Working on one’s feet can be a significant source of physical stress. The mere act of standing increases the physical demand rating of an otherwise sedentary job. And prolonged standing, particularly on hard surfaces, can lead to low back pain, circulatory issues in the legs, sore feet, ankles, knees, and hips.
What is an anti-fatigue mat?
The anti-fatigue mat provides a cushioned surface for the standing worker. It it helps reduce the risk of the injuries referenced above and allows the worker to continue working in a more comfortable environment. Mats are widely available with a nearly-infinite number of features. It can be daunting choosing the correct solution for your operations.
How to choose an anti-fatigue mat?
To help narrow the selections, start by asking these questions:
- Is a mat the appropriate solution? Mats are best for standing workstations, or for smaller work areas. Cushioned insoles are a better option for larger workstations, or jobs with significant walking requirements. What about the type of footwear your employees use?
- What other exposures are present in the operation? Is the area wet, oily, or greasy? Is drainage a concern? Are there chemicals present? Is the work in a clean room environment? Is static electricity a concern? Anti-fatigue mats are available with properties to address these situations, alone or in combination.
- What are the housekeeping requirements for the work area? Look for materials that are compatible with existing cleaning procedures and products or plan for changes.
- Will people or equipment be moving through the work area? Higher traffic requires a mat with a more resilient surface and construction. Beveled edges will create a smooth transition for casters (carts or chairs), and reduce the trip hazard for employees. Safety marking on edges or surfaces is available.
Once you know what you need, use these tips:
- Select an Anti-Fatigue mat, not a floor mat with “anti-fatigue properties.”
- Softer is not always better. Too much cushioning means more work for muscles, and will lead to increased discomfort. A mat that does not rebound from pressure (e.g. footstep) within a few seconds is either too soft, or in need of replacement.
- The ideal thickness is greater than ½ inch, but less than 1 inch.
- As with most products, price can be a fairly good indicator of quality. Commercial grade products tend to cost more, but are designed for regular, repeated use.
- A longer warranty is also an indicator of quality and durability. Be certain the mat is appropriate for the operation though, as an incorrect placement could void the warranty.
- Narrow the selection to the top two or three choices and then demo those products. Let the employees who will be using the mats provide input on the final decision.
- Remember that mats will wear out and require replacement.
The floor surface is only one component of a standing workstation. See Standing Workstation Guidelines for additional recommendations.