The main purpose of safety footwear as part of PPE is to protect toes, feet, ankles and lower legs from potential harm due to working in riskier areas. This safety footwear guide aims to inform you on how to pick the best pair of safety boots, trainers or shoes for your industry.
Why Use Safety Footwear?
Apart from the legal issues that may arise from an injury lawsuit, there are straightforward reasons why Employers should look after their employee’s feet. The main reason would be that it reduces lost time and production due to injury. Prevention is always better than cure and this improves morale within the workforce.
OSHA enforces federal regulations regarding the use of footwear protection.
Types of Safety Footwear
- Safety Boots
- Safety Trainers
- Safety Shoes
- Safety Clogs
Standards and Ratings
Dependant on the type of work involved there are different national and international ratings that define the materials that should be required for safety footwear. In the US ASTM International set the standards for safety footwear, The standards are reviewed and updated every five years by a panel of experts. The last set was published in 2017.
The OSHA standard on foot protection states:
The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses protective footwear when working in areas where there is a danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, or objects piercing the sole, or when the use of protective footwear will protect the affected employee from an electrical hazard, such as a static-discharge or electric-shock hazard, that remains after the employer takes other necessary protective measures.
Who Needs Safety Footwear?
Any worker who may be subject to hazardous conditions. Different tasks require different protection, wet conditions will require waterproof protection. Some footwear is designed to protect against multiple hazards. The hazard and likelihood of an incident occurring should be evaluated using a risk assessment. PPE should always be used as a last resort after all other ways of eliminating the risk have been exhausted.
Hazards For Workers Feet
- Wet Conditions
- Slips & Trips
- Cuts-sharp objects that could penetrate the sole
- Falling objects
- Electrical hazards Heat/ Cold
- Hot molten metals that can splash
A health and safety adviser or consultant should carry out a thorough review of employee task to evaluate the type of PPE and footwear required to protect them against any of the hazards listed.
Medical Conditions to Consider
If an employee has a diagnosed medical condition there are a few conditions that have to be considered before selecting the correct footwear.
Diabetics are more at risk of picking up infections in their feet. It is important to take this into consideration. The footwear should allow even distribution of weight and fits the shape of the foot. Wide fitting shoes are available.
Specially designed orthopaedic shoes are available to provide a better fit for workers suffering from this painful condition.
A painful condition affecting the feet, it is an inflammation of the ligaments that attach the heel to the foot. Well fitted shoes and insoles should help alleviate further problems.
Checklist for choosing New Safety Boots
- Sizing- Feet swell during the day so it is advised to try boots on in the afternoon
- Socks- Do you need to wear thick socks as part of your job. Try boots on with the socks you intend to wear.
- Medical condition. Do you have a medical condition that affects your feet? Take this into consideration
- What tasks do you carry out? Write a list of all task that you carry out regularly. This can help you when you are looking at new boots.
- Ankle height
- Durability- Make sure that the boots are built to last,
- Comfort- An important factor to consider especially if standing or working long hours. Are alternative insoles for safety boots needed?
- Do the boots breathe?
- How easy are they to maintain and clean?
- Insulate from the cold. If working in cold conditions make sure that the boots have adequate insulation.
- Working with electrics. Check for electric shock resistance.
Caring For Safety Boots
Caring for your safety boots can extend their lifespan. Boots are one of the most important things you should wear whilst at work in high-risk areas. This is because these boots help in protecting your feet from dangerous chemicals in the factory and heavy objects on construction sites. Since these boots are frequently used at your workplace, there are many times when the boots are directly subjected to wear and tear.
The only way to make sure that your safety boots last for a long period of time, even while using them almost every day, is through maintenance. This is an important aspect for every safety boots’ owner who wants to see his boots lasting longer and providing his feet with the protection they need. Below is a simple guide on caring for safety boots.
Cleaning is vital for every set of boots, without cleaning; even the most durable safety boots won’t last long. However, this does not mean that you have to clean them daily, it simply means that you should at least give them a quick scrub every weekend, and this will only take a few minutes of your time and in return extending your boots’ life cycle as well as making them look clean.
For those with leather boots, they should consider using cleaning agents that are water-based while for suede, you should simply use a pencil eraser. The inside of the boots should be cleaned using a low PH shampoo.
Caring for Safety Boots by Waterproofing
For those whose safety boots are made of suede, they should consider waterproofing them. While some people may think that it is a hard process, it is actually one of the cheapest and simplest maintenance processes; however, you can easily go wrong in this process, and this may cost the life of your boots. So while doing this, you should always consider going for waterproofing products that are water-based, this is because: They will never attract dirt
Waterproofing your safety boots also give your boots the opportunity to breath
They are a safer option because they don’t have petroleum which is known to stretch the leather but is very effective.
Another option is to purchase waterproof steel toe boots
Use Safety Boots for Work Only
If you use your safety boots for purposes that it was not meant for then, the boots can easily get ruined. Wearing your safety boots on weekends is not a good idea, this will only expose them to more damage, and this is because you will be exposing them to unnecessary wear and tear.
You should only reserve the boots for work, and if they are made from leather suede, then you need to try as much as you can to protect them from water and any other element that may lead to it wearing out sooner than expected. As part of your PPE, you should store the boots where won’t incur any damage.
As a safety boot owner, you should make it a routine to condition your boots at least once in every week. However, you don’t have to wait for a week to pass to condition them even if they look stiffened, if this is the case, then you should consider caring for safety boots by conditioning them immediately. Just as you use your conditioner on your skin, which is the same way you are going to use boots conditioner on your boots.
Just as your skin gets dehydrated with time, leather also does the same, and when this happens, it causes the cracks to open up; hence, your boot will look wearier. This condition, therefore, enables your boots to be prone to wrinkles and scratches. If your boots are made of suede leather, then you should consider using conditioners that are only meant for suede leather.
Replacing Worn Out Soles
Soles are the parts of a boot that normally wear out; first, this is because you will be stepping on them all the time while at work. Because you will be stepping on them repeatedly, they can wear out easily. So it is advisable to have your insoles replaced as you find out they are won out, this is to prevent them from causing more damages to your boot. Insoles are some of the cheapest boots accessories, so you should not be scared of replacing them when the need arises. By doing this, you will be saving yourself the high cost of buying a new boot, so instead of waiting for the insoles to cause more damage to your safety boots, you should consider replacing them. There are safety shoe standards that should be adhered with.
Boot polish helps in making your boots look healthier; it does not have any effect on the length of time your boot should last. With this polish, you will notice that your boots will always look healthier anytime you wear them. Below is guidance on how you can use your boot polish.
You have first to clean your boots, after doing this; you should leave them to dry completely
After making sure that they are completely dry, you should then apply the boot polish all over your boots
The third step includes getting rid of excess polish leftover from your boot using a shoe brush. This is one of the best ways to add look and life to your boots; you want to make your boots look healthier while wearing them. This is what you should try, and make sure that whatever you do is not limited to above-provided guidance on how to care for your safety boots.
Safety boots are supposed to keep your feet warm, safe, and comfortable while working, and it is only fair of you to care for them so that they can continuously take care of your feet in their lifetime. To make sure that your boots are always in good condition, you have to follow the above tips, by doing this keenly, you will be sure that your boots will happily serve you the way they should.
However, every safety boot owner needs to know that damaged safety boots will not provide them with the protection they are seeking; therefore getting a new pair of safety boots should be the best option for those with damaged safety boots.
Our advice is always a safety-first approach. Getting employees home safe and injury-free is the number one priority (it should be!). Obtaining the correct footwear and fit is vital. Using a safety adviser to assess the needs of the employee will help ensure that the footwear complies with OSHA and ATSM guidelines. The added advantage is fewer compensation claims and lost work hours.