A weblog dedicated to Ergonomics education, dicussion and debate. This emerging field has the power to transform industry, business and the lives of ordinary people for the better. The Industrial Athlete intends to encourage and document our profession's vision of an ergonomically-friendly future!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sunday Spotlight: Anti-Fatigue Matting

(picture courtesy http://www.osha.gov)

For people that work at stationary workstations for the majority of their day, anti-fatigue matting is an indispensible material that saves many from sore feet, legs, and backs. It does this by replacing the hard floor beneath with a mat comprised of a softer, more compressible material, such as rubber. This allows the tremendous forces expressed by the operator's body to be absorbed by the matting, rather than it being reflected back at the operator's feet. The mat deforms under pressure from the body, greatly reducing fatigue caused by prolonged exposure to a hard floor.

The mat also encourages blood flow in the legs, as the softness of the mat causes minute muscular contractions resulting from slight movements that would not otherwise happen on a harder surface. This allows improved transport of nutrients and waste to and from the legs, thereby reducing the buildup of lactic acid, a compound that is partly repsonsible for pain in the legs after a long shift of static standing.

When selecting an anti-fatigue mat, be sure that:
  1. The mat is soft enough to be comfortable, but hard enough to allow the operator to maintain a stable footing.
  2. Has beveled edges so that separate mats can lock together, reducing a potential tripping hazard.
  3. The environment where the mat is being used is considered. In a wet environment, the mat material should be non-slip to reduce slipping hazards. In a hospital, mats should be easy to clean to avoid infection hazards.

Also, be sure to inspect any anti-fatigue matting that you may have on a regular basis. Matting that has gone hard from prolonged use will be less effective than a newer mat, and older mats may curl at the edges, creating a tripping hazard.

While jobs should be designed to incorporate as much movement as possible, the hazards of static standing are often unavoidable. The anti-fatigue mat does much to migtigate those risks; henceforth, no standing workstation should be deprived of its benefits.


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