Safety solutions right under your feet
August 1, 2007
What do floor and carpet cleaning schedules; employee safety, health and productivity; and visitor safety have in common? All of these issues can be addressed by making optimal use of today’s floor mat options. Whether they are located at facility entrances, in work areas and high foot-traffic locations, or in environments that require maximum cleanliness, floor mats can offer customized features to meet the needs of a variety of work environments.
Whether liquid enters a work area in the form of rain, or as a result of spills or processes, it presents a slip hazard. According to Wausau Insurance Company, the average cost of a slip-and-fall accident exceeds $12,000. In addition, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, slips, trips and falls comprise the majority of general industry accidents.
Different types of mats
For every part of a facility, today’s mats can address specific cleanliness and safety issues. For example, suction-backed mats are ideal for smooth surface floors in areas with less frequent moisture problems, such as production areas, office areas, or vending rooms. Substantial walking and wheeled-equipment traffic will not move or slide suction-backed mats.
Areas prone to major spills, splashes or liquid overflow may require flow-through matting to control wetness. Alternatively, water dam mats with borders hold up to 1.5 gallons of water per square yard. These mats are made with anti-static polypropylene fabric that dries quickly and is both fade and rot-resistant.
Outdoors, heated mats engineered for melting snow and ice reduce the need for snow shoveling, snow blowing, harsh chemicals, or in-ground heated systems. Heated snow and ice removal mats can provide traction on sidewalks, driveways, loading docks, wheelchair ramps, building entrances, or anywhere snow removal is necessary.
A textile service provider can work with you in a consultative manner to determine exactly what needs you have, including types of mats that would be best for addressing wet areas in and around your facility.
Mats provide critical protection at entrance ways, helping to keep not only liquids, but dirt and dust from entering your facility. While any mat can trap some dirt, standard vinyl mats are not engineered for long-term durability. Mats subjected to substantial traffic require frequent cleaning, and also must be replaced often.
To enhance durability, textile service providers typically use mats made of a high-grade rubber compound, engineered to be long-lasting and to resist curling and cracking under all climactic conditions. Deeper, thicker pile above the mat’s rubber base retains its thickness even with frequent industrial laundering. The pile traps larger quantities of soil, dust and water in the body of the mat, making the mat cleaner on its surface.
Specialized mat features also can help enhance cleanliness and safety. Textiles offering resistance to oil, grease and chemicals, all of which may be on people’s shoes as they enter a building, can be used in entry mats. This reduces the risk of slippery surfaces and stained flooring resulting from chemical residues.
Anti-microbial rubber compounds can inhibit growth of bacteria and molds on the surface of a mat, helping to eliminate microbes entering a facility long before employees reach preparation areas. These mats are produced with an anti-microbial agent that prevents the growth of microorganisms on the surface, and are tested under extreme conditions for ability to withstand a wide range of bacteria and fungi. This property is particularly important in laboratories, as well as in the food processing, food service and healthcare industries.
Clean walk mats feature a non-skid plastic base with a pad comprised of a multi-sheeted adhesive system that removes dirt and contaminants from shoe soles, wheels and other passing objects.
When workers must frequently walk through dirt, dust or mud before entering a facility, outdoor scraper mats can complement indoor entry mats by removing some dirt from their shoes.
All mats, even those that are soil-resistant, eventually fill with dirt and debris and require cleaning. A mat rental/cleaning service is a cost-effective solution to issues such as ineffective mats that frequently get dirty, the costs of frequent mat replacement, and the need for janitorial workers to spend time cleaning facility-owned mats. Textile service providers typically clean mats on routine schedules determined by the amount and type of foot traffic impacting a mat, and the time of year. For example, in regions that receive a lot of snow, entry mats and outdoor scraper mats may require more frequent cleaning during the winter.
Mats designed to prevent fatigue among workers who stand for long periods are popular as a means of reducing accidents and enhancing employee morale and productivity. Anti-fatigue mats with superior chemical, grease, petroleum and animal fat resistance and slip-resistant surfaces are available for industrial work areas, laboratories and food-service areas.
Anti-fatigue and scraper mats for use in production and other work areas are available with OSHA border colors of black, safety green, caution yellow, warning orange and danger red, to remind employees when they are approaching or leaving hazardous locations. Employers can create customized safety statements and choose from a variety of graphic design options. Mats with glow-in-the-dark arrows may be useful for indoor or outdoor areas of your facility that have little or no light.
In areas where equipment can be affected by static electricity, mats made with high-twist nylon yarns can be engineered to dissipate static electricity, allowing safe use near sensitive electronic equipment.
For every part of a plant facility, today’s mats can address specific safety and cleanliness issues.
SIDEBAR: Why use anti-fatigue mats?Anti-fatigue mats are often used to decrease foot weariness for workers who stand in one position for long periods. However, providing a mat may not solve the entire problem. Discomfort, tiredness, and sore feet after long hours of standing are the combined effect of several factors, namely the design of the work, the workers’ footwear, and the flooring material. According to scientific data, standing for long periods of time is particularly stressful and fatiguing. Regardless of the quality of shoes and quality of the floor covering, standing itself can cause tiredness after an entire working day.
When considering the use of anti-fatigue mats, examine some other factors as well:
Changes in working/standing position. Work should be organized so that the worker has some choice about his/her working position and an opportunity to change position frequently. A workplace that includes an optional seat (chair, sit/stand stool) and some kind of footrest increases the variety of body positions and encourages frequent changes between them.
Footwear. If properly chosen, footwear can further reduce the harmful effects of prolonged standing. Shoes or work boots should ensure adequate arch and heel support and cushioning while providing comfort to the wearer.
Flooring. The type of flooring used in the workplace has an equally important influence on comfort, especially on tender feet. Hard, unyielding floors, like concrete, are the least comfortable surface to work on. Walking on a hard floor is similar to the impact of a hammer pounding the heel at every step. Wood, cork, carpeting, or rubber â€” anything that provides some elasticity â€” is gentler on workers’ feet. Moreover, softer floor coverings reduce fatigue and improve safety by reducing slips and falls on slippery floors.
Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety