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Competencies covered

MSFFL2021: Install lay flat vinyl floor coverings

Health and safety

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It sometimes seems that there are lots of rules and regulations when it comes to safety on-site. But the basic formula for staying healthy and avoiding injures is really quite simple:

  • use safe work practices at all times

  • look for hazards before you start any new job and take actions to control them

  • keep the workplace tidy, maintain a professional attitude and don't take shortcuts.
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Many of the specific safety issues that you need to be aware of when you're laying a resilient floor are covered in other units in this Flooring Technology resource.

Here they are in summary, together with the units they are discussed in:

  • Manual handling - including how to lift and carry heavy rolls of flooring - see: Safety at work

  • Knee problems - including injuries and chronic conditions caused by working on your knees - see: Safety at work

  • Dust and fumes - including dust from subfloor preparations and fumes from primers and adhesives - see: Subfloor coatings and toppings

  • Skin contact with hazardous substances - including cement-based products and solvents - see: Subfloor coatings and toppings

  • Personal protective equipment - including eye protection, ear protection and other items of PPE needed on-site - see: Safety at work.
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But there is one issue we haven't discussed yet that particularly applies to resilient floor layers - knife safety.

The most common type of knife you'll use when laying a resilient floor is a utility knife.

Below are the general safety procedures for using a utility knife to cut resilient floor products.

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Utility knife safety procedures

  1. Use the right blade for the job.

    There are different blades for different uses, including straight, concave and hook blades.

    Always use the blade for the task it's designed for.
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  1. Keep the blade sharp.

    Change the blade whenever it starts to get blunt.

    If you need to force it through a cut or it begins to tear the material instead of cutting cleanly, it's time to replace the blade.
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  1. Pull the knife towards you.

    A pulling motion is stronger and can be controlled more easily than a pushing force, especially when you're cutting on a flat surface.
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  1. Keep your free hand clear.

    If you need to hold the material or a straight edge with your free hand, make sure it is not in the direct line of the cut.
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  1. Use a straight edge with sufficient thickness.

    If you need to use a straight edge, make sure it is thick enough to guide the blade without letting it ride up over the edge.
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  1. Use several passes on thick material.

    Cut progressively deeper with each pass, rather than trying to push the knife as deep as possible in a single cut.
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  1. Don't over-reach while you're cutting.

    Try not to reach further forward than your shoulders, and don't cut past your hip.

    If you stay within this area while you're cutting, you'll always have maximum control.
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  1. Don't bend the blade sideways.

    Blades are strong when the force is in the direction of the cut, but brittle if they're twisted at an angle.

    They are also totally unsuitable for use as a lever, and will snap easily if bent sideways.
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  1. Keep the knife in a scabbard or pouch.

    When you've finished using the knife, make sure you put it away safely. This helps to protect the blade and avoid injuries.
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Learning activity

Audio 13 (mp3 |6|KB)

Utility knives come in a variety of brands and models. Popular brands used for cutting lay flat vinyl include Delphin and Shark.

  • What brand do you use?

  • Are you happy with it?

  • If not, what design features could be better? Do you know of any other brands with improved features?
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