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Antifatigue mats

Deciding whether to buy an antifatigue mat or choosing which one to buy probably won't affect your farming operation the way grain marketing, seed, or herbicide selections do. On the other hand, a little time spent learning about these mats can make your days in the shop safer, more productive, and more comfortable.

I've had a handful of antifatigue mats sprinkled around my farm shop for years. I recall buying some of them on impulse at ag shows and farm stores. I'm not sure they even had a label. Now, I am going to buy two or three new ones, and I'm going to be more selective and probably spend a little more money on quality and features.

I'll spare you the details, but personal experience and a review of the literature convince me that antifatigue mats do reduce the strain that comes with standing on concrete for hours at a time. Purchasing agents for factories may want to know how that translates into more productivity, less absenteeism, and fewer workers' compensation claims. But all I really want to know is that I've chosen the right mat for the job and that it promises to lessen the strain on my 64-year-old legs, feet, and back.

Antifatigue mats come in many shapes, sizes, and materials. The online Grainger Industrial Supply catalog that I turned to for prices lists 426 mats from Notrax, 287 from Wearwell, and 225 from Andersen. (These companies are producing mats for all kinds of industries plus the military.)

But that's not as overwhelming as it sounds. By spending a little time with catalogs and manufacturer websites, you can winnow the field. Start by deciding what size mat you need and where and how you'll use it. When you do a Web search, enter a use category such as welding.

At their websites, Notrax and others have schematic drawings of buildings with areas designated as offices, manufacturing, shipping, warehouse, and several others. You can click on the various areas and get a list of mats suitable for those areas.

A couple of the mats I have are approximately 1 inch thick and have straight-cut edges. From now on, I'm opting for beveled edges that are less apt to trip me. I think the black mats with attention-getting yellow, orange, or red stripes on the beveled edges would be a good choice from a safety viewpoint.

“From now on, I'm opting for beveled edges that are less apt to trip me.”

Last fall, I had to perform major repairs on a strip-till machine on the rock driveway in front of my shop. Tired of rolling around on sharp rocks, I used a 1-inch-thick 3×5-foot mat with round holes in it to cushion my back, knees, and legs. The square edges aren't a problem in that application.

I don't weld a lot and when I do, I'm usually moving around as opposed to standing in one place for a long time. Consequently, I may not buy an anti-fatigue mat for my welding area; I may just stand on the concrete floor.

Antifatigue Mats for Farm Shops

Antifatigue mats are available through many businesses that supply factories and shops, and they can also be obtained from numerous online retailers. The prices in this table are from the Grainger Industrial Catalog. Go to www.grainger.com, then do a search for antifatigue mats.

The Grainger catalog is a good source of information about mats and a good place to compare prices. Grainger also offers a line of vendor-approved mats that you can check out at their site. More detailed information is available at manufacturers' websites.

The mats in this table were selected to give a broad overview of what's available rather than a comparison of mats within a certain category, such as for welding.

The model numbers that accompany the descriptions of the various mats are from the manufacturer rather than Grainger.

Andersen Company 

800/241-4696 www.andersenco.com

Andersen has lots of models in lots of sizes. A 33×58×⅞-inch black-and-yellow mat with beveled edges (Model 04240020035100) that is safe for welding areas costs $133.80 from the Grainger catalog. A 142-inch-long version of that mat (Model 04240020312100) costs $379.75. Andersen offers less expensive mats for use in areas away from welders and chemicals.

Apache Mills 

216/509-1275 www.apachemills.com

Apache Mills, like most manufacturers, offers mats in various thicknesses. A 36×60-inch mat with grit ( Model 39-167-0900-3×5) that is 9/16 inch thick costs $141.15 from Grainger. A similar mat that is 15/16 inch thick (Model 39-467-0900-3×5) costs $187.50. They also have small mats for standing in one place. A 24×36×9/16-inch mat is $48.25. The 15/16-inch version is $60.50.

Notrax (part of Superior Manufacturing Group) 

800/621-2802 www.notrax.com

Notrax has lots of mats for tough working conditions. One is a 24×36×⅝-inch grease-resistant mat (Model T17S0032BL) for $93.80 in the Grainger catalog. A 36×96×⅝-inch mat (Model T17S0038BL) is $307.50. They also have mats for wet areas. A 26×40×⅞-inch mat (Model 549S2640YB) is $97.95. At its website, Notrax ranks various mats as good, better, best, and superior.

Wearwell 

800/264-3030 www.wearwell.com

In addition to antifatigue mats for wet and dry areas, Wearwell makes mats for welding areas and areas exposed to harsh chemicals. The Weldsafe No. 447 is designed specifically for welding areas. A 24×36×½-inch mat with beveled edges (Model 447.916X2X3BK) is $76.75 in the Grainger catalog. A 36×60×½-inch version (Model 447.916X3X5BK) is $173 in the Grainger catalog.

3M 

888/364-3577 www.3M.com

3M makes cushioned matting for many different applications, including factories and shops. A 48×72×.55-inch black mat with solid top construction (Model 3270E) costs $213.25 through the Grainger catalog. A similar mat (Model 5270E) that is .63 inch thick costs $413.75.

Those of you who do want an antifatigue mat to stand on when welding should choose one designed specifically for that purpose. Several manufacturers make them.

In a spec sheet, Wearwell says its No. 447 WeldSafe Mat repels sparks and hot metal shards thanks to a melting point of over 500°F. It comes in two thicknesses: 9/16 inch (standard) and ⅞ inch (ultra-soft). Apache Mills has Stand-N-Weld and WeldMaster models.

I do sometimes stand at a drill press for an hour or two at a time. I'm definitely going to get a thick, relatively small mat with resistance to cutting oil to use with the drill press. At its website, Wearwell lists 77 mats that can be used with cutting oil. Plus, it has a 17-page list of chemicals from acetaldehyde to zinc sulfate that can or cannot be used with the WeldSafe mats.

Is the area wet or dry?

Some selection guides start out by asking whether the mat will be used in wet or dry areas.

A real common place in a farm shop for an antifatigue mat is in front of a long workbench. Odds are, that's a dry area. But it depends on what types of parts and equipment you work on (think hydraulic fluid). There is an application guide under user tools at the Wearwell website. The first choice is wet area or dry area.

If you click wet area, you're prompted to choose from grease/oils, chemicals, or water only. Under each of those choices you will make increasingly specific choices until the products are narrowed down to a manageable level. The correct antifatigue mat can greatly reduce the risk of slipping on wet floors.

One of the biggest choices for a dry area away from welders is how thick you want the mat to be. In general terms, thicker mats are more comfortable, but they may not always warrant the additional expense.

Andersen also makes a kneeling mat that measures 12×22×⅞ inches. It's available online for $67.95 from Global Industrial (www.globalindustrial.com). They handle several brands of mats.

A list of distributors for Notrax mats is available at www.notrax.com/distributor_directory.cgi?view=1.

Narrow your search to one brand and that company can help you find a retailer.

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