Anti-Fatigue Mats are essential equipment in many workplaces, helping people work more comfortably, safely and productively. If you're not familiar with Anti-Fatigue Mats or just want to know more about them and how they work, then the guide below will provide you with everything you need to know.
Anti-Fatigue Mats are floor mats that help to relieve physical stresses on the body, improve blood circulation and reduce fatigue.
When standing, your muscles are tensed to counteract gravity and keep you upright. But stand for too long, your muscles become constricted, and your blood flow is reduced, making your muscles and joints ache. This stress on your muscles and joints builds over time, causing physical fatigue and long-term health problems.
The body uses more energy as the heart is forced to work harder to pump blood through these constricted areas. The result is pain, discomfort and fatigue.
These industrial mats enable workers to be productive and feel at ease whilst standing for long periods, particularly on hard surfaces. By using an anti-fatigue mat while working, muscles are kept moving, which increases blood flow, which reduces fatigue and stress, and workers’ well-being is taken care of.
Anti-Fatigue Mats work by improving circulation around the body, which is done by creating constant micro-movements in the leg muscles. The soft surface of the mat is not only comfortable, easing pressure on your knees and back, but also creates a small amount of instability which encourages your leg muscles to activate.
This allows you to evenly distribute the pressure caused by standing up across both legs so that one is not trying to support more weight than the other, which will give you a better posture and means that you won’t be putting increased stress on any of your joints.
Frequently making natural changes to your position will reduce tension in your shoulders and neck, alleviate headaches, and take pressure off your back.
These movements also mean that your Venous pumps will be active, so blood will be pumped back to the heart rather than pooling in your lower limbs and causing discomfort. You will be less likely to suffer from blood circulatory problems, which you can be at risk of if your heart has to work harder, as this puts more pressure on the veins.
In addition, anti-fatigue mats help by providing a softer, warmer surface to stand on, as standing on a cold hard floor lowers your body temperature, which results in your heart having to work harder to warm you up, also causing fatigue.
Anti-Fatigue Mats have been proven to work by numerous studies, which all show that businesses using these mats report reductions in staff absences whilst increasing staff morale and productivity.
In a study at the Center of Ergonomics at the University of Michigan in 1987, Ergonomist Mark Redfern concluded that different standing surfaces could dramatically affect physical fatigue. Workers who stood on anti-fatigue mats were able to reduce the level of fatigue and discomfort by as much as 50%
It is often assumed that fatigue only occurs when we haven’t had enough sleep or when we’ve been physically active all day, but simply standing in one position for an extended period of time can cause fatigue and some serious health problems.
One of the reasons for this is due to a part of our anatomy called the Venous pump. With each step we take, our calf muscles contract and squeeze blood back up towards our heart; the veins even contain valves to control the direction of blood flow.
However, when we stand still, this process does not work as it only springs into action when our leg muscles relax and contract like they do when we walk, run, or participate in other exercises.
The result is that blood pools in the lower limbs, and the heart has to pump it back around the body by itself, which causes us to feel more fatigued.
This blood pooling in the legs and the increased pressure on joints causes pain and discomfort, which can eventually result in a work-related musculoskeletal disorder if not diagnosed and treated where necessary.
Due to gravity's effect on our bodies because of our upright position, we are designed to be moving rather than standing still as when we are stationary, our muscles are required to tense to stop us from losing our balance. This causes greater fatigue too.
A study by Loughborough University found that just 90 minutes of continuous standing can cause an individual to feel uncomfortable, which may seem like a short amount of time to someone who spends their whole working day on their feet.
So now you know how Anti-Fatigue Mats work, the next question you might ask is how beneficial they really are. There are many benefits that you or your workforce can expect to enjoy, such as;
Standing up puts lots of pressure on the joints due to the vertical weight they need to support during long periods of standing. An Anti-Fatigue Mat can reduce this stress by ensuring that you make natural, frequent changes to your standing position, which means that your weight can be spread evenly between both feet.
Blood flows more freely around the body when standing up rather than sitting down, but when the body isn’t moving, the heart has to work harder to ensure that blood is pumped around the whole body, which puts added pressure onto the vein network.
However, using an Anti-Fatigue Mat helps muscles and veins relax, so the heart isn’t under as much stress and reduces the risk of circulatory problems.
When standing on a hard floor for hours, your joints often become stiff, leading to shoulder and neck pain.
Pain in these areas tends to result in tension headaches which can affect your ability to work. Still, when you use an Anti-Fatigue Mat, the cushioning beneath your feet will mean less pressure on the body so that these headaches can be a thing of the past and overall joint pain will be reduced.
Suppose you’re not feeling comfortable at work and battling various aches and pains daily. In that case, this will mean that you are less productive due to being distracted by how you feel, plus you use up to 20% more energy when standing, which means you will tire quickly.
In addition, fatigue can set in after just 90 minutes of standing, which means you won’t feel like your best self.
An Anti-Fatigue Mat can combat these issues and increase your productivity in the workplace which means that it is both an investment in your health and wellbeing and one which will benefit the company you work for too.
It is a known fact that slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of injury within the workplace, which is not only bad news for companies who may temporarily lose employees.
Many Anti-Fatigue Mats boast a ribbed surface and are made from non-slip materials. Standing on one of these reduces the likelihood of slipping while at work and can help prevent you from being another casualty to add to this worrying statistic.
The lifespan of an Anti-Fatigue mat depends on many factors, such as:
Therefore, it's impossible to offer any general guidance regarding how long a mat may last. Still, if you speak to a specialist retailer, they will be able to recommend which types of mats are most suitable for you based on your circumstances.
Some of the most common materials used when manufacturing these mats are; natural rubber, vinyl, PVC, polyurethane and foam.
Foam-based mats are suitable for dry areas only (the occasional splash of water or cleaning with a damp cloth won't hurt); they generally work better in light to medium-duty areas, such as packaging areas or production lines.
Vinyl-topped mats often use the same foam centre to provide comfort, with a Vinyl top surface that is considerably more durable. These are more resistant to wear and are suitable for use in heavy-duty areas or where trolleys and other heavy items may be placed on the mats.
Rubber mats won't feel as comfortable as their foam counterparts due to the higher density of the materials, but they are more durable and resistant to water. If you're working with a lathe or CNC milling machine, then a rubber anti-fatigue mat with holes will always be the best option.
Whilst you may think that the thicker the mat, the better it will be for you, this is not necessarily the case. Anti-Fatigue Mats are soft by design as this creates the slight instability needed for them to work, but if they are too soft, they won't provide the stability required for you to work safely whilst standing on them.
Anti-Fatigue Mats can be beneficial in any line of work where standing for long periods can't be avoided. Some of the most popular places they are used include:
In the UK, employers are not legally required to provide staff with Anti-Fatigue Mats. However, according to The Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations, introduced in 1992, workstations must be suitable for workers so they won’t slip or fall. A seat along with a convenient footrest should also be provided when appropriate.
Richard O'Connor is a Director at First Mats. He has deep knowledge in areas like Manufacturing, Warehousing, Marine, and Health & Safety. Richard's insights have been featured in well-known publications such as Bloomberg Business, The Sun, and Reader's Digest. His blend of industry expertise and passion for sharing makes him a sought-after voice in his fields.