost half of sport injury-related emergency department attendances and almost a quarter of sport injury-related hospital admissions were in children and adolescents aged 0 – 19 years.

This is an unnecessarily high burden of sport-related injuries which the researchers, from Newcastle University and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, recorded at two NHS hospitals in Oxford and Banbury over just a two-year period. Of the 63,877 attendances recorded, 11,676 were sport-related, with 5,533 in 0-19 year olds. 14-year-old boys and 12-year-old girls were most at risk of sustaining a sports injury.

The researchers suggest that local authorities and schools should consider targeting sport injury prevention at children in the first four years of secondary school. Gerflor believes that is particularly true for indoor sports and specifying the right product is vitally important and key to the safety of users.

(Link for study:

Q: Timber remains a traditional favourite for sports flooring, what are the greater benefits of vinyl solutions?

A: Gerflor has its own timber flooring products and they remain an important part of our business. Some sports in particular prefer timber sports flooring, but increasingly we are seeing sports like volleyball and handball are favouring vinyl flooring. Gerflor also believes that when it comes to schools and other related education projects, vinyl flooring is a much better choicedue to facilities increasingly becoming multi-use areas - they are not simply sports halls, they are also community assets that are often used for non-sporting activities. Vinyl products such as Taraflex® offer the better solution for this multi-use function. Traditional timber sprung floors are tried and tested as sports flooring but there is a perception that they are more durable too, but this is perhaps not necessarily the case.

Q: What are the key requirements of a modern school sports floor?

A: This is part of the challenge Gerflor faces. Gerflor argues that in many cases schools do not require the types of flooring that are used for elite sports and Olympic standard venues. Those products are specifically designed with elite athletes in mind, whereas the average school facility is having to cope with, for example, 30 children participating in various activities in a 100m2 hall. The type of flooring required for that hall is very different in terms of the application. Gerflor has a CPD programme where we aim to provide an insight specifying the right type of sports flooring aimed at architects and specifiers, and we have recently launched a new presentation on sports flooring. As well as the performance qualities of the vinyl products, we also try to emphasise the benefits of a product like Taraflex® when it comes to maintenance. Nowadays, maintenance of buildings and facilities is a major part of school budgets these days and Gerflor floors require very minimal maintenance, other than normal cleaning routines you have for other types of flooring.

David Carter maintains that greater understanding of the benefits of vinyl sports flooring is an important next step in creating the right education facilities. He points to the long, successful track record of Taraflex® as the perfect example of why vinyl products offer the perfect mix of performance and safety for education environments.

Taraflex® sports floors have been made since 1947 and have been used by the largest international sports federations (volleyball, handball, badminton, table tennis) for decades. Through partnerships with these federations, Gerflor has been present at the Summer Olympic Games since 1976.

Taraflex® is ideal for education facilities from primary to secondary and adult education facilities. Taraflex® is a recognised and credible solution for providing durability, safety and comfort without impairing performance.

Taraflex® meets the EN Standard of 22196 for anti-bacterial activity (E. coli - S. aureus - MRSA) (3) returning >99% levels of growth inhibition. The product is also treated with Protecsol®, which renders polish redundant and is triple action meaning no polish is ever required, it contributes to easy maintenance and is anti-friction burn and slide/grip. Taraflex has a double density foam backing and with another bonus, it’s environmentally friendly.

For more information about Gerflor's sports flooring please visit their website here:

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