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Safety And Security

Understanding Anti-fatigue Matting

September 19, 2010
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Jansan industry customers often ask whether anti-fatigue matting really works.

The truth of the matter is that the few studies on the effectiveness of anti-fatigue matting systems, while providing valuable information, have been far from scientific or conclusive.

For instance, one method for testing anti-fatigue matting involves having a group of test subjects stand on bare hard surfaces, while another stands on surfaces cushioned with mats for about four hours.

Researchers then compare the amount of fatigue suffered by the two groups.

The results: Often conflicting and uncertain.

But, upon closer examination, these inconclusive results aren''t really all that surprising.

This is because the test scenarios created by researchers do not accurately reproduce the conditions experienced by workers in real-life situations.

These tests try to measure the evidence of fatigue created in just a few hours when, in fact, many workers — especially those in industrial, retail, medical and other settings — stand for eight hours a day, five to six days per week.

While scientific research may not be able to prove that mats reduce fatigue, one thing is certain: When workers are given a choice between standing on a bare floor or on a floor cushioned by a mat, they almost always choose the mat.

When asked why, workers respond that they simply find the mat more comfortable.

Types of anti-fatigue mats
Anti-fatigue mats generally fit into one of two categories: Soft matting and resilient matting.

If you have ever gone to the beach and stood on the sand, you will have noticed that the sand gives way beneath your feet, allowing your foot to assume a more comfortable position.

The sand is soft and therefore moves away from the points of maximum pressure, resulting in more uniform pressure across your foot.

Standing on sand is therefore more comfortable than standing on a hard surface, particularly for long periods of time.

But, what happens when you walk or run on sand?

Doing so can be very hard and tiring.

This is because the soft sand gives way with each step, requiring you to expend more effort and energy to lift your feet than you do on hard surfaces.

The softness of sand is similar to the type of surface created by soft matting.

This type of matting is comfortable to stand on, but if users have to move a great deal, it can become tiring very quickly.

Soft matting also has a few other drawbacks.

For one, when these mats become overly compressed they no longer eliminate pressure points.

Also, as the foot is lifted from the mat, the mat does not decompress right away.

If the foot then returns to the same location on the mat before the mat decompresses, impact absorption is greatly diminished, if not eliminated — making the soft matting system essentially ineffective.

Resilient matting, on the other hand, is similar to a trampoline in nature.

When a person jumps on and compresses a trampoline, it rebounds and gives back much of the compression energy, resulting in the person being launched back into the air.

The extent of this rebound depends in large part on the resilience of the trampoline surface.

High resilience is available in certain specific matting systems.

This type of matting does compress when a person walks on it, but it then immediately recovers and pushes back up, just as a trampoline does.

So, while soft matting absorbs compression energy, resilient matting returns some of this compression energy back to the user.

Most anti-fatigue mats are soft mats.

There are, however, more advanced anti-fatigue matting systems that are more resilient, adding comfort and reducing fatigue for users.

Gauge
The various types of foam used in matting systems have different "compression characteristics" — that is, they compress to different degrees under pressure and also recover from pressure at different rates.

This is known as the material''s gauge or "compression percentage."

In general, the thicker the foam is, the greater the amount of compression the mat will experience under pressure.

This helps translate into greater comfort for workers.

Workers generally prefer mats that are thicker because these mats offer the most compression and therefore the most relief of pressure on the foot.

Mats and the BSC
Building service contractors (BSCs) may wonder how this information applies to them.

The reasons are actually quite simple.

First of all, BSCs work with matting systems at virtually all of the facilities they clean.

For this reason alone, they need to understand how matting works and the benefits it can offer.

Additionally, because matting helps to keep soils and contaminants outside, reducing the cleaning needs of a facility, they are now an integral part of green cleaning.

But, the most important reason for BSCs to understand matting systems is so they can offer their clients more than just a cleaning service.

A BSC who understands matting systems, among other intricacies of the cleaning process, can share his or her knowledge, providing clients with valuable information that will help keep their clients'' facilities clean and healthy.

Taking this extra step can show a client how important their BSC is to their overall operation.


Bob Moran is the founder of Crown Mats and Matting and the Ludlow Corporation.

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