Would you play basketball in your golf shoes, use swim fins to run the 100-yard dash or wear sandals to go skiing? Of course not. Likewise, having the right footwear when you work is critical to your safety and the prevention of injuries. Think of yourself as an athlete who needs specialty footwear for your sport. Your athletic shoes may be comfortable, make you faster, and help you jump higher, but they may not be appropriate for your work environment. The operations you complete every day will dictate what is appropriate protection against slip, trip, and fall injuries.
The right footwear can help you avoid many general hazards, such as injury from heavy objects falling or rolling on your feet, burns from stepping in chemical spills, or stubbing your toes on immovable objects. The wrong footwear can also cause you to slip and fall, resulting in multiple injuries. Your work shoes should fit properly, be comfortable to wear, and not be defective in any way.
What are some of the hazards at your workplace?
- Potential punctures by nails or other sharp objects – Wear shoes with metal insoles or reinforced soles.
- Electricity – Wear non-conducting shoes. Don’t wear shoes with steel toes or soles with metal components.
- Corrosive chemicals – Wear neoprene or chemically impenetrable rubber boots.
- Wet or oily walking surfaces – Wear slip-resistant or oil-resistant soles.
- Heavy objects that could fall on your foot, or equipment, such as a chain saw, that could cause damage – Wear shoes with steel-reinforced toes or composite toes (for cold conditions).
- Anything else?
Take a good look at your work shoes. Are they right for the hazards at your workplace? Remember: as an occupational athlete, you need the right footwear to perform optimally and safely.
- Review the hazards present at your business and determine the right footwear needed to keep employees safe.
- If applicable, ensure that safety footwear meets OSHA's safety rule requirements. Most quality occupational safety footwear manufacturers comply with these standards but, since it’s your employees’ safety at stake, it’s also your obligation to ensure that the shoes they’ve selected to wear are appropriate for the workplace exposures.
- Consider providing employee stipends for personal protective equipment, including shoes.
- Establish regularly scheduled housekeeping that includes cleaning up ground-level hazards.