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In an industry where your employees are on their feet the vast majority of their day (over seventy-five hours in a two week period), it is of extreme importance to protect those employees (and by extension, yourself) from the physical dangers associated with stand up work.  This means creating an atmosphere where your employees are not only comfortable but protected against common ailments that can plague standing workers, decrease productivity, and increase the chance of worker’s compensation claims or benefits usage. 

One of the best things an employer can do for their standing employees is to provide anti-fatigue mats.  Anti-fatigue floor mats are thick, padded mats designed to reduce and eliminate overall fatigue from the bodies of standing workers.  It should be noted, however, that seated workers can also benefit from anti-fatigue comfort mats.  Workers that remain seated all day can benefit from the usage of desk-sized standing mats if their workspaces are designed so that they can move from seated to standing with their seated work. 

In order to fully understand how anti-fatigue mats work, it’s important to know a little more about how standing work can affect an employee.    

How Standing Work Affects an Employee

Obviously, standing employees are going to have issues with tired feet, swollen ankles, and calves, and possibly low back pain and even neck pain.  But how do these problems arise?  What causes the majority of issues with standing work like retail, welding, and repair shop work, line cooking, etc.? 

It all has to do with muscle rigidity.  When you are standing, the muscles (especially those in the lower half of your body and legs) become rigid.  This causes the blood vessels in the legs and feet to shrink, and this results in decreased blood flow to the area.  When this happens, the standing employee experiences acute symptoms like pain and cramping.  Secondary, more severe problems occur when this scenario happens repeatedly over a long period of time.  Circulatory problems can occur when a worker stands on a hard floor for long periods of time without adequate support or rest.  There is even a risk of cardiovascular disease because of blood collecting in the legs from standing. 

The issue remains, however, some employees need to be standing to do their job properly.  So what can be done to ensure that an employee is safe while working?  In addition to getting adequate breaks and rest periods, ensuring the employee’s workspace is ergonomically sound can make a huge difference in whether the employee experiences pain, cramping, or more serious issues. 

How Do Anti-Fatigue Mats Work?

As aforementioned, the true cause of an employee’s pain from standing for long periods is not actually the standing, but rather the resulting muscle rigidity.  Muscle rigidity occurs because the employee stands without moving enough for periods of time too long to be accommodating to the muscular system, and this is when rigidity occurs on a hard kitchen floor, for example. 

Anti-fatigue mats work by creating a very thickly padded surface upon which the employee stands.  The padding actually causes the worker to constantly make micro-adjustments with their feet to retain balance on the padded mat.  The worker does not feel off-balanced or unstable, but the thickness of the mat causes slight instability underfoot and thus causes them to compensate for it.  As such, the feet, ankles, and calves are in constant movement.  The constant movement prevents muscle rigidity, which in turn reduces pain, cramping, and other standing work-related issues. 

Anti-fatigue mats also provide comfort to the standing worker.  Any surface that does not provide a cushion for the feet of the employee is a potential hazard for them.   Even if the employee wears orthopedic or padded shoes, it may not be enough to keep their feet and legs comfortable when in a standing position for hours on end. 

What Other Precautions Should a Standing Employee Take?

In addition to using anti-fatigue mats, a standing employee should also take additional precautions to ensure they do not suffer from lower limb disorders due to excessive standing.  If you supervise a standing employee, we encourage you to incorporate these practices into your work environment.  Working congruently with an anti-fatigue mat, these precautions can truly be the “ounce of prevention.”  

  • Schedule breaks and/or changes in work position.  If possible, the employee should attempt to organize their workday by incorporating breaks or different work positions every hour.  This means that they should have the opportunity to walk around, take a short seated break, or begin a task where they are seated or in a different position every hour or so. 
  • Wear appropriate footwear.  Even though footwear will likely not prevent an employee from experiencing foot and leg pain, it is an important and integral part of keeping the employee safe.  Footwear that is appropriate for a standing employee will have a thick sole, arch support, and a definite heel cushion system.  It’s important the employee be fitted for the correct size, as oftentimes they will need a half size larger than they normally wear to allow their foot to spread out while standing up.
  • Stay hydrated.  It’s important that a standing employee stays hydrated during their work.  This means drinking enough water throughout the day.  It is tempting to many employees to simply drink cup after cup of coffee while they work, but this can be counterintuitive to staying hydrated, as caffeine is a diuretic.  Pure water is the best way to stay hydrated while working, with limited caffeine. 

What Kind of Anti-Fatigue Mat Should I Purchase?

Anti-fatigue matting is available in many different thicknesses, finishes, and colors ranging from gelpro mats, to rubber mats, to polyurethane kitchen mats, to vinyl anti-fatigue mats.  Ultimate Mats has been in the commercial matting industry since 2005 and we sell the highest quality top surface mats available.  We work only with the commercial mat industry leaders to deliver the highest standards in anti-fatigue mats to our clients.  As such, we are happy to assist you in deciding what kind of anti-fatigue mats will work best for your standing employees to create happy feet and happy employees.  Here are some great anti-fatigue mat options we love:

Desk “get fit” mats.  Standing desk mats or “get fit” mats are buzz-worthy in the office world right now.  You may even know coworkers who have purchased them or requested their supervisor make a standing desk available.  These mats, which are generally the size of a small doormat, are made for employees who are generally seated at a computer all day.  Instead of being seated all day, the employee has the option to stand on the mat with an elevated computer desk a portion of their day.  This can help prevent a seated employee from experiencing pain and discomfort associated with all-day seated work (think back, shoulder, and neck discomfort).  Additionally, these mats are attractive to employees who sit the majority of their day as you will burn more calories standing than you will seated.  This is why the mats have been dubbed “get fit” mats. 

Ortho Runners.  Ortho runners are classic styled anti-fatigue mats that are typically 6-20 feet in length and between 22-48 inches wide.  These mats are perfect for assembly line work, machine shops, and kitchen & dining work.  Additionally, these mats are available with holes, which are especially helpful in commercial kitchens and/or medical offices where spills are likely to happen.  These mats are solid Nitrile rubber and resistant to mold and other forms of bacteria.  Another fascinating factor for these mats is their anti-slip properties.  Each ortho runner will stay exactly where it is placed, regardless of the amount of foot traffic it sees daily. The ortho runners carried by Ultimate Mats are also resistant to slipping when placed in areas where they could potentially be exposed to oil, grease, animal fats, and petroleum.  

Hog Heaven mats.  One of the leading commercial anti-fatigue mats available is the Hog Heaven anti-fatigue mat.  Hog Heaven mats are known for their superior construction and durability.  These mats are made from Nitrile rubber and provide varying thicknesses to ensure the proper amount of cushioning required for your employees’ standing work.  Hog Heaven mats are great in any standing work environment and are the toughest in the industry. These rubber floor mats are flame-resistant, slip-resistant, and static-resistant.  These mats are safe for every industry and can even be used in high-traffic areas as kitchen rugs or chair mats because of their superior construction. 

You may think anti-fatigue mat will naturally be unattractive as they are intended to be a workhorse and not necessarily an aesthetically pleasing addition to the home decor.  Thankfully, the anti-fatigue kitchen mats available today are both hard-working, attractive, and plush.  They come in beautiful finishes that can either blend into the background of your work environment or hold a place of prominence.  Available in colors like black, blue, grey, and marble, you are sure to find a finish that blends perfectly with your workplace décor. 

Anti-fatigue mats are a great way to provide your employees the comfort and safety they need and deserve while they perform their standing work.  Creating a slightly unstable cushion underfoot causes a standing employee to continually move.  When muscles are in constant motion the chance of developing muscle rigidity is low, and the problems associated therewith are greatly diminished.  Anti-fatigue matting is available in a plethora of different sizes, shapes, and finishes and is excellent for any industry where an employee will be standing more than seventy-five hours in a two week period. 

Sources:

https://theconversation.com/standing-too-much-at-work-can-double-your-risk-of-heart-disease-83629
https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/mats.html
https://www.lifehack.org/639312/why-its-important-to-drink-more-water-at-work

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