How to reduce accidents with safety footwear

Published: 29th August 2009
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Facts and figures
Industry figures are startling. They show that UK businesses lose more than two million working days each year because of incidents related to feet and ankles. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) also reports that trips and slips cause more injuries than any other type of accident. The correct safety footwear can help avoid such problems.

The purpose of wearing the right footwear in the workplace is twofold: to prevent accidents and to lessen the effects of accidents if they occur.

These are goals everyone should take seriously. Safety footwear is important, but the number of working days lost through accidents suggests that some people don't realise this. The right footwear not only protects your lower limbs: you can save time and money by keeping related sickness absence to a minimum.

Working conditions
The days when workplace footwear consisted of steel toecap safety boots and little else are long gone. Steel toecap boots are still around - and in plenty of styles - but footwear is now more complex.

Safety designers have given a great deal of thought to a key issue: the effect of different working conditions on the muscles and bones of the feet. These working conditions include the rigours of a building site; the cold and slippery walkways of a North Sea oil rig; and the heat of a steel foundry.

Shoes and boots must endure extreme temperatures. They must maintain a grip despite fluids and chemicals underfoot. And they must provide the same standard of protection day in, day out.

To answer these issues, there's a large range of footwear now available. Among the materials used are leather, rubber, polyurethane and steel. Some manufacturers also employ breathable meshes and impact absorbing linings to keep feet as comfortable as possible.

Risk assessment
To ensure you don't buy the wrong safety footwear, you need to consider your working environment. A safety risk assessment can help by highlighting the types of hazard that your feet may encounter.

For example, in an area where there may be sharp objects on the ground, you should wear boots that have a steel midsole. If a nail, for instance, pierces the sole of a boot, the steel will stop it entering your foot.

So work out exactly what the hazards are likely to be. You can then buy your safety footwear with confidence and ensure your feet don't come to any harm.
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