It’s easy to take mats for granted. People don’t pay too much attention to them; they’re just there, underfoot. But it can be a mistake to give them short shrift.

Mats play a significant role in the mundane and work-a-day worlds. “Outdoor mats stop dirt, sand, water, snow and pollutants at the door and prevent them from invading and spreading throughout a building,” says Doug Leamon, national sales manager for Golden Star Inc., a matting manufacturer based Kansas City, Mo. “Indoor mats absorb moisture, keep hard floor surfaces dry, and prevent slips and falls,” he adds.

Dirty Feet, Costly Mess
According to the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA), most of the dirt found within a building is tracked in on people’s shoes, and about 85 percent of that dirt wouldn’t enter the building if entry mats are properly designed, placed and maintained.

If mats, which come in various sizes, materials and qualities, aren’t used properly, dirt and pollutants can spread to larger areas, triggering higher maintenance costs. Dirt can also damage carpet and hard floor surfaces, or cause accidents.
Moisture tracked onto hard-surface floors can increase the chance of slip-and-fall injuries. The dirt, pollutants and moisture that invade a building can reduce the life of carpets; dirt tracked onto smooth surface flooring can grind away a floor’s protective finish.

According to the State of Minnesota’s “Guidelines For Indoor Air Quality,” entrance mats designed to collect or absorb soil and moisture can improve indoor air quality if they are placed in front of carpeted areas in entrances of buildings — not on top of the carpet. The Guidelines’ authors recommend that the mats be maintained by weekly vacuuming, shaking and cleaning, or with weekly exchange by mat rental or cleaning companies.

“We’ve found that mats will last two or three times longer if people clean them properly,” says David Rones, vice president, Matting Division, for Americo, an Acworth, Ga., manufacturer.

“Mats enhance safety by protecting against slip-and-fall accidents,” explains Jason Pearl, safety category manager for San Jamar, a manufacturer in Elkhorn, Wis. Pearl says his company’s mats are slip-resistant. “Some are also grease-resistant, and are used by food-service customers,” he says. “The National Restaurant Association recently studied the ramifications of slips and falls in the food-service business and found, not surprisingly, that these accidents are very expensive from a liability standpoint, not to mention the loss of time off work by injured employees.”

Americo’s Rones cites statistics that show that about 35 percent of all employees’ lost workdays result from slip-and-fall accidents. “Because these accidents cause millions of dollars in litigation in the United States, the courts today ask if proper precautions were taken to keep floors clean and safe,” he says. “We believe using mats correctly certainly would come under the category of proper precaution.”

He estimates that the proper type and placement of matting can also reduce the costs of floor maintenance by thousands of dollars. According to Rones, 15 linear feet of matting is required to remove 75 percent of tracked-in debris. And he cites studies that show nine square feet of matting can stop one to two pounds of dirt per week. The studies also demonstrate that the average cost of removing a pound of dirt is $750.

A Warm Welcome
Rones advocates using attractive floor matting to enhance any entrance. Logo mats can be used for that purpose, and can also help promote a company’s image. “Without mats, the appearances of entrances and lobbies can quickly become unsightly. That gives people a poor first impression about the maintenance and condition of the building,” he says.

Golden Star’s Leamon is confident that the wide variety and the associated benefits of matting provide excellent sales opportunities for jan/san distributors.

Mitchell Saltzman, president of Creative Flooring Concepts in Plainview, N.Y., agrees. He believes people don’t have to be sold on the benefits of matting today. “There are very few facilities that don’t recognize the need for matting programs. They are buying mats, but there’s a huge opportunity for sales, especially for custom-designed mats.

“If distributor sales reps walk into a customer’s facility and sell several 3-by-5 runners, they may walk out with a $500 or a $1,000 order. But when they present the design options that our company offers, for instance, that might result in a $10,000 order. And they’ll have a happy customer because of the design, appearance and safety aspects of the matting.”

Vince DePhillips, president of Superior Mfg. Group, Chicago, believes that most distributor sales reps tend to sell only walk-off mats used at the entrances of office buildings and manufacturing plants. “The opportunity that they miss — and it’s a wonderful opportunity — is selling anti-fatigue and safety mats for other parts of a facility.”

DePhillips says the secret of good sales for distributors is to inform their customers they have matting to offer. “That’s all they need to do. Not many end users know where to get them,” he explains.

“There are many mat products that are useful in other areas of buildings in addition to entrances,” he says. “Studies by the University of Michigan and also by Kansas State University have shown that workers standing on hard floors for any length of time tend to have their blood vessels constrict and that restricts blood flow. Anti-fatigue mats, which are usually three-eighths of an inch to one inch deep, provide a cushioning effect and cause micromovements in these people. The movements facilitate the flow of blood through the legs, back and arms. The firmer the mat, the better for long-term standing. That makes the workers feel better and helps improve their productivity.”

San Jamar’s Pearl agrees. “Anti-fatigue matting in a work setting can definitely improve employee morale, reduce accidents and increase productivity,” he says.

Anti-fatigue mats are popular in most industrial environments, according to DePhillips. “A number of our end users are in the automotive industry, working in manufacturing plants with hazardous environments. For them, we manufacture special anti-fatigue, non-slip mats with coatings to withstand chemical spills. For food-service customers, we manufacture non-slip mats that withstand animal fat spills. The use of these mats in those environments results a reduction of workers’ compensation claims.”

He advises distributors who usually call on purchasing agents and facility managers to sell instead to safety managers and plant managers. “They’ll be more effective at selling the mats. Although the purchasing and facility people watch their dollars carefully, an organization’s safety managers and plant managers are very well aware of the legitimate need for proper matting.”

Mats That Promote Restroom Safety

Hygolet, a Deerfield Beach, Fla., manufacturer of restroom products, offers a different kind of floor mat, according to Nivia Saint Surin, a sales rep for the company.

Why is it different? “The HygoMat is a disposable restroom floor mat made of non-woven polypropylene material that has a non-toxic antimicrobial agent embedded into it,” she says. “As soon as bacteria from urine come into contact with the agent, the bacteria, which normally cause odor, break down. The antimicrobial agent also creates a halo effect around the perimeter of the mat — a reduced bacteria zone.” Saint Surin touts the antimicrobial capabilities of the HygoMat. “Where others may have a deodorizer, a fragrance that temporarily masks the odor, HygoMat attacks and destroys the cause of the odor.”

The ADA-compliant HygoMat has other beneficial features. The mat reduces the likelihood of slip-and-fall accidents. “It has a super-absorbent layer of material that quickly dissipates liquids. After cleaning the restroom, the mat is placed under urinals to prevent urine from getting onto the floor which reduces slip-and-fall liability, in addition to reducing restroom odor and sanitation problems.”

The mat is also easy to demonstrate, says Saint Surin. “Distributor sales reps can easily carry a sample with them. It is a flexible 19-by-16 mat weighing only 8 ounces. The mat’s features and benefits are immediately understood when explained to customers.”

Saint Surin says the mats are also environmentally friendly —biodegradable when thrown out. HygoMats have other uses as well. “They are not used exclusively in restrooms. They are placed under water fountains, in hospitals, laboratories and clean rooms where special care must be taken to reduce contamination and prevent tracking materials across the floor. They are even used in convenience stores in front of coffee and beverage areas to handle general-type spills.” — J.F.

Jordan Fox is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer.