If your machines and table tools require operators to stand on their feet for long periods of time, you may or may not be obligated to provide them with proper footwear. Sometimes a cushioned mat can be enough to protect feet, ankles, and hip and knee joints under pressure. But sometimes a cushioned mat won’t do the trick, because employees spend the day moving from place to place. And sometimes you can’t just require employees to choose and purchase their own footwear as they see fit.
If you need to take responsibility for footwear and incorporate shoes or boots into a mandated uniform, keep these considerations in mind as you make your choice.
Injury protection should be top of mind.
There are two types of health threats faced by feet in the workplace: short term or acute danger from accidents and falling objects, and long-term stress injuries cause by inappropriate support or an improper fit. Focus on the first category first. In a high impact workplace such as a construction site, shoes must absolutely include ankle support and reinforced toes. They should also be breathable, warm, and waterproof if the environment is damp or cold. Soles should provide adequate traction and should be puncture-proof.
Chronic stress should be the second area of focus.
If employees wear slightly ill-fitting shoes for a few hours, that’s not really a problem. But when an hour of standing or walking becomes eight hours a day, five days a week, under high-wear and high-stress conditions, a small problem can mean serious pain, injury, and compensation that can damage your bottom line. Cushioning isn’t just important; it’s essential. And cushioning doesn’t just mean comfort. It means the difference between a safe and unsafe workplace. Cushioned shoes bring better focus and more energy that employees can dedicate to their work, and appropriate shoes can also decrease fatigue and back pain.
The right shoes for a labor environment handle moisture that moves in both directions: in and out. Waterproof shoes are essential for wet, muggy, indoor/outdoor environments, but choose the right ones; make sure the shoes wick away or release moisture that becomes trapped inside. Feet should not get wet, but if they do, they need to dry out quickly.
Don’t ever let your employees’ feet become uncomfortable, constricted, or subjected to repetitive stress. But most important, protect them from crushing, puncture and impact. The right shoes can do all of these and more. For additional information and tips on workplace safety, contact the team at PSU.