|Effective Use of Mats in Correctional Facilities|
|By Robert Kravitz, President AlturaSolutions|
Typically, when correctional facility administrators think about cleaning and maintenance, they think about cleaning chemicals, floor machines, vacuum cleaners, and other common tools of the trade. However, one item they often overlook, which can have a very significant impact on the health and cleanliness of a correctional facility, is mats. An effective, properly selected and installed, high-performance matting system can keep as much as 80 percent of all soils from walking in the door. Effective use of mats helps keep all facilities cleaner and healthier and can help reduce overall cleaning and maintenance needs.
Because mats are crucial and yet often misunderstood, we decided to discuss their importance in a question-and-answer format. Below are the questions correctional and other administrators often have about mats. To help us answer these questions, we spoke to Dennis Knapp with Crown Mats and Matting. Dennis has been involved in the matting industry for more than a decade, and Crown Mats is one of the oldest and largest matting companies in the United States.
Q.: Let’s get right to the heart of things. What is the most important role of mats?
There are numerous roles, but safety is the most important. Mats help capture and remove moisture from shoe bottoms—as well as scores of other contaminants—that can lead to slip-and-fall accidents. However, mats now play many roles in all types of locations.
Q. What are some of these new roles?
There are many new roles for mats, but two in particular appear to be significant. First, a major trend that has been growing for several years now is the use of matting systems to not only help keep facilities cleaner and healthier but as part of a Green Cleaning strategy. Mats play such a vital role in keeping soils, moisture, and contaminants outside that they are now required for LEED certification.* And many correctional facility administrators are now seeking LEED certification.
A second new role for mats is to help minimize or prevent worker fatigue. Most people don’t even think about it, but the people we see every day— barbers, beauticians, chefs, checkout clerks in stores—are on their feet all day. This standing causes fatigue and lower back problems, harms worker morale, decreases productivity, and can have unfortunate health consequences, for example, increased chance of mistakes or even slips and falls. In a correctional facility, placing anti-fatigue mats where staff, guards, or prison inmates must stand for long periods of time can help alleviate these issues.
Anti-fatigue matting helps minimize and even prevent fatigue in a scientific way. Standing in a static position for long periods tends to cause blood flow to constrict. Anti-fatigue mats allow for a gentle movement of the lower limbs, which helps improve blood flow and bring more oxygen to the lower limbs, reducing and/or minimizing fatigue.
Q. What is a high-performance mat?
What makes a mat high-performance is the length of its warranty. A high-performance mat is made of higher-quality materials and is designed and warrantied to last one or more years depending on mat selection. However, because it is made of higher-quality materials, a high-performance mat also performs more effectively than a conventional mat. It has greater ability to keep moisture and contaminants from entering a facility. An example of a high-performance mat would be a bi-level mat. This type of mat not only stops soils from being walked into a facility, but it places the soil and moisture below the surface of the mat, so it cannot be tracked in by anyone else. The soil and moisture are stored below the surface until the mat is vacuumed or cleaned.
Additionally, a high-performance mat is typically purchased, not rented, by the correctional facility. Rental mats are usually made of lower-grade materials and may last only a few months, eventually ending up in landfills. While they may be inexpensive to rent, over time these costs add up.
Managers often find that in the long run, selecting high-performance mats instead of renting conventional mats results in cost savings along with enhanced cleanliness and health in their facility.
Q. How much matting is necessary in a high-performance matting system?
What we recommend is called the “Rule of 15.” That refers to a total fifteen feet of three different types of matting:
As mentioned earlier, for the health and cleanliness of the facility, I strongly urge facility managers to purchase mats instead of renting them. The performance and quality of a rental mat simply cannot match that of a purchased high-performance matting system.
Also remember that matting is a system. It typically requires the three types of mats—scraper, wiper-scraper, and wiper—as described earlier. While it is not imperative, it is often a good policy to select all three types of mats from the same manufacturer. The reason is that very often there is a synergy among the mats in the system.
Finally, don’t forget to ask about the warranty. A higher-quality mat will have a longer warranty. It is manufactured to last longer and perform better, and this will be reflected in the length of the warranty.
*Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a nationally accepted certification organization. LEED buildings are environmentally compatible and provide a healthy work environment.
Editors Note: Corrections.com author, Robert Kravitz, is president of AlturaSolutions Communications and is a writer for the professional cleaning, building, healthcare, and educational industries. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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