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The best line of defense

September 19, 2010
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Matting systems serve an important purpose in any facility.

When placed strategically throughout the building, matting systems are the first line of defense against slip-and-fall accidents and tracked-in soil and debris.

According to industry experts, an effective matting system will help increase the life of a floor and present a consistent, quality appearance.

In addition, entrance matting can help lower overall maintenance costs by decreasing the amount of dirt tracked into the building and improve safety by helping to reduce slip-and-fall accidents caused by water collecting on hard floor surfaces.

There are varying types of mats, designed specifically for certain surfaces in certain areas of a facility.

Entrance matting is among the most important and common type of matting.

Stop dirt at the door

Entrance matting lowers maintenance costs by preventing dirt, moisture and grime from being tracked in.

Did you know 70 to 80 percent of dirt comes in the front, back, side and service doors? It makes sense, doesn''t it?

You can capture, hold and hide 85 percent of that dirt with effective entrance matting.

To keep floors clean, dry and safe and to promote indoor air quality (IAQ), it''s recommended to cover, at least, the first 15 feet of an entrance area with a combination matting system.

The formula for success

The standard formula for entrance matting — which is important in ensuring efficiency — begins with scraper mats.

Scraper mats are an aggressive type of matting which should be placed in traffic entry points outside a building.

Scraper mats are the first line of defense, and should remove 40 to 50 percent of dirt off shoes, if effectively implemented.

Wiper-scraper mats comprise the second line of defense and are typically found right inside the door.

This indoor/outdoor matting is strategically placed at entrance points and is typically comprised of heavy-duty polypropylene.

Wiper mats — the final line of defense — work to dust and dry shoes as well, and are usually constructed of olefin/nylon fibers.

By utilizing the system of scraper mats for outdoor use, wiper/scraper mats for vestibule/transitional areas, and wiper mats for indoor use, outside dirt and debris will be stopped at the door.

Benefits of having entryway matting systems in place include:

  • Improved appearance
  • Floor protection
  • Reduced liability
  • Reduced maintenance and labor costs
  • Improved IAQ

Matting systems are not just for building entrances. There are several types of non-entrance matting that are used extensively in facilities, such as anti-fatigue mats.

Mats for comfort?

Available in a solid or sponge-like form, these mats are designed for dry applications where people are on their feet for long periods of time.

Hotel reception areas, grocery stores, hospitals, and manufacturing facilities often use this matting to benefit workers'' health.

There are also drain-through anti-fatigue mats for kitchen/food service areas, where grease or water is often present.

Health benefits

Millions of workers finish their workday with foot pain, leg fatigue, soreness in the lower back, and other related injuries caused by excessive standing.

How big is the problem? It''s nearly universal: The American Podiatric Association reported that 83 percent of industrial workers suffer from foot, leg and back pain at one time or another.

According to the 1995 University of Pittsburgh "Human Factors Study", long-term standing appears to have a direct effect on the lower extremity health of workers; a correlation exists between leg tiredness and overall worker fatigue.

The ergonomics of anti-fatigue mats have been proven; these mats actually change the chemistry of the lower body, reducing lactic acid build-up by keeping muscles active & but how?

Anti-fatigue matting aids in the stimulation of blood flow and creates a surface that pushes back against the worker''s foot, forcing them to subtly shift their weight, creating constant or "dynamic" muscle movement.

This increased muscle activity improves circulation, which flushes out lactic acid build-up and allows the heart to operate more efficiently.

The result is less-fatigued workers that are more alert at the end of the workday, leading to reduced absenteeism, fewer workers'' compensation claims, as well as better employee morale.

Hallway runners

This type of matting is usually 15 to 20 feet in length, and has three basic functions:

  • To remove dirt/debris from shoes
  • To protect the surface below the matting
  • To protect floors from moisture
The first step in safety

Slips and falls are the No. 1 cause of injury in the workplace.

Some facilities, such as retail establishments, restaurants, hospitals, airports, factories, restrooms and offices are at an especially high risk for slip-and-fall accidents, due to increased levels of activity.

To help ensure worker safety, the degree of traction between the shoes and the mat surface needs to be high enough to prevent slipping, but not so high as to restrict controlled foot movement when walking, turning, sliding or pivoting.

Also, beveled safety edges can be used to reduce tripping hazards.

Unfortunately, not every fall can be prevented, but mats can help absorb impact and minimize problems associated with a fall on hard surface flooring.

Maintain your mats from day one

Regular maintenance is critical to extending the life and appearance of your matting system.

Develop a regular maintenance schedule, depending on traffic and soil conditions.

Initial use

Rolled mats should be unrolled and laid flat within a few days of receipt.

If edges or corners are curled after a few hours of lying flat, move the mat to a warm area or take a hair dryer to warm the vinyl to relax it, but do not use a heat gun, as excessive heat will cause damage.

Normal shedding or "fuzzing" may occur with new carpet mats. This is not a defect, rather a common occurrence to new fabrics and will disappear after a few vacuumings.

For smaller applications, two-way tape or releasable adhesive will effectively keep mats in place.

Leave larger installations to a professional carpet installer.

Vinyl anti-fatigue mats

When maintaining vinyl anti-fatigue mats, be sure to shake dirt and debris or sweep daily to remove surface dirt.

Sweep the area underneath the mat before replacing it to remove any dirt or debris that could cause premature wear and reduce slip resistance.

Mats can be washed off with a hose or pressure washer, or damp mopped with a non-abrasive, water-based detergent.

Let the mat dry completely before allowing foot traffic to resume.

Do not use rotary scrubbers, vacuums, or other mechanical cleaners or scrubbers to clean your matting systems.

Do not use solvents, pH detergents, or alkalis directly on the mat, or lay the mat in areas where these chemicals are used.

Rubber anti-fatigue mats

As with maintaining vinyl mats, shake and/or sweep daily.

With fingertip-type mats, it is recommended to flip the mat over to remove sand, dirt and debris collected inside the mat.

Sand especially will act as an abrasive, causing premature wear.

Grease-resistant mat care

Grease-proof or grease resistant mats used in kitchen or oily environments should be cleaned weekly by using hot, soapy water and a mop or pressure washer, which will help to breakdown excessive grease. Mats should not be put in a dishwasher.

Vacuuming and spot/stain removal

Entrance mats are used to capture dirt and debris before it can be tracked into a facility.

When a mat is dirty, it''s doing its job and prolonging the life of carpet and flooring within a facility.

However, mats must be vacuumed daily and cleaned regularly to extend usefulness and appearance.

Some rubber mats may have an oily or sticky film on them. This is a releasing agent that is inherent to molded mats, not a defect.

Simply wash down with a mild detergent or degreaser to remove this film. Do not use solvents to remove this film.

Hand-wash or extract stains with a carpet spotter, using a water-based carpet detergent or shampoo.

Periodically, deep clean the mat with a carpet extractor, again by using a water-based detergent or shampoo. When using an extractor, be sure to follow manufacturer''s instructions for operation and chemical use; never use solvent based cleaners.

Excess water should be removed by extracting or hanging the mat, and when possible, should be allowed to dry completely before foot traffic is resumed.

Remember, you are reducing the effectiveness of your matting system if it has not cleaned for a long period of time.

Periodic inspection

Periodic inspection is recommended to check for tears in borders on a regular basis.

To repair a damaged border, glue the section together with cyanoacrylate ester-type (super glue) adhesive.

Storage and handling

Roll dry carpet compactly with the pile facing out and place in cool, dry area. Do not stand it on its end or it will crush.

The bottom line

An effective matting system makes sense for every facility, and when used properly, matting systems can promote better health for building occupants, offer preventative measures against slip-and-fall accidents, and ensure a cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing facility.

David Twu is director of Research, Crown Mats & Matting, Fremont, OH. For more information, call (800) MAT-LINE or visit

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