Tools & Technologies

By Daren Maynard

What's your ergonomics standing?

Many jobs require a lot of standing. And in addition to worrying about the headlines that "sitting all day will kill you," industrial engineers are concerned about how long people have to remain standing.

It is argued that standing is more beneficial than sitting, so it's exciting to review a product that offers comfort to the standing worker. Barefoot Industrial Ergonomic Flooring makes standard and nitrile mats that can be used in dry and wet situations. For wet applications, the Drain-Thru version has holes for the water to escape. The company's third type of mat, which it calls ESD, has special electrical properties required for use in the electronics industry, so it's designed only for dry conditions.

Barefoot's three different types allow you to match the proper mat to your site's specific applications. Barefoot promises that its material is uncompromised and not filled with clay, sand or other cheap fillers.

The mats have a high tear resistance and tensile strength, which makes them durable and long-lasting. The mats exceed the flammability requirements for the interior of motor vehicles set by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and Regulations-302, so they are safe for use in locations with combustible materials, such as machine shops. The mats' interlocking interfaces allow for an uninterrupted ergonomic floor surface covered with the mats.

The ergonomics of the mats are addressed by the dual nature of its design. Each mat provides support based on the lateral forces being applied to it. For the lightweight user, the mat provides the cushioning required for lighter body mass. For the heavier user, the mat provides support based on greater mass. This dual nature is crucial for the work environments where the mats are used.

For example, on the production floor, workers often stand at their machines for extended periods of time while fatigue builds up in their legs. The support and cushioning relieves the pressure and provides comfort to the worker, which makes the work environment more amenable for the employee.

The standard mat is made from a high-grade synthetic rubber called EPDM that resists ozone and ultraviolet radiation but should not be exposed to harsh chemicals or raw petroleum byproducts. The ESD version for use in the electronics industry also is made of EPDM. This mat is tested to handle a relatively low electrical conductance and relatively high electrical resistance.

The nitrile rubber mats are for use in oily environments, such as a garage or a mechanic's space. The acrylonitrile butadiene rubber mats resist acids, alkalis and hydrocarbons found in manufacturing plants. However, it is susceptible to oxygenated solvents such as isopropyl alcohol and chlorinated solvents such as dichloromethane.

Although these mats are designed for harsh industrial environments, they can be used in standing commercial locations such as grocery stores, banks and shops.

Daren Maynard is the shared services portfolio manager for Novus Tech and He has earned a PMP certification, an M.S. in program and project management and a B.S. in industrial engineering. He is a member of IIE's Young Professionals group.