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Not all Mats are Created Equal: The Science of Entrance Matting

Not all Mats are Created Equal: The Science of Entrance Matting

Not all Mats are Created Equal: The Science of Entrance Matting

Every facility manager knows the benefit of an entrance mat, but most don’t understand that all mats are not created equal. Using the wrong kind of mat at a location can still lead to slip and fall accidents, negating the purpose of having an entrance mat to begin with.  With managers of industrial/commercial facilities under greater amounts of pressure to reduce slip and fall accidents, not to mention minimize floor maintenance costs, knowing which mat to use for which location is critical.

The Basics

Entrance mats can greatly reduce the risk of slip and fall accidents in your facility, especially on uncarpeted flooring. To do this, however, they must be firm-gripping on the bottom and not prone to wrinkling or folding over. Mats should be placed both indoors and outdoors at all building entrances, and the largest, toughest mats should be at your widest, highest-traffic entrances and those that double as fire exits.

Mats also serve to remove excess dirt and debris, and a typical commercial entrance with 15 linear feet (4.5 meters) of mat coverage can eliminate 80% or more of dirt that would otherwise enter your building. Also be sure that, whether with one or two mats, the width is enough to cover one's first two steps both inside and out (thus four steps total) in main entry zones. Following these guidelines will significantly lessen the frequency at which sweeping/mopping are needed and extend the life of your floor. Additionally, it cuts down on airborne dust particles getting into your indoor air.

Finally, entrance mats absorb moisture from rain/snow on incoming footwear. Without them, puddling is sure to occur, which puts you at high risk of slip and fall accidents. With carpeted mats, be sure never to use high-pile since it is harder to clean, easier to trip on, and harder for wheelchairs to roll over with ease.

Where to Use the Three Basic Kinds of Entrance Mats

There are three basic varieties of entrance mats, classified according to functionality, which are: scraper, wiper, and hybrid mats.

  • Scraper mats are generally designed for just outside the door, but can also be used between two sets of doors. They may be of hard plastic or of looped and/or highly coarse materials and must withstand severe weather long-term. Their purpose is mainly to scrape off larger particles of dirt and debris.
  • Wiper mats are designed mainly to absorb moisture and remove finer dirt/dust particles from incoming feet. They are mostly used inside the building, both at entryways and in hallways. Be sure that your wiper mats will not discolor the flooring below them, and it is best if they are dark-colored or a "kaleidoscope" patterning so dirt won't become too obvious.
  • Hybrid mats are built for both scraping and absorbing moisture. They are sometimes used inside instead of wiper mats if a lot of dirt will be tracked in. They can also be used as "stage two" inside when a "stage three" wiper mat immediately follows.

Placement of Mats in Different Areas of Your Facility

Each "mat-worthy" location of a commercial office building or industrial facility will be best served by particular types of mats. Mats should be measured so as not to touch walls or furniture but to fully span the area in front of the doorway.

  • Outside the main entrance, a molded rubber scraper mat is a good choice, and there is no reason it should not bear the company logo and double as a "floor sign."
  • Anti-slip mats that attach to the floor using some form of strong (but removable) adhesive are perfect for inclined zones in industrial facilities, where many slip and falls tend to occur.
  • In industrial work areas where workers must stand for long spans of time, anti-fatigue mats should be placed. They will both reduce worker discomfort and boost productivity.
  • In "transitional areas" between, say, an office and a warehouse area, an anti-bacterial mat is often used. This prevents bacteria from easily spreading from one part of your facility to another.
  • Near electronic equipment of all kinds in offices, you should consider installing anti-static and/or electrically conductive mats.
  • An "olefin" mat (extremely absorbent) can be placed below drinking fountains to absorb any spillage.
  • Food-service areas should be matted with heavy-duty hybrid mats that effectively combat both moisture and dirt.
  • Finally, we should mention that mats must be periodically cleaned. Those mats that work best will become the dirtiest, and you need to have a plan to thoroughly clean them. This may include shaking, sweeping off, or vacuuming. Outdoor mats can be hosed down to wash them, while indoor mats may need to be machine-washed and hung out to dry.

Entrance mats and other mats throughout your facility are your "first line of defense" against dirt and moisture. Learning how best to select/position them will prove cost-effective.

John Allin on Slip and Fall Lawsuits and the Snow & Ice Removal Industry

John Allin on Slip and Fall Lawsuits and the Snow & Ice Removal Industry

John Allin on Slip and Fall Lawsuits and the Snow & Ice Removal Industry

In this interview, you’ll learn all about John Allin, founder of SIMA, key player in the founding of ASCA, expert witness, and overall big name in the snow and ice removal industry.

HeatTrak: Share with us briefly how long you’ve been in the snow and ice industry? How did you get started?

John: I began plowing snow in my father’s business in northern NJ back in the late 60’s. I left New Jersey in 1971 to go to Erie, PA to attend college. I got married in 1974 and my first child was coming shortly thereafter. I needed money. It snows upwards of 350 inches (8.89 m) of snow each winter in Erie. So I purchased a 4-Wheel Drive Bronco, put a plow on it, distributed flyers in the neighborhood and obtained residential snow plowing accounts.

In 1982, I quit my sales job to pursue snow and ice management full time. In 1984, we started doing landscape maintenance so as to keep the winter guys busy in summer – so they would come back each winter. From there, we grew steadily over the next 25 years.

HeatTrak: You have a consulting business called, John Allin Consulting, Inc. How do you help professionals in the ice and snow management space?

John: Because of how much snow we get in Erie, PA each winter, I get to practice what I do much more than most. It also means I get to foul up more often than others who plow snow in areas where there is less snow. So I tell my consulting clients that my job is to help them avoid the landmines that come with growth initiatives. And I’ve stepped on ‘em all – in fact, I’ve stomped on some. We provide an outlet for owners and high level managers to get them to “see” what growth issues will follow them. I’ve seen most everything that can go wrong – and my clients get to benefit from my screw-ups.

HeatTrak: You’re the founder of the Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA), and played a key role in the formation of the Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA). How has the formation of these organizations changed the shape of the snow and ice industry?

John: We formed SIMA so we (the 8 of us who were there in the basement of my home in June 1996) could become better businessmen. From there, we (and those who joined us on that journey) became more sophisticated business owners. Moving snow was easy for all of us. Running our companies like true profit centers took some education – and we learned from each other in the early days. After a while, we learned from other professionals (accounting types, management types, etc.). 1996 saw the beginnings of “professionalism” in the niche market that is snow and ice management. ASCA has taken this a step further by pioneering snow industry written standards, ISO certification and legislative change.

HeatTrak: As an expert witness, what are some important points businesses need to consider this winter to prevent slip and fall lawsuits?

John: Establish a “system” and follow it. Style those systems around the available written standards, follow the “standards” and you will provide a safer environment for those who drive or walk on sites we maintain. Anyone can plow snow – it’s not rocket science. But, being a “risk manager” is more difficult and takes more business acumen. And, make no mistake – we (those who move snow and mitigate ice) are no longer “plow jockeys”. We truly ARE risk managers now.

HeatTrak: When a facility manager is developing a snow response plan for their property what are the top concerns to address and elements to include?

John: Priorities need to be established and followed. Documenting every action taken on a site is (now) mandatory to protect all from liability exposure. Train folks to do the job right, hold them accountable, and then get out of the way and let it happen.

HeatTrak: Lastly, how can businesses and facility managers make sure all their gaps are covered in case of employee injuries?

John: Test the system – often. Let an outsider review the plan and point to the holes that will likely be apparent. Too often, those who set the plan are too close to the process to readily see the gaps and/or holes. Too many times it takes something to “go wrong” to show up a weakness. Get an outsider (with experience) to take a looksee at what is being done. And, if you outsource the work to an independent service provider who is a professional in the snow management business – properly vet the contractor and then let them advise you as to how best to keep the site safe. This is their living. They are NOT people who cannot find real jobs. They should be professionals who are constantly educating themselves and their employees as to what advances are occurring in the industry.

HeatTrak: Thank you, John, for sharing your story and advice with us!

Here's How to Get a Grip on Slips and Falls

Here's How to Get a Grip on Slips and Falls

Here's How to Get a Grip on Slips and Falls

It’s no secret that slips and falls can be costly to businesses and institutions. They lead to employees taking sick days and result in worker compensation claims, higher insurance premiums, and lawsuits, all of which can seriously harm your bottom line.

The Statistics Speak for Themselves:

  • Slips and falls are the main cause of missed work days.
  • As many as 85% of worker’s compensation claims result from a slipping incident.
  • Roughly $70 billion is spent annually to cover medical expenses and compensation for employee slips and falls. (National Safety Council Injury Facts, 2003)
  • In 22% of the incidents, the number of days missed exceeds 31. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2002)
  • In 2013, the second most frequent cause of workplace injuries, same-level falls, cost $10.17 billion, and slips without falls cost $2.3 billion. (2016 Liberty Mutual Research Workplace Safety Index)

Preventing slips and falls should be a high priority for all businesses and institutions. Prevention has two aspects: developing an organizational culture that supports safe habits and ensuring that physical conditions are optimal.

Preventing Slips & Falls Tip #1: Develop a Safe Organizational Culture

To help prevent slips and falls, focus on developing a workplace culture with a strong emphasis on safety:

  • Investigate how and why slips and falls occur in your institution.
  • Institute safety awareness programs and safety training for employees.
  • Encourage employees to speak up if they encounter safety problems and create a system for employee incident reporting.
  • Create safety committees and personal protective equipment programs.
  • Make a focus on workplace safety part of every employee’s daily routine.
  • Have a personalized message from the safety director or facility director in the form of a video greeting reminding people to stay alert and report issues that need to be attended to.

Preventing Slips & Falls Tip #2: Optimize Physical Conditions

Physical factors also have a significant impact on the risk of falling in a given space. The following is only a partial list:

  • Floors that are wet or covered with a slippery surface, such as grease, floor wax, or powder
  • Uneven surfaces, such as poorly paved sidewalks
  • Holes in the ground, such as potholes
  • Snow, hail, sleet, or rain
  • Loose tiles or carpets
  • Obstacles such as electrical cords or clutter
  • Poor lighting
  • Wet shoes or high-heeled shoes

These methods will help you to focus on physical factors to prevent slips and falls in your institution:

  • Keep your facility neat, orderly, and well maintained.
  • Make sure that all areas of the facility have appropriate lighting: parking lots, walkways, work areas, stairways, hallways, basements.
  • Repair tiles or carpeting that become loose.
  • Check for obstacles in hallways, stairwells, and work areas.
  • Keep sidewalks and parking lot surfaces in good condition, even and without holes.
  • Make housekeeping tasks part of a daily routine and conduct safety inspections periodically.
  • Make sure that outside contractors are informed of your facility’s safety rules and regulations and comply with them.
Eliminate wet or slippery floors and outside surfaces.
  • Make sure floors being cleaned are clearly marked as wet.
  • Dry floors that become wet from spills or because of rain or snow tracked in from outside.
  • Use mats with backing material in entrances.
  • Remove snow and ice from outdoor areas.

Emphasize the importance of appropriate footwear for employees.

  • The type of soles and heels on shoes affect slipping and falling risk.
  • Slip-resistant shoes can significantly reduce the number of slips and falls.
  • Loose shoelaces increase the risk of tripping or falling.

By instituting an organizational culture that promotes safety and focusing on improvements in physical conditions, you should be able to reduce falls, save money, and keep your employees healthy.