Slips and falls are the leading cause of worker compensation claims and occupational injury for people aged 55 years and older. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls accounted for 5 percent of the job-related fatalities for women, compared to 11 percent for men. In fact, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, floors and flooring materials contribute directly to more than 2 million fall injuries each year.

To reduce these statistics, custodial executives are actively working on improving flooring programs, which includes incorporating matting systems into their repertoire. But that isn’t as simple as just laying out any mat. There are many factors to consider when developing a proper matting program that will be effective at improving safety.

In this Manufacturer Roundtable, Facility Cleaning Decisions took the compilation of questions we received from readers and asked matting manufacturers to weigh in.

Mark Roberts
Region Manager
The Andersen Company
Dalton, Georgia

JoAnn Durette
Vice President of Marketing
Mats Inc.
Stoughton, Massachusetts

Don Mistro
Senior Regional Sales Manager
Superior Manufacturing Group
Chicago, Illinois

Which mats are essential in even the most minimal matting program?

Roberts — A three mat entrance system is the most effective approach to building a minimum of 12+ feet of matting in the main entrance areas.
The first line of defense should be a scraper mat placed outside the entrance door. They are designed to stop mud and larger particles of dirt from being tracked inside buildings by providing an aggressive scraping action. 
The second step to keeping dirt contained at the entrance is a scraper/wiper mat. These high-performance mats provide both scraping and wiping action, while containing dirt and moisture beneath the foot print to reduce soil migration. These mats are typically made of tough fabrics.
The third weapon against dirt and moisture is a wiper type mat designed to stop any remaining moisture left on footware. These mats are made with carpet facing to complement most interiors.

Durette — It is best to include the recommended minimum of 20 linear feet of matting whenever possible, but when an entrance has minimal space inside, a mat that incorporates both course scraping and nylon drying fibers is best.  Starting the scraping process with a suitable mat outside the entrance is a favorable way to increase the total length of the overall of the system. 

Mistro — When putting a matting program together, it is essential to have the correct mat(s) for the application. While evaluating your applications, keep into consideration traffic flow, environment and sizing. Very often, having the wrong mat placed in an application is worse than not having a mat at all.

Why are mats necessary in a floor program?

Roberts — Mats protect against slip and falls. As many as 25,000 people are victims of slip-and-fall accidents every day. And the average cost to defend a lawsuit is $50,000.
Mats also protect against damaging expensive floors. Between 70 and 80 percent of dust, grime and dirt in a building is tracked in from the outside on people’s feet. By utilizing high-performance entrance matting of at least 10 to 15 feet (as recommended by the U.S. Green Building Council and Rug Institute), you can capture 85 to 95 percent of contaminants that enter the building.
Finally, mats reduce cleaning and maintenance costs. It is estimated that the cost to find and remove a single pound of dirt from a building can run in excess of $700 in cleaning costs. As few as 150 people entering a facility can track in one pound of dirt in a five-day work week, costing departments over $30,000 annually to remove.

Durette — Mats help improve safety of building occupants. Falls are one of the leading causes of unintentional injuries in the United States, accounting for approximately 8.9 million visits to the emergency department. Forty-three percent of all 2011 off-the-job fatalities were from fall-related injuries.  Falls are the second leading unintentional fatal workplace event and accounted for 522 deaths and 59,440 additional injuries in 2010. The second most costly lost-time worker’s compensation claims by cause of injury are those resulting from slips or falls, with an average of $41,393 per claim filed in 2009 and 2010. The 2014 Workplace Safety Index from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety reports the direct cost for slips, trips and falls at $16.48 billion.
A proper matting program improves indoor air quality. Ninety percent of dirt in a building comes in on footwear, and the levels of pollutants may be 2 to 5 times — in severe instances more than 100 times — higher than outdoor levels.  A properly designed entrance system works much like a filtration systems by first removing the large particles, then smaller particles and contaminants.
Proper use of matting leads to better-looking and longer-lasting interior flooring. A commercial entrance system that is 20 to 30 linear feet in length will remove 86 to 100 percent of the dirt and moisture off footwear.  By eliminating salt, pebbles, moisture and other contaminants from footwear, it significantly reduces the possible damage to interior flooring. An entrance system can enhance the appearance of the building’s interiors by selecting products with materials, textures and color that compliment the design scheme.

Mistro — Most people view entrance mats as a tool to help keep buildings clean.  However, the number one reason for having entrance mats is to provide a safe entrance way.  Keeping people from slips, trips and falls is extremely important for any building entrance.

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Recommendations For Cleaning And Maintaining Mats