Putting Safety First

For facility managers of shopping centers, stores and restaurants, it’s the problem that won’t go away: slips and falls. And it’s not only a customer-safety issue, but a staff-safety issue, as well. One of the most effective ways to reduce slip-and-fall incidents—and maximize the long-term appearance and performance of the flooring in the process—is through the use of high-quality matting systems. In many instances, however, retailers and facility managers give too little thought to mats and the benefits they provide. In some cases, mats, if purchased at all, are kept in storage until there is a storm, rain or snow. Placing mats in strategic places throughout a store year-round not only improves safety, also helps reduce soil accumulation and even improve worker productivity.

For retail stores, there are two kinds of matting systems: entrance mats, sometimes referred to as “front-of-the-house” mats, and multipurpose mats, used in warehouse and storage areas of the store or behind checkout counters (often called “back-of-the-house” matting systems).

Front-of-the-house mats are designed to improve overall floor maintenance and appearance. They absorb dust and soil particulates as well as moisture from foot-wear, keeping the floor area clean and dry.

According to industry experts, mats should be used year-round, not just during inclement weather. And they should be installed based on what has come to be known as the “Rule of 15.” It recommends that three types of mats, running a total of 15 ft., be used. Together, these mats comprise the front-of-the-house matting system, and it is recommended that they be placed at all major store entries.

Here is a brief overview of the three types of mats:

“This length of mats ensures that 10 to 12 walking steps are on the mats before the customer ever walks on the floor or carpet of the store,” said Chris Tricozzi, VP of sales and marketing for Crown Mats and Matting, Fremont, Ohio. “It also ensures, under most conditions, that there is no soil or moisture left on the customer’s footwear beyond the last entry mat.”

Back-of-the-house: Most back-of-the-house matting systems are placed in work areas that customers do not see, or behind checkouts where employees may stand for long periods of time. The mats are multipurpose. Along with helping to capture and trap soils, they may also be used to absorb liquids, help prevent slips on hard surface floors, provide a slip-resistant walking or standing surface, and/or help relieve worker fatigue caused by standing for long periods of time.

Of these types of mats, the anti-fatigue matting system has been getting most of the attention lately. Standing for long periods of time has been implicated in a number of health issues, including lower-extremity discomfort, low back pain and overall fatigue, all of which can harm worker productivity.

Anti-fatigue mats are designed with increased elasticity and to absorb the vibrations that can cause discomfort.

Regular maintenance is essential to the performance of matting systems. Mats should be vacuumed at least once per day, and more often depending on the volume of traffic. If not, the mat will reach a point where, instead of trapping dust and soil, it can actually release it.

Mats should also be cleaned regularly. Some retailers contract with a matting company that replaces the mats at set periods based on the store’s needs and foot traffic. The old mats are picked up and replaced with new, freshly cleaned ones.

“A matting system, whether in the front or the back of the house, is one of the most effective ways for a retailer to keep its customers and staff safe and the store clean,” Tricozzi said.