Walt Neilson, maintenance team leader at Mercy Hospital in Grayling, MI has worked at the 99-bed hospital for 36 years. With winter upon this facility in northern Michigan, Neilson discussed with TFM his department’s purchase of snow melting mats from HeatTrak, a Paterson, NJ-based manufacturer of electric outdoor heated matting products.
TFM: Where on the Mercy Hospital property do you use HeatTrak matting products?
Neilson: We have been using them at two modular outbuildings on our campus—one is a clinic and one is an office. And for this winter, we just ordered mats for a third building—a specialty clinic which is a permanent structure.
TFM: When and why did you first purchase the heated mats?
Neilson: We bought them two years ago for the modular buildings. There were cement steps leading up to one of the clinics, and with the snow and ice we get here in the winter our staff had to put a lot of salt down to keep the stairs clear. Well, in addition to the labor expended on this task, the salt also ate up the concrete. So we removed the concrete and put down treated lumber steps, along with a handicap ramp. We ran into a problem with the treated lumber, because it would get very slippery when wet. So that was an issue.
At that point, someone suggested heated mats and we found HeatTrak. That was when we first ordered them, and they have worked out great. The first order was for the clinic with the treated lumber steps; this facility is used by staff. We use a combination of the full mat along with the stair mats. The company will make the mat to fit the number of stair treads you have and will join them with the landing area, so you only need one power outlet. Another nice feature is that the products have grommets, so we can screw them down to the wood deck and leave them there for the duration of the cold season. Then, when spring arrives, we roll them up and put them in storage.
And the mats don’t have to be on 24 hours a day. They are thermostatically controlled, so when the temperature drops to our preset temperature, the mats turn on. It’s automatic.
These technologies are very useful, because here in Michigan, temperatures can drop 40 degrees in one day. We’ve gone from 70 degrees to 30 degrees in 24 hours.
TFM: Why haven’t you installed the heated mats around the main hospital building?
Neilson: In front of the hospital, we have heated sidewalks with piping underneath. We installed those three years ago as part of an emergency room addition. This radiant heating approach was used from the ER entrance all the way to the main entrance. Turning those on and off is also controlled with temperature sensors.
TFM: Any other comments on how the heated mats have affected your operations?
Neilson: For just one slip and fall avoided, it’s worth it to prevent the injury and a possible lawsuit. For instance, for the clinic with three ramps, the groundskeeper would be clearing or salting one ramp and someone might be walking on the second ramp that hadn’t been cleared yet and then, oops, there’s a fall. You cannot clear or salt all three ramps simultaneously to prevent it. So that’s where these heat mats have been very beneficial to our maintenance operation.