If your feet hurt, it seems that you hurt all over! I wonder just how many women have spent years of their working lives in high heels, thinking more about the fashion statement they are making than the toll that their feet are taking? Many times working men and women suffer injuries to their feet, which can result in time lost, and possible surgery to repair whatever damage has been done.
OSHA dictates that as in all personal protective equipment, (PPE), companies should choose the appropriate footwear for the hazards of the particular job the employee does. The standard from OSHA (29 CFR 1910.136) requires protection “where there is danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, or objects piercing the sole and where..exposed to electrical hazards.” There are also hazards such as impact when heavy materials are being handled, compression protection for work involving manual material handling carts, bulk rolls, and heavy pipe, and puncture protection from sharp objects, such as nails, screws, tacks, and scrap metal.
Here are a few problems where the feet are at risk:
- Chemical hazards; boots and shoes made of rubber, PVC or neoprene are needed.
- Heavy objects – steel toes are to protect against falling objects, which cause about 60 per cent of all foot injuries. If there are electrical hazards, a fiberglass toe should replace the typical steel toe.
- Slips and falls – shoes with good traction are needed.
There are at least two distinct areas of foot protection that are mentioned in the realm of safety shoe covers. In industrial and construction situations, OSHA and ANSI are concerned with safeguarding the “impact and compression” of the foot. Medical, industrial, and laboratory environments are the other areas of foot protection issues. Shoe covers for medical personnel can protect from spatters, liquid, and chemicals that could pose a danger. Also, using shoe or boot covers protects others from receiving contaminants from you. Those that are involved in “clean” manufacturing conditions, such as computer chips, digital medical equipment, precise engineering instruments, etc., must be careful to not transfer contaminants to sensitive objects. Clean rooms must remain as germ and contaminant free as surgical environments; therefore, shoe covers are an important component.
Even those involved in sports, such as cycling, can use shoe covers. While your back, arms, and legs are stressed during high level cycling, nothing takes a worse pounding than your feet. There are products that offer a line of covers and booties to protect shoes from road abuse from rocks, mud, and other hazards.
One last “footnote”: I recently read an article in the AARP Bulletin, written by Candy Sagon, regarding assisting people with dementia or Alzheimer’s who could possibly wander off from caregivers or nursing facilities: a locator shoe with a built-in Global Positioning System device now makes it easier to tract down its wearers. Manufactured by GTX Corporation, the shoes look like a typical walking shoe but have a miniature GPS unit implanted in the heel. The cost of the shoes is around $300. The shoe works by allowing caregivers or family members to set up a perimeter, called a “geo-fence,” allowing wearers to move freely around a specific area. When they stray beyond the perimeter, a Goggle Maps message pops up on a computer or phone to alert caregivers. What a great investment to help with the task of keeping these patients safe.
Regardless of the reason that your company has safety footwear to keep you safe, be sure you wear it every time you are on the job. Those responsible for choosing footwear or any other type of PPE should select comfortable, and proper fitting protective clothing, head to toe. There may not be a magic formula for the feet, but there are steps that can be followed to be sure feet are protected.
Source: OSHA, AARP Bulletin