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How to select a proper floor mat - February 2017
This reference note offers some simple guidelines on
selecting and installing the right matting system for the right purpose.
Tribology is the study of the interaction of sliding
surfaces. In slips and falls, tribology is associated with the following:
1. Friction between the shoe sole and the
2. Lubrication at the interface or
contaminate on the floor surface, such as water, grease or oil, particulate
soil etc., and
3. Wear of floor surface and shoe sole
material over time.
All three are important when assessing potential for slips
and falls, and all three are important when selecting interventions to prevent
slips and falls.
Mats are more than a place to wipe your shoes when entering
a building or to stand on when performing manual work tasks. When selected and
installed correctly, mats can reduce the likelihood of slips and falls and
reduce lower extremity and back discomfort.
When Do I Need a Mat?
Mats might be warranted when a pedestrian walking or working
surface does not meet slip resistance requirements, such as when moisture,
grease, oil, dirt or other contaminates are present. Examples include at
building entrances, grocery produce areas, around salad bars, water fountains,
sinks, restaurant kitchens, machinery process areas, near food counters, and
anywhere spills, water, dirt, grease, etc. is part of the environment. Some
mats have anti-fatigue properties that might be useful for areas where
employees stand in one place for a long period of time. Mats can also be used
as a temporary fix until floor surface repairs can be made if surface is
There are two types of matting systems; entrance mats or
“front of the house” mats and multi-purpose mats or “back of the house” mats.
Whether “front of the house” or “back of the house,” a strategy needs to be
employed to select the right mat for the right environment. Too often, little
thought is given to matting systems. It is easy to subcontract to a vendor the
selection, cleaning and replacement of loose-lay mats (see below) used at
entrances and back of the house. Mats that are dirty, worn and old offer little
slip prevention benefits.
Entrance matting improves overall floor maintenance by
scraping and absorbing soil particles and moisture from footwear to keep the
floor in a clean dry condition. Can an entrance mat system improve the
“tribology” of a floor? Yes, because mats remove moisture and particulate soil
from the shoe sole and heel, thereby, reducing likelihood of slips and
protecting the floor finish from unnecessary wear. It is estimated that 80% of
soil entering a building can be trapped within the first 15 feet on a carpeted
There are four types of entrance mats:
and grate system: Requires a structural commitment. This type of
mat funnels and drains moisture down and is a permanent fixture at
- Glue-down: Installed
at any time. The floor surface can be damaged by the adhesive. Some types
require a metal strip and rubber reducer that is screwed into the floor as
the finished edge. Replacement is time consuming.
- Recessed: Permanent
mats inserted into a well or recessed surface that become the finished
floor. The finished height of the mat should be at least flush with the
lip of the well and not represent a trip hazard.
- Loose-lay: Should
stay in place without the use of adhesives, frames, screws or duct tape.
Be aware of the type of backing. Guard against damage to underlying floor
surface as these mats may harbor mold and mildew. Air should circulate
through the mat.
Recessed and loose-lay entrance mats are the most common.
Surface selection depends on expected foot traffic and whether the mat is used
in winter or wet climates. The primary purpose of a mat is to remove moisture
and soil from the shoe. If an inferior mat is selected, it will wear quickly,
saturate with water quickly, and not perform as it should. More durable and
absorptive entrance mats cost more but they usually last longer and do the job
The depth of the mat is very important. The number of steps
required to effectively scrape and wipe feet depends on climate. As climate
improves, the demands on floor matting become less intense. In snow strategies,
a minimum of 10-12 walking steps is a good guide to the depth of floor mat
needed. Rain strategies can gauge about 8-10 steps and dry strategies require
about 6-8 steps.1 Mat depth “credit” is given for the following:
1. Overhangs (if any)
2. Outside mats (if any)
3. Vestibule mats (if any)
4. Walk-off mats inside the building
5. Type of flooring inside the building
A rule of safe practice is that footprints or water prints
should not be seen beyond the last entrance mat. See Figure 1.
If the walkway surface material inside the building can be
slippery when wet (i.e. polished and waxed vinyl composition tile, terrazzo,
polished granite/marble, glazed and smooth ceramic tiles etc.) and there
are no interior mats, or there are mats but by design and
installation they do not,
absorb moisture from footwear,
remove soils from footwear,
perform well because they are dirty... then entrance safety improvements
are needed — including selecting the right matting system.
may not perform well alone on wet, snowy days as they can saturate quickly;
therefore, an absorptive walk-off mat inside the building is needed. The
walking depth strategy would extend from the outside edge of the vestibule mat
to the inside edge of the walk-off mat. However, if there is an overhang, the
walking depth would include the overhang depth.
Back-of-the-house mats are multi-purpose mats that can
absorb liquids, elevate workers above standing water, provide a slip resistant
working or standing surface, and/or provide anti-fatigue properties.
Absorbing or retaining spills is common for mats used in
grocery produce areas, around water fountains and sinks, etc. When selecting
mats for this purpose, consider liquid absorption characteristics; containment
of spills and debris; and durability, such as grocery cart traffic and foot traffic.
Mats with slip-resistant surfaces are useful in standing
work areas where grease and oil are common, such as in restaurant kitchens,
manufacturing and food process areas. These mats have durable slip resistant
surfaces that are also easy to clean. When the surface is wet, some mats can be
more slippery than the surface they rest on. Test by kicking the wet mat and
then kick the adjacent floor surface to determine which is more slippery. Drawbacks
of mats are that some can interfere with wheeled equipment, and moisture and
debris can be tracked onto other areas if wrong mat is selected. It can be
difficult to practice “clean-as-you-go” when mats are in place.
Anti-fatigue mats are common at work areas where prolonged
standing work is performed, like retail cashiers, machine operators and packing
workers. Standing for long periods of time has been implicated in a number of
health issues, including lower extremity discomfort, pain and fatigue, and low
back discomfort. Research has shown that discomfort may be due to venous
pooling rather than muscle fatigue. Subject ratings of perceived fatigue from
various flooring and matting materials have been shown to be more helpful than
quantitative measures when evaluating the physical benefits of anti-fatigue
mats among alternatives.
Research has also shown material that is too soft can be
associated with increased lower extremity fatigue and discomfort, while harder
or stiffer surfaces were most often associated with low back discomfort. No
study has yet to recommend a specific material for anti-fatigue matting. When
selecting anti-fatigue matting, experiment with different types and be sure to
involve the worker in the final selection.
Use the following guidelines when selecting mats:
a mat design and surface material based on expected environment and
mats whose edges will not curl by design. These mats often have a beveled
edge or a flat edge to reduce tripping exposure. Mats more than ¼ inch
thick should have tapered edges to prevent tripping.
mats with non-slip backing that resists movement.
mats that guard against damage to underlying floor surface caused by mold
mats that are easy to clean. A mat’s weight, size and openings determine
how difficult or easy it will be to clean.
practical, a single larger mat should be used instead of multiple smaller
and runners should be laid out to avoid overlap or gaps between them and
to provide a continuous walkway path.
selecting anti-fatigue mats involve workers and offer options.
Use the following guidelines when using mats:
inspect mats for damage and excess wear, and replace as necessary.
mats or runners to prevent edges from curling.
- Do not
place mats or runners against objects that don’t allow the mat to lie flat
(e.g. against machinery and process areas, doors or furniture).
should receive scheduled cleanings, especially in environments exposed to
snow, ice and rain.