July 25 2006 11:20 AM

When people think of ergonomics, they often think of the design of controls and objects or perhaps the design of a chair to best fit the human range of movement and prevent injury from straining to reach out of the normal range of motion. Ergonomics is the application of scientific information concerning humans to the design of objects for human use. An ergonomically designed object maximizes productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort. Ergonomics is a part of everything that involves people and the way they move � especially people in work environments. The proper application of ergonomics in a work environment leads to increased safety, functionality and, ultimately, increased productivity.
The Science of Productivity
An expanding body of research exists that addresses standing work positions and the potential damage standing causes. And the general conclusion of this research is that ergonomically designed floor mats are an important element in injury-prevention efforts. And by preventing injury, the mats promote worker efficiency and productivity.
Here�s how it works. Blood flows from the heart through the arteries to the extremities. And when you walk, it is pumped back through the veins by the interaction between muscles and veins. This mechanism is commonly referred to as the venous pump. But when you stand, gravity makes fluids settle in the feet and legs. And because of the reduced muscle activity, the venous pump is less effective. This causes increased pressure on the walls of the veins, which leads to long-term damage and swelling, which causes pain and discomfort.
How the Venous Pump Works
Figure 1 shows a muscle (in red) at rest next to a vein. Flapper valves in the vein allow blood to flow up from below but not down from above (illustrated by the arrows). In Figure 2, the muscle contracts and exerts pressure on the side of the vein. This causes blood to flow up through the valve above while the valve below remains closed, ensuring proper circulation toward the heart.
Damaged Veins
Prolonged standing on a hard surface will lead to damaged veins. The damage occurs as pressure inside the veins builds up and expands the sides of the vein. And, as the years go by, the vein can become permanently expanded, and the flaps that make up the valves are no longer able to reach together. As illustrated in Figure 3, this allows blood to flow through the valves even when it was not intended to do so. The consequences of this damage are severe and irreversible. Varicose veins result along with permanently reduced circulation.
The Ergomat Advantage
Ergomat anti-fatigue mats were developed specifically to solve the problems of short-term fatigue and long-term injury associated with standing work positions. The product line represents the most advanced technology for this purpose available in the marketplace today. By providing an elastic surface to stand on, an Ergomat stimulates muscle activity in feet and legs, which is vital to the proper function of the venous pump and hence for the prevention of fatigue and injury.
The thermal photograph in figure 4 compares circulation in the lower body of a standing worker. The image on the right shows the worker standing on an Ergomat. Red and yellow tones indicate higher skin temperatures resulting from stimulated muscle activity and hence circulation in the legs and feet, promoted by the Ergomat�s unique elastic properties and proprietary polymer formulation. The image on the left shows circulation patterns without the Ergomat. Blues and greens in this image are evidence of poor circulation, a reliable predictor of fatigue and muscle disorders.
Ergomat anti-fatigue mats bring the science of ergonomics to your facility, promoting the well-being of your workers so that they in turn will work more efficiently.
For more information about Ergomat solutions, visit the company�s Web site atwww.ergomat.com.