An ergonomic mat at the workplace is often indispensable
The subject of “workplace mats in standing and walking areas” is still a relatively new topic. Workplaces in general have changed considerably in the course of time and with them the demands on the factors of safety and ergonomics. An important object of observation in this respect is the workplace mat. Originally used to protect the floor from scratches and wear, its significance has since extended immensely. The modern floor mat no longer merely offers protection for the floor and dropped tools. Because the importance of comfort and health has increased considerably, the ergonomic floor mat has become as indispensable component of many working environments.
What do we understand by workplace mats?
Workplace mats are underlays, usually made of rubber, PVC, caoutchouc or foam, which have been developed for use in standing and walking work areas. They have several functions which can be quite different in the areas of office, trade, catering and hotels, electrical engineering, chemicals or industry: Flame resistance, floor protection, ergonomics, oil resistance or slip resistance for example. Workplace mats are available in different shapes and sizes with various surfaces so that they can be selected and adapted ideally for the requirements of every workplace.
For what do you need a work protection mat?
Work protection mats have always been used to protect the floor and other objects such as dropped tools against damage. At the same time, they offer the users a comfortable surface. The individual properties fulfil several factors simultaneously in the daily work routine: The workplace mat is a work protection mat, fire protection mat, anti-fatigue mat and ergonomic standing mat all at once in a single product. And these factors are becoming increasingly important.
Long standing and walking lead to fatigue
According to the German Health and Safety Executive, around 16.5 million people in Germany have a job in which they mainly stand or walk. Standing is not generally considered dangerous. However, walking or standing for too long at work can still put the body under stress and lead to signs of fatigue, muscular and skeletal disorders, back pains, varicose veins and even circulatory problems. In this case, the workplace mat becomes a health mat for standing workplaces because it relieves the strain on the back, muscles and joints and at the same time prevents cold from the floor from reaching the feet.
- Different types and areas of application for the work protection mat
There are different types of work protection mats, for example, anti-fatigue mats for
standing activities and slip-proof mats for wet or slippery floors. The choice of the right mat depends on the user’s requirements and the application site.
What are the advantages of workplace mats?
Workplace mats have become increasingly important in recent years because they bring a number of advantages for the workplace. On the one hand, they contribute to more safety at the workplace. On the other hand, they protect the health of the staff by increasing the comfort.
- The floor mat improves work safety
The floor protection mat contributes to a system-ergonomic workplace that is designed to optimally meet the needs and requirements of the user. The work environment is adapted here to the user’s needs. A system-ergonomic workplace is an important factor for the health, safety and performance of the workers. A good workplace should be comfortable and guard against injuries whilst at the same time promoting efficiency and productivity. Particularly important for safety: The surfaces of the floor mats reduce static charges and are slip-proof so that the risk of accidents is reduced significantly.
- Greater staff comfort due to industrial mats
Without an ergonomic floor protection mat, the muscles at standing and walking workplaces tire fast on hard ground surfaces such as concrete. The spine lacks the necessary support so that strain on the discs leads to painful muscular tension. The reduced muscle activity in the legs causes circulatory disorders. Heavy legs and painful blood congestions are the result.
- An anti-fatigue mat alters the pressure points when standing
Even distribution of weight on the ergonomic rubber mat alters the pressure points. The mat corrects the person’s balance and establishes an even distribution between the right and left legs. These compensatory movements promote activation of the leg muscles and therefore relieve strain on the feet, knee and hip joints. At the same time, they improve the performance of the staff. Motivation rises, outage times of staff decrease.
- Fewer musculoskeletal disorders, fewer workdays lost through illness
It is a fact that the use of ergonomic workplace mats helps to avoid musculoskeletal disorders in the long term and keep staff fitter and free from fatigue for longer. Back pains and chronic illnesses due to excessive back strain are today one of the most frequent reasons for incapacity for work and thus for absences in manufacture and
production. This can become a major problem in times of shortage of skilled workers which can be alleviated considerably by using a mat at every workplace.
Advantages of workplace mats with the AGR seal of approval
An ergonomic standing mat at the workplace not only increases the productivity because the staff feels more comfortable and can concentrate better on their work. It is also an expression of the company’s “Corporate Social Responsibility” that demonstrates that the well-being and health of their staff are important to them. The investment ultimately pays off because a company with satisfied personnel who work with greater concentration and lose fewer days through illness will most probably enjoy the consequences of an increase in turnover. Good working conditions are therefore a win-win situation for both sides.
What types of workplace mats are available?
Workplace mats fulfil a wide range of purposes. And because they are so flexible in terms of surfaces and materials, they are particularly suitable for certain areas of application. Below, a short list provides information about how different the mats are that Kraiburg has on the market. By the way, many of the mats not only fulfil one of the aspects mentioned here but several simultaneously – with special focus on one feature respectively:
Different workplace mat surfaces
The surfaces of workplace mats have a decisive influence on the signs of fatigue of the staff at walking and standing workplaces. Generally, every surface is suitable for the flow of movement. With regard to the use of materials such as water, oil, metal chips, etc., there are deciding factors that limit the choice of mat surfaces. KRAIBURG offers the mat versions Dry, Wet, Diamond, Diamond Quartz and Superdrain.
- Flat, structured surface
For dry workplaces, a flat, slip-proof surface offers advantages especially for relieving strain on the knees thanks to the flexible rotation of the feet. Cleaning is usually easier than for raised geometries. Trafficability with light equipment is good.
- Round nubbed surface
The semi-round nubbed surface is ideal in application areas in which chips and dirt occur in connection with moisture. The rubber nubs ensure safe footing if contaminations such as metal chips falls into the spaces. These mats offer clear advantages as an oil-resistant version.
- Diamond profile surface
With the diamond-shaped pyramids on the upper surface, this version (_diamond) offers greater slip resistance than the round nubs. This version is also used in wet and greasy areas in front of workbenches, assembly tables, conveyor belts, lathes and mills, grinding and welding stations. For very slippery workstations, the surface of the oil-resistant nitrile mat is given an additional coating of silica sand (_oil_diamond_quarz).
- Round nubs with drainage holes
The combination of round nubs and incorporated drainage holes unites the standing and slipping safety at workplaces with liquids or hot chips with the standing comfort of round nubs. The large holes ensure rapid drainage of liquid spillages.
What materials are work protection mats made of?
The material of a workplace at is decisive for the area of application (oil, ESD, etc.) and the effectiveness of preventive measures for health. For one thing, the material must be elastic and yield appropriately under pressure. This relieves strain on the joints and achieves optimum muscle activation. Optimum elasticity is kind on joint ligaments. In connection with the surface structure of the mat, the leg muscles are activated additionally and the health reactions to strain due to permanent stressing of the musculoskeletal system are minimised.
Work protection mats and their characteristics
The most common materials from which workplace mats are produced are polyurethane (PUR), elastomer (rubber) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). All of these materials and their sub-categories have individual advantages which are responsible for certain characteristics of every mat at the workplace.
Polyurethane (PUR): (Polyurethane foam (integral foam)): Mats made of viscoplastic polyurethane foam (integral foam) have a highly compressed skin which makes the surface of the mats very compliant. The material is immune in its response to many chemicals, alkalis and, with some exceptions, oils. The foam structure of these mats makes them very light and the fact that they do not slip out of place makes them a popular choice for use in dry areas.
Elastomer (rubber): (Rubber granulate (SBR/NR), new rubber (nitrile rubber (NBR), styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR), ethylene-propylene-diene-rubber (EPDM), other polymers, vinyl foam, vinyl overlay + foam): Mats made of industrial elastomers are generally very well suited to heavy-duty use. The vulcanised rubber is highly versatile and can be customised to cater to many different requirements. Hardness, tear resistance, compression set, paint and also UV resistance can be set by using different polymers and additives and thus many different product variants manufactured. The companies of the KRAIBURG Group are market leaders here.
Mats in NBR (e.g. ERGOLASTEC® OIL) are used, for example, in cutting work areas. They have excellent levels of resistance to water, mineral oil, petroleum, diesel, grease and oil-based lubricants. Flame-retardant and anti-static properties are additional options. Other additives inhibit ageing and improve resistance to atmospheric conditions. This elastomer is suitable for areas such as the catering trade due to its kitchen grease resistance. Manufacturers like KRAIBURG ERGOLASTEC optimise its suitability further still through the use of antibacterial and fungicidal additives. ERGOLASTEC® CLEAN).
SBR, on the other hand, is an all-rounder (ERGOLASTEC® BASIC) which offers good value for money. This elastomer exhibits good resistance and low swelling in polar solvents as well as in alcohols and water. It is insensitive to brake fluid (e.g. DOT 4). SBR does, however, have a strong tendency to swell in aliphatic compounds, aromatic compounds and chlorinated hydrocarbons, especially in mineral oil, lubricating grease and petroleum. Anti-fatigue mats made of SBR are used mainly in dry work areas.
SBR/NR: This combination is found mainly in the tyre industry. The recycled tyre material is chemically bonded and compacted. This process is largely used for livestock mats but it is also common practice among some manufacturers to add recycled materials when making ergonomic industrial mats as well, either as a filler between solid rubber covers or as an extender to new rubber compounds.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC): PVC is an amorphous thermoplastic. PVC is hard and brittle, and only through the addition of softeners and stabilising agents does it become soft and pliable, making it suitable for industrial uses. PVC is well-known for its use in floorings, window sections, pipes, cable insulations and jackets and for records, commonly known as “vinyls” in English.
The durability and strength of PVC can be varied to a great degree by the addition of softeners. It responds well to dyeing processes. PVC absorbs very little water and has limited levels of resistance to diluted acids, alkalis, alcohol, oil and petroleum. PVC is basically less durable and hard-wearing than elastomers.
Vinyl foam: Expanded PVC or foam structures with overlay are used in most cases for these very low-priced mats.
What is important when purchasing a workplace mat?
Ergonomic workplace mats can be used at various places and in different application and branches. At dry, wet or high foot rotation frequency workplaces, as single workstation mats or complete floorings. Important here is that the workplace mats of the respective environment are adapted and selected accordingly to fully exploit their resistance and durability. After all, workshop mats and industrial mats have quite different characteristics than a rubber mat that is to be used in a cash till environment.
- High weight of the mat ensures sure footing and slip resistance
Individual consulting which ergonomic mat is suitable for the individual application case is recommendable. For one thing, a robust rubber mat must have an average total weight of approximately 17 kg to guarantee step security and slip resistance. This ensures that the mat will not slip out of place. The material thickness also guarantees that the joins of interlocking sections have a very firm hold when the work protection mats is used to cover large floor areas.
- Ergonomic floor mat: Areas of application
An ergonomic mat can be laid in almost all work areas in which the employees stand for long periods of time. The flooring with the AGR seal of approval (Healthy Back Campaign) is equally effective as an office and industrial mat and as an ergonomic standing mat in medical institutions, retail stores, catering enterprises, warehouses or as workshop mats.
- Resistances to cooling lubricants or flying sparks
But there are marked differences between the mat types: There are ergonomic mats that are particularly suitable for wet environments. Others are resistant to oils and cooling lubricants and others again are suitable for occasional flying sparks and satisfy special fire safety factors. The variability of the mats is shown clearly by a list of
a. Office areas
b. Electronics and electrical engineering workplaces
c. Mechanical machining, car workshops, metalworking
d. Welding workplaces
e. Assembly line and conveyor belt workplaces
f. Picking and packing
g. Food & hygiene areas
h. Hotels and catering
i. Trade – counters & cash tills
j. Work areas with forklift truck traffic
In order to enable the workplace mats to be used in the different areas, the material properties must not be influenced by cold, heat, moisture and dryness. They must also be resistant to chemicals, greases, oils or similar substances if they are designed for a specific environment. Ideally, the manufacturer will offer inspection visits for pre-testing due to the branch variation.
Flame retardancy for work mats - fire protection class Bfl-S1
Fire protection classes are different stages which provide information about the fire safety of materials. They fulfil an important role in the safety and prevention of fires. The fire protection testing of the European class EN13501-1 applies for all floorings. Here, all floorings are classified and subjected to special tests to determine their flammability.
- Class DIN EN13501-1 for floorings
In accordance with the European class EN13501-1 for floorings, the additional designation “fl” for “flooring” exists. This classification is awarded by fire tests. And what does the EN classification “EN13501-1 Bfl-s1” for a workplace mat mean in brief:
1. EN13501-1 is the abbreviation for the classification standard. It defines the procedure for classification of the behaviour of building products in fire.
2. B is the class of the building product = low-flammable
3. “fl” is the abbreviation for “flooring” (flooring is treated separately)
4. The “s” is the abbreviation for “smoke”. If the rubber material is classified as s1, this means no or hardly any smoke development.
- Reducing the risk of a fire breaking out and spreading
When using ergonomic workplace mats, it is particularly important to pay attention to the fire protection class. A reliable flame protection must be incorporated into the rubber mat to reduce the risk of a fire breaking out and spreading, to enable escape for as long as possible and to help protect people and property. Here are some examples where fire protection is particularly important:
a. Production halls
b. Grinding and welding workstations
c. Flooring for trade fairs
d. Retail trade – use at point of sales in stores
e. Public buildings
f. Closed buildings
- Low flammable – what does this mean?
It generally applies that: Floorings in closed buildings and public amenities including schools, administration buildings, concert halls, theatres, etc. may only be laid with the fire protection certification “low flammable”. Standard regulations apply to avoid complex catastrophes in case of fire. The quality of any used floor protection mats also plays a central role here. They must all meet the requirements of the DIN norm EN-13501.
- DIN-Norm EN-13501 covers all possible fire risks
The DIN norm EN-13501 covers all possible fire risks that can occur in the event of a fire so that rapid spreading of a fire is not possible or at least made considerably more difficult. This delay ensures that the certified floors do not fuel the fire. This gives people in the building more time to reach a safe place.
The general safety level in the company increases considerably when low flammable floors are used as are used, for example, in production halls with occurrence of flying sparks or in public buildings. They must all have Bfl-s1 classification.
How are workplace mats maintained and cleaned correctly?
For cost reasons, workplace mats should be maintenance-free where possible. They are usually easy to clean, either by sweeping and vacuum cleaning, washing with common cleaning agents or with water or steam jet cleaners. The minimum distance for cleaning with water and steam jets is at least 40 centimetres, the maximum temperature 140°C – but then only for short cleaning periods. Dirt must be removed from the mats regularly to maintain the slip resistance properties.
Anti-bacterial workplace mats in the food industry
The following agents are particularly suitable for cleaning anti-bacterial workplace mats: "F100 Super" for cleaning and degreasing and "BOWI-SEPT" for disinfection from HWR-Chemie. It is recommended to contact the manufacturer directly when using more special and branch-specific cleaning agents.
Minimum requirements for ergonomic workplace mats
Ergonomics at the workplace is very important for avoiding complaints such as back pains and other health problems. Minimum requirements for ergonomic workplace mats are necessary to ensure that they fulfil their purpose and create a pleasant and healthy working environment. These requirements concern aspects such as material quality, size, thickness and slip resistance. Here a brief overview:
Shock-absorbing properties for reducing signs of fatigue in the feet, legs and back
Elimination of additional knee strain during turning and walking
Usability in extreme cold and heat
UV-resistant and waterproof
Resistant to most oils, greases and many chemicals
Surface structure which allows the conscious perception of edges
Height which does not constitute an additional tripping hazard
User-friendly joining solutions with trip-free transitions
The following properties are also useful:
High wear resistance
Usability in food and hygiene areas
Electrically conductive properties
Different hardness grades within a standing mat
Noise variants on occurrence by means of digital modules
Easy to clean
Workplace mats versus work safety shoe?
Ergonomic workplace mats offer better support and cushioning for the feet and legs that safety footwear. This leads to a reduction of complaints and injuries. Safety shoes are designed primarily for protecting the feet from injury by falling objects or sharp, pointed objects. Ergonomic workplace mats can, however, improve the circulation and reduce pressure on the joints. They also optimise floor contact and help the user to stand and walk better. However, safety shoes are indispensable in some environments where a higher degree of protection is required.
Adaptation: What connection options are available?
Special connection options are available to allow an ergonomic floor to be laid not only in a specific place but overall and with smooth joints. So that the respective floor can be adapted individually to every workplace. The material composition of the workplace mat is decisive for the connection options in this case.
Adhesive is the only viable connection option for PUR foam mats. The glued joints last a long time but are irreversible. The mats are destroyed when they are removed.
The solution with interlocking sections is reversible, very elegant and hard-wearing. A firm hold of the interlocking sections is important.
The pushfit connection is a strong connection system because the edges can be pushed in individually. However, pushfit connections can come loose when driven over by transport systems.
Workplace mats serve in all conceivable branches for safety and health of personnel at standing and walking workplaces. These mats are suitable for workplaces with different features depending on the material and nature of the surface: Some workplaces are wet and oily, others dry and with flying sparks, whilst others again demand flexible footwork. The closer the mat comes to fulfilling the requirements demanded by the workplace, the more useful it is in preventing injuries, promoting productivity and concentration and achieving long-term commercial success. These are only possible after all with satisfied and healthy staff.