When thinking about PPE, steel toe caps immediately spring to mind. Just how common are foot ailments in the workplace?
Foot injuries genuinely are common in the workplace. Those infamous steel toe caps really do save a lot of broken bones. It is important to consider the potential risks to feet when assessing a work environment for risk.
Your workforce need to be fit from the ground up, and they are unlikely to have the same needs as each other.
Foot ailments can take many forms. A slip, trip or fall could result in serious tendon or ligament damage, possibly even broken bones. Heavy objects falling from a height can cause life changing damage to an unprotected foot. Temperature will also have an impact on the workers’ feet. Frozen toes can lead, in serious cases, to amputation. Overheating can cause feet to swell and sweat, bring on fungal infections and pressure sores.
There is so much to consider.
The risk assessment
Ensure any risk assessment includes risk to feet.
- Don’t simply throw PPE at a risk, consider ways of removing or reducing it.
- Personalise risk assessments: eg. for pregnant women.
- Make sure footwear doesn’t simply meet legal requirements, but is comfortable and appropriate.
- Involve the workforce in footwear (and other PPE) decisions.
- Review any dress codes or uniform restrictions – don’t let these impose uncomfortable footwear on workers.
- Training – give employees access to all of the information explaining how important their safety wear is.
- The employer should bear the cost of any work clothing requirements.
- Establish who is responsible for protecting the feet of visitors and agency, or temporary workers.
- Assess whether prolonged standing can be avoided and, if not, provide suitably comfortable and cushioned footwear.
- Look at all environmental conditions: heat, cold, wet weather, humidity, slippery floors and the changeability of outdoor conditions.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) aren’t just there to hand out fines and prosecutions to employers flouting the regulations and putting their workers at risk (although they will), they are also a great resource for advice and guidance.
What does ‘the right’ safety footwear look like?
As with many of these questions, it depends. Certainly, shoes, boots, wellingtons etc should all feature many of the following:
- A breathable upper. Leather or one of the new generation of man made materials are suitable. If necessary, a waterproof coating should be added.
- Linings need to be smooth and seam free, preferably breathable too.
- Toe box should be shaped to suit the foot, also tall enough to allow movement in the toes. Feet tend to swell as they heat and having room around the toes will avoid the toes squeezing against the toe box.
- Insoles would ideally be removable. They could be regularly replaced or removed to allow a workers own orthotics or other medicated insole to be used.
- General guidance says that heels should be no more that 4cm high. For prolonged standing, 2cm should be the maximum.
- The sole is crucial. Strong, of course, but flexible and with some shock absorption too. They should be non slip and feature sufficient tread to help with grip.
- All fastenings should be flexible to allow for differing feet.
We stock a huge range of workplace footwear. Get in touch today to find out how we can keep yours and your workforce’s feet safe and comfortable.