Academic journal article Human Factors

Effect of Flooring on Standing Comfort and Fatigue

Academic journal article Human Factors

Effect of Flooring on Standing Comfort and Fatigue

Article excerpt


This study investigated the influence of flooring on subjective discomfort and fatigue during standing and on potentially related objective measures. Participants stood for 4 h on each of 7 flooring conditions while performing computer tasks. During the 3rd and 4th h, floor type had a significant effect on a number of subjective ratings, including lower-leg and lower-back discomfort/fatigue and 2 of 4 objective variables (center of pressure weight shift and lower-extremity skin temperature). In addition, lower-leg volumetric measurements showed tendencies toward greater lower-extremity swelling on uncomfortable floors. The hard floor and 1 floor mat condition consistently had the worst discomfort/fatigue and objective ratings. Significant relationships were noted between the affected subjective ratings and objective variables. In general, floor mats characterized by increased elasticity, decreased energy absorption, and increased stiffness resulted in less discomfort and fatigue. Thus flooring properties do a ffect low-back and lower-leg discomfort/fatigue, but the result may be detectable only after 3 h of standing. Potential applications of this research include the reduction of work-related health problems associated with long-term standing.


Standing for long periods has been directly implicated in a number of health problems, particularly lower-extremity tiredness and discomfort, lower-extremity swelling and venous blood restriction, low-back pain, and whole-body tiredness. These problems are particularly prevalent among workers who stand for long periods in restricted areas, such as checkout supermarket workers, assembly and quality control inspection workers, and health care workers (see review article by Redfern & Cham, 2000).

Flooring may play a role in standing discomfort and fatigue, but studies of flooring have had mixed results. Fatigue is difficult to quantify. Some researchers have investigated localized muscle fatigue through electromyographic (EMG) spectral analysis and/or muscle force production decrements. In our study, we define fatigue as a perception of tiredness, either whole body or lower extremity, whereas we use discomfort to describe discomfort in specific body parts.

A number of investigators have found that flooring affects workers' discomfort/fatigue. Using subjective ratings, the majority of studies concluded that it is more comfortable to stand on soft (so-called antifatigue) mats than on hard concrete floors. However, other researchers have found no floor effect on discomfort/fatigue.

In an attempt to further understand the potential influence of mats on relieving discomfort/fatigue, a number of researchers have considered objective measures (physiological and biomechanical) thought to be related to fatigue. These measures include center of pressure (COP) displacement, leg and back EMG recordings, skin temperature, and leg and foot volumetric measurements. However, investigations concerned with the impact of flooring on all of these objective measures have also reported conflicting results. Thus the impact of flooring on discomfort/fatigue is still largely unknown.

In addition, the specific relationship between discomfort/fatigue measures and material characteristics of the floor (stiffness, elasticity, and energy absorption) has not been investigated. This is important in the design of the most effective mat (see review article by Redfern & Chain, 2000).

The goal of this study was to determine whether flooring has a significant effect on subjective and objective parameters thought to be related to discomfort/fatigue. A secondary goal was to investigate the relationship between these parameters and the mats' material properties.



Ten healthy participants (5 men and 5 women) with no history of lower-extremity or back problems participated in the study. …

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