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 ultimate guide to safety footwear 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. 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.
- 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.
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.