Q. Our company wants to address ergonomic issues and slippery floor concerns. What characteristics of floor mats do you recommend we consider?
A. When focusing on the ergonomics of floor coverings, food manufacturers need to consider fatigue issues and compensation for the stress on individuals caused by multiple work heights. A possible solution to worker fatigue is to provide foam or cushioned matting with a coefficient of compression compatible with the weights of the workers to alleviate joint discomfort. A potential mat solution for varying work heights could be the use of a product that can be layered to compensate for the varying heights of workers.
There are, quite literally, two sides to slippage with any mat: the need to eliminate or minimize slippage between the mat and the floor, and the necessity to allow some slip or ability to glide between the worker and the matting. A solution for the first concern would be to make sure the matting is flexible enough to conform to the slope of the floor and maintains its grip with the floor under normal worker movement. Regarding the worker-mat interaction, the optimal solution is to provide a semi-smooth mat surface that allows easy horizontal foot movement but delivers sufficient gripping power for safe mat ingress and egress.
Clearly, ergonomic and anti-slip concerns are very important in the selection of floor matting, but finding one that works for only these concerns may not be compatible with other required performance criteria.
When evaluating various matting options, consideration should be given to the size of the area to be matted (portable versus stationery design), whether the area will be a wet or dry environment (safety), the type and volume of traffic in the area (durability), how sanitation will be performed in this area (operations processes), whether or not the product in this area is susceptible to product contamination (food safety), and the level of sanitary design required in this area. Embedded in each of these performance requirements may be two or three possible solutions to be considered, in addition to the criterion of anti-slip and ergonomics.
I recommend that specific solutions be developed for each of the performance criterion as a “stand alone” solution. Once complete, each of these “stand alone” solutions should be vetted against each of the performance requirements separately to judge their overall systemic compatibility. The additional work that is needed to accomplish this will ensure that you provide the best product for your colleagues. All will benefit in the end.