Updated: March 2023
MCS Mat Safety Policy
MCS strongly supports the use of mats to mitigate the risks inherent in circus activities. All participants in MCS activities must think critically about mat use before performing any circus activity and take full responsibility for ensuring their own safety and (if applicable) the safety of their students. Below are our mat use policies for aerial activities.
The MCS mat policy can be boiled down to a single sentence: Always use a crash mat unless there is a safety-specific reason to use panel mats/roll-out mats or no mat at all. To understand the full implications of this policy, all instructors and aerial members are expected to familiarize themselves with the detailed guidelines below. All MCS Aerial Members are required to read and sign the MCS Mat Policy annually. The form to do so can be found here: https://goo.gl/forms/ZrayxV4B4x3dSsjD3
Height: Height on an apparatus measured from the lowest body part to the floor or mat at the highest point of any skill.
Student: Within the mat policy, “student” refers to any aerialist who is not approved at MCS for independent practice on the applicable apparatus, and not necessarily to all aerialists working under an instructor/in a class.
Member/Guest Aerialist: Any aerialist approved at MCS for independent practice on the applicable apparatus.
Panel mat/Roll-out mat: Firm mats 1-2” in height. Best used to mitigate injury to limbs in foot-, seat-, side-, and hand/arm-first falls. Does not provide sufficient protection in head-first falls from a height over 4’.
Crash mat: Spreading or enveloping mat that is a minimum of 6” in height, up to 36+”
Spreading mat: A firm crash mat that dispels force by spreading through the foam. Best for anticipated foot-, seat-, hands/arms-, and side-first landings. Generally recommended for static moves over 2’. MCS black and large blue mats are spreading mats.
Enveloping mat: A soft crash mat at least 24” thick that absorbs force by allowing the body to sink into the mat and folds over or envelopes the body. Best for back-, side-, and head-first landings from significant heights. Generally recommended for moves with momentum or release skills. Not recommended for use for any skills with frequent foot-first landings, as the unstable surface may cause increased risk of foot and ankle injuries.
Skill area: The area of the floor where an aerialist may land in a fall given the height, position, speed, and trajectory of the skill. The skill area increases with increased height and addition of momentum in a skill.
Low-flying aerial: Skills that are performed primarily with the feet or other body parts on or near the floor, that use propulsion from the floor, and may swing or circle the aerialist more than 2’ in any direction from the location of the rig point. Generally includes moves such as running circles, sweeps, swings, spins, track and taps, Pegasus circles, hangs and other choreography where the lowest body part is no more than 2’ from the floor under the rig point, and partnering moves where at least one aerialist performs one or more of the above.
Combination choreography: Choreography where one aerialist is over 4’ above the ground in the apparatus while another aerialist is using the same apparatus on the ground for dynamic movements. Ie. one person is wrapped in a rebecca split at the top of the silks and another person is running circles using the free silk tail.
Mat Selection and Area:
- An 8” or thicker crash mat must be used at all times unless the specific situation as defined below dictates otherwise.
- Aerialists are responsible for selecting mats that cover the full expected skill area as defined above. More than one mat may be needed.
- Activity Types Where Mat Use is Strongly Encouraged:
- Student activity where the students’ height on an apparatus does not exceed 2’ from the floor
- Member or guest aerialist practice, rehearsal or performance of mastered skills where the aerialist’s height on an apparatus does not exceed 4’ from the ground
- Any member or guest aerial performance where mats provide mitigating factors to risk of injury and do not present undue risk to performers due to the nature of the skills and choreography. Wherever possible, aerialists shall opt for the inclusion of mats for performances unless they present a demonstrated risk. Moving and replacing mats to accommodate low-flying skills within a performance is encouraged.
- Activity Types Where Mat Use is REQUIRED:
- Any student instruction, rehearsal, or performance where the height of any skill exceeds 2’ from the floor. If low-flying elements are included, mats may be removed/replaced as necessary during a class or performance.
- Any aerialist practicing new or not-mastered skills except dynamic low-flying aerial skills.
- Any member or guest aerialist practicing mastered skills where the aerialist’s height on the apparatus exceeds 4’ from the floor except where used in partnered low-flying aerial choreography.
- In combination choreography, skills should be assessed by participants on a case-by-case basis to determine the risk of injury from/likelihood of a fall to the floor that would be protected by a mat vs. the risk, severity, and likelihood of injury from tripping and slipping hazards presented by a mat, including risk to both the low-flying aerialist and the aerialist at height from any fall or trip.
- Any aerial performance that does not include dance or low-flying aerial elements.
- Any practice of a skill where the anticipated likely fall to the floor involves a landing that is not feet- or seat-first.
- Any practice or performance of skills involving full-release moves.
- Activity Types Where Mat Use is NOT Recommended:
- Any practice, rehearsal, or performance of low-flying aerial skills where all participants are foot- or seat-first, do not exceed 2’ in height beneath the rig point, and use significant propulsion from the floor over a large enough skill area where any mat except a full-floor mat would present a significant tripping/sliding hazard.