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Injury Prevention Beats Compensation

Sprains or strains of joints or adjacent muscles now account for more than 50 per cent of new workers compensation cases recorded by the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission.

The total of such injuries now exceeds 61,000, according to the latest NOHSC figures - and is likely to rise again as Australia's workforce ages and a less nimble and resilient workforce becomes more prone to falls, slips and trips, and plain wear and tear on older bodies.

" Just the simple act of standing eight hours every day for years can be hazardous to workers health. It will certainly take its toll on your body: varicose veins, lower back pain, leg pain, fallen arches are just a few of the most common ailments," says Michael Siegle of The General Mat Company (GMC).

" Ultimately this wear and tear on bodies will expose workers and their employers to a greater risk of slips, falls, and chronic back injury.

" Such injuries can lead to big payouts. It doesn't matter if employers wrap workers in a cocoon of safety garments - helmets, glasses, gloves, boots protective clothing - but it won't make an iota of difference if underfoot safety and comfort is neglected.

" Workers will still fall over if the surface underfoot is unsatisfactory, and injuries will still build up slowly but surely if their work continually requires them to stand on non-ergonomic surfaces."

Well-designed ergonomic anti-fatigue matting can play a huge part in injury prevention and the reduction of standing worker fatigue, Siegle says.

" The investment is minor compared with the average cost of new NOHSC claims, which is rising towards $10,000 a case, where falls, slips and trips result in death, permanent disability, or a temporary disability resulting in an absence from work of more than a week.

" Anti-fatigue mats function by encouraging subtle movement of leg and calf muscles. As the muscles contract and relax they pump blood back to the heart and eliminate blood pooling in the lower extremities, which often occurs if a worker's muscles are totally static.

" At the General Mat Company we call this "Dynamic Ergonomics" - the study of ensuring standing worker comfort by means of muscle activity."

When choosing anti-fatigue mats, there are two important issues to consider - comfort and specific application.

Some environments require chemical or oil resistance and others require resistance to extreme heat or welding sparks. And others require a high coefficient of friction (COF).

Heavy duty Kleensweep SpongeCote No. 433 from GMC provides a buoyant, resilient surface to reduce fatigue.