Workplace Injury Prevention: Using the Right Footwear

Workplace Injury Prevention

We tend to take our mobility for granted.  Need something from the other room?  Walk over and get it.  Activities like these are ones that we often don’t give much thought to – we just do them.  But what if something happened so it was no longer this easy?  What if an injury robbed us of our ability to perform these simple tasks temporarily?  How would we cope?  And that’s not even beginning to address the difficulties we would have if we had permanent damage.  Proper footwear is a vital part of workplace injury prevention; just as much as the need to protect our eyes and hands. 

If we want to look at this from an economic standpoint, consider these numbers.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) each year there are an estimated 96,000 foot and ankle injuries that result in lost workdays, with the average worker’s compensation claim for foot injuries over $15,000 in medical costs and $11,000 in indemnity.  So what do we do to reduce these numbers? 

For employers, one of the best strategies to determine what PPE is necessary after utilizing the hierarchy of controls is to conduct a comprehensive personal protective equipment hazard assessment that accurately identifies the hazards of the work and the protective footwear needed to reduce foot-related injuries.  There are many features available, and so we need to make sure that the right ones are identified. 

Foot-Related Hazards and Injuries 

Perhaps the most common hazard is objects that can fall or roll onto an employee’s feet.  The basic feature here would be the steel or composite safety toe.  This is great if the object only rolls or falls onto the employee’s toes.  There are also metatarsal guards that provide similar protection for the top of the employee’s feet, too, which can reduce the severity of midfoot injuries that often need extensive medical treatment. 

Another set of common hazards includes cuts and punctures.  The thick soles and puncture-proof layers of the most approved protective footwear can reduce the number and severity of these injuries, but additional protection can be had from metal foot guards.  If the work requires employees to work near sharp materials or many puncture hazards, additional protection should definitely be considered. 

Slips and falls can occur frequently, as well.  Operations that require work to be performed on wet surfaces, or that involve oils that may leak or spill, should require slip-resistant soles.  These soles can be part of the actual footwear or even a type of “sandal” that can slip over the employees’ shoes. 

Let’s not forget about chemical hazards, which can lead to pretty significant injuries as well, so footwear that protects against spills, splashes, and accidental exposures is a must.  These are often made of rubber, vinyl, or plastic, and need to be evaluated against the specific chemicals that the employees could be exposed to.  Make sure to consult your safety data sheets for specific material requirements for the chemicals that you use. 

There are a number of other hazards that the proper footwear can protect against, as well, such as electrical exposures, heat, and flames, hot surfaces, sanitation contamination, sparks, or wetness, to name but a few.  If your work exposes you to these kinds of hazards, make sure that the footwear you use provides the appropriate protection. 

Workplace Injury Prevention Strategy: Using the Right Shoes for the Job 

A good way to ensure that the footwear you use is appropriate to the hazards is to look for a rating from a recognized consensus standard.  OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.136(b)(1) states that protective footwear must comply with any of the following consensus standards: ASTM F-2412-2005 or ASTM F-2413-2005, American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z41-1999, or ANSI Z-41-1991.  Footwear that has been tested and rated will typically have a stamp, usually on the tongue of the shoe or boot, indicating the footwear meets the consensus standard.    

So whatever your line of work may be, make sure that the footwear you require and that you use provides the appropriate level of protection, and that employees are using the right protective equipment. 


OnPoint Industrial Services has acquired
Amerisafe Group!

Read the announcement here.