Over $61 billion in productive time is lost each year to common worker pain. One of the major culprits? Standing work. Back pain, leg pain and foot pain can all result from working while standing, but standing posture itself isn’t always the problem: sometimes it’s the surface.
Anti-fatigue mats, also known as stress-reducing mats or ergonomic mats, can make all of the difference. But according to ergonomics and technology products manufacturer, Satech, buying one isn’t as simple as just picking up the softest mat at the hardware superstore. Instead, Satech recommends considering the following nine points when purchasing an anti-fatigue mat:
While hard surfaces may be undesirable to stand on, not all soft materials make appropriate work surfaces. Certain foam materials, for example, get harder when they’re compressed, which means a worker standing on a foam anti-fatigue mat may receive little benefit from the mat.
- Has the mat been optimized for softness and hardness?
- Does the mat provide an adequate balance between instability and stability?
- Does the mat resist bottoming out without being too soft?
- Does the mat adequately respond to worker movements?
- Does the mat absorb energy and return energy?
- Does the mat get softer as it is compressed?
- Does the mat resist movement under use?
- Is the mat easy to clean?
- Is the mat durable?
A mat that is too soft can increase fatigue and wear out quickly. A mat that is too hard serves little more purpose for a worker than standing on the hard floor.
Oddly enough, some degree of instability is desirable in anti-fatigue flooring. A mat needs to provide for sufficient instability to encourage small postural changes and blood flow, but not so much that it increases fatigue or becomes a safety hazard. On the other hand, too much stability can create pressure points causing discomfort and over-fatigue of certain muscles.
When a soft mat’s cushioning material becomes fully compressed, that mat begins to act like a mat that is too hard – the cushioning material ceases to serve its intended purpose.
A responsive anti-fatigue mat will rapidly return to its original shape as the worker’s weight is shifted. If the mat’s rebound is delayed, a worker may be walking on a partially compressed mat which reduces the mat’s benefit.
Falls and sudden movements on the mat are adequately cushioned if the mat can absorb shock without bottoming out. But a mat that absorbs too much energy may mimic the sensation of standing on sand, a rather uncomfortable working surface.
Sometimes the mat’s material can cause a mat to move easily, a situation arising with certain foams that break down and create a slippery layer of “dust” between the mat and the floor. Also, lightweight mats can bunch up and become a trip hazard. Plus, any mat that moves easily can become a safety hazard.
Some mat designs or materials can trap in dirt or harbor bacteria, which can be difficult to clean and may lead to unsanitary conditions in health care or food service environments.
How quickly does a mat wear out? How often does a mat need to be replaced? Some mats and mat materials retain their effectiveness longer than others. The real value of an anti-fatigue mat may surface in how frequently a mat needs to be replaced.
According to Satech, finding an effective anti-fatigue mat can depend upon everything from the materials used to construct the mat, to the mat’s design, and even the durability of the mat itself or where it will be used. But understanding what makes one anti-fatigue mat more effective than another is the key to making the right purchasing decision.
To learn more or purchase Satech and other anti-fatigue products, visit the Ergobuyer® Catalog Store.