Yet another article about dance floors in STS - issue 81 May 2013

Steve Wozniak is on about floors - again.

In STS 78 I raised the issue of floor surfaces simply because the degree of slip is so important in determining whether a venue is suitable for fast or prolonged dancing. This is especially relevant at festivals where a floor may be used by the same people for several days.

Leaving aside the holes, bumps, and ridges (and not to mention old staples, sticky tape and protruding screws and nails) that are inexcusable in any social dance venue, there is far more to floor surfaces than the simple 'slip' or 'non-slip' implied in Mike Courthold's letter (STS 79).

A lot of information is on the sportengland website but in summary, for most sports the degree of friction between the player’s shoes and the surface needs to be high enough to prevent slipping, but not so high as to restrict foot movement either in a continuous direction or when turning, or prevent the controlled sliding of the foot that is required in some sports. The exception here seems to be squash courts where a more non-slip surface is required simply because movement and changes in direction can be so fast.

Rather ominously for festival organisers, there is increasing evidence that performance test and standards data for floors are being used in personal injury claims - and many of these can now be pursued at no risk to the claimant under 'no-win no fee' legal arrangements - a part of our compensation culture. There was a well highlighted case recently where a council's insurers paid out over 30,000 to someone who slipped on yew berries in a churchyard.

Specifiers and sports floor managers are nowadays told that they must ensure that sports floors attain the correct specifications for their intended use.

The correct procedures appear to be that wooden floors should be sanded flat, well vacuumed, treated with two coats of pure polyurethane varnish and thereafter maintained by washing using suitable equipment and chemicals - either a neutral or an alkaline wash to remove grease and dirt, followed if (necessary) by an acidic neutraliser. If the floor surface needs revarnishing then it is indeed possible that too much water will soak in during the washing process and this is what might have happened at Chippenham last year. It is therefore not the washing process that might have been primarily to blame (unless too much water was used) - merely that the floor was inadequately varnished. Washing is ideally undertaken using equipment that vacuums up the liquid as soon as it has done its job, so the floor is never wet for very long.

These matters are no doubt well known to people who maintain large sports halls but what of small village halls? Our local hall at Willand was revarnished some time ago and is now simply brilliant - extra spins around happen almost with no effort (and no stress on ankles). Another local hall had its surface ground down by sand used by playgroups - and it was then oiled instead of being revarnished . It is now a disaster - the oil comes off on dance shoes and the coefficient of friction varies across the floor being much lower on some large knots! Another local hall seems to have been polished but with such a build up of old polish and grease that the overall effect is quite sticky (although not uniformly).

Given that village halls and similar dance venues may sometimes be maintained by people who may not have access to all the relevant information, does a guidance document exist or does it need to be produced? Two groups of users who need to be excluded are children and their sandpits and people who spill beer all over the place. Sand can wreck a varnished surface and beer dries leaving a horribly sticky residue.

The latest technical innovations include toughened glass floors where the various line marking used by different sports are produced by computer controlled rows of LED lights under the floor. With a little adaptation, we could have lights for squares, circles and longways sets, thus assuring perfect alignment!

(What an illuminating thought -Ed)


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