Anti-fatigue mats are becoming more and more popular across the UK, across all industries and sectors. As a leading supplier of these excellent products, we thought we would take this opportunity to compile the important facts and figures you should know.
What are anti-fatigue mats?
Anti-Fatigue Mats significantly reduce pain and discomfort for workers who spend prolonged periods of time on their feet. To learn more about the science behind these mats and their incredible benefits, see our Definitive Guide to Anti-Fatigue Mats.
Where did anti-fatigue mats come from?
Years ago, ergonomics experts recognised the harmful effects of standing still for long periods. While it is difficult to track down the original ‘inventor’ of anti-fatigue mats, a couple of studies have had a big impact on the global popularity and implementation of them:
- A study in 1987 at the Centre for Ergonomics, University of Michigan discovered that different surfaces have different effects – possibly the first time this had been highlighted
- That same study found that anti-fatigue mats led to as much as a 50% reduction in pain and discomfort, which is the basis for the global roll out of the matting
- A further study in 1999, published in the April issue of ‘Occupational Health & Safety’ described the benefits once again, giving further credence to the belief that anti-fatigue mats can boost productivity
How big is the problem of standing for long periods?
Bigger than you might think. Some studies suggest that around half of the United Kingdom workforce, or 11 million people, stand all day at work. People who stand all day are estimated to use around 20% more energy than those who sit down, which will naturally have an impact on their output, concentration and engagement.
The most common ‘standing all day jobs’ are:
- Retail work
- Assembly line/production/manufacturing staff
- Security personnel
- Catering/kitchen work
- Hair stylists
- Laboratory workers
Of those people, 470,000 reported new or long-standing MSD in the year 2020/21.
That 470,000 further breaks down to:
- 76,000 (16%) experiencing pain or discomfort in the lower limbs
- 182,000 (39%) reported back pains or problems
- 212,000 (45%) had pain or issues with the upper limbs or neck
One of the biggest factors that results in long term sickness is back ache – the numbers tell a worrying tale:
- Over 15 million sick days were recorded in 2013, with back ache as the main reason for absence.
- 3.4 million people (15% of the total population of the UK) have had to take more than a month off work through back problems
- An estimated 6 million UK residents live with back problems that have not been formally diagnosed
How much do fatigue-related issues cost businesses?
How do all those sick days affect UK industry? As you might expect – they make a big impact:
- Working through the pain (with reduced productivity) and absences cost the UK economy more than £77 billion every year.
- 53.8% of the people in this study reported two or more musculoskeletal issues (only mental health problems are more frequently reported, at 56.5%)
- Between 2014 and 2019, the number of sick days per employee per year was between 2 and 3
- In that same period, presenteeism grew rapidly – from 20.3 days per person in 2014 to 35 in 2019
- The Office for National Statistics suggests that there are 131 million sick days per year, of which just under a quarter are attributable to back, leg or foot pain
The Effects of Anti-Fatigue Mats: Facts
The simple answer is yes. A Loughborough University report found that standing on concrete can begin to affect concentration after just 50 minutes, while using this type of product to cover the hard floor has the following positive effects:
- Lower leg discomfort can be up to 80% less than standing on concrete
- Upper leg discomfort can be 74% less than standing on concrete
- Lower back discomfort can be 37% less than standing on concrete
- Thermal comfort can be improved by up to 60% when compared with standing on concrete
The report is based on studies where test subjects stood on different surfaces for just 90 minutes – the effect over the full working day would presumably be even more dramatic.
A similar study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh had individuals standing on various surfaces for four hours while they worked on a computer. They found that anti-fatigue flooring:
- Significantly reduced lower leg and lower back pain
- Reduced lower extremity swelling
- Improved the skin temperature of the lower leg
These researchers conclude that ‘in general, floor mats characterised by increased elasticity, decreased energy absorption and increased stiffness resulted in less discomfort and fatigue’