Safety underfoot: Upping the anti

25 January 2013

In the working environment, there are three important considerations to health and safety underfoot: slip-resistance, comfort and exclusion of external dirt.There are cost effective solutions to all three, as architect Chr

In the working environment, there are three important considerations to health and safety underfoot: slip-resistance, comfort and exclusion of external dirt.There are cost effective solutions to all three, as architect Christopher Sykes explains

The science of interaction between floor and shoe is not difficult to understand.

There are certain caveats which any informed buyer will know: ceramic may look good but can be dangerous when wet; floors - all floors - and oil don't mix; standing for long periods on cold concrete will damage your body; suddenly changing level by 3cm can kill you. It's pretty simple stuff really, yet in the UK Slips and trips account for about 20% of all recorded accidents.

Anti-slip Production lines are key areas for consideration.Here, operatives are required both to stand still and to walk up and down, so comfort and safety underfoot are essential for efficient and safe working conditions. The same applies to machinery and control equipment operatives because they need to concentrate and remain alert at all times. Spilt oil, chemicals and water can prove lethal.

The solution is to use a high performance slip-resistant matting which has a deeply etched surface to provide the grip required, while the open grid will drain away spillages.

At the same time it gives that resilience and bounce which takes away the 'pain' of standing on a hard, cold floor. Such matting is not only easy to lay and relocate but can be cut on-site to fit around benches and obstructions.

Andrew Marwood,Howco Group's engineering and manufacturing director, comments."Because of our heavy engineering processes, there is constant use of cutting oil.

Inevitably, this used to create a problem with slippery surfaces, particularly near the work benches and around machinery.We found that heavy duty, slip-resistant matting, in our case Vynagrip (from Plastic Extruders), proved to be the ideal solution, making the environment much safer and cleaner to work in.Management and employees are delighted." Anti-fatigue Tiredness is equally a safety issue, not just when driving or operating dangerous machinery but from simply standing behind a work-bench. This has proved to be the cause of progressive bone damage, varicose veins, poor circulation, water retention and back problems. As a result, the TUC is encouraging the increased option of sitting and, particularly, the wider use of high performance matting with the appropriate degree of cushioning.

The ideal anti-fatigue matting offers important health benefits, such as comfort underfoot, good slip resistance and thermal protection from cold floors. The resilience of the matting represents the 'bounce' it gives to anyone standing on it and this directly affects the level of standing fatigue and, in turn, safety.

Thames Fruit, distributor of citrus fruit to supermarkets, is an example of a company reaping the benefits of anti-fatigue matting modules in its packaging department.

Importantly, the individual modules ensure that employees are less tired and that strain on the body and back is relieved. As the areas are refrigerated to prolong fruit life the matting also insulates from the cold floor which further reduces fatigue.

Anti-ingress Safety is also influenced by the amount of dirt which enters a building. Twin enemies are dirt and water. Precautions need to be taken to reduce the quantity coming in by judicial use of high performance entrance matting systems to scrape, clean and dry shoes and boots.Whereas it was once a loose piece of coir mat, today, it can be primary barrier, often external, and then secondary internal barriers that do the real dirty work, reducing maintenance and slipperiness.

Health and safety in general and floor safety in particular is no longer an arbitrary knee-jerk decision - it is as vital to the performance of the plant as it is to the performance of the employee.

In these days of potential litigation, it is also vital to the bank balance, reputation and viability of the business.

Further information is available from Plastic Extruders, a leading manufacturer of safety, anti-fatigue and others mattings for many different purposes.