According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, more than 60,000 foot injuries result in lost workdays annually. The common causes of foot injuries range from things dropping onto a foot, people falling from things, overextension, compression and repetitive motions, as the feet take a lot of abuse from walking, running, climbing and jumping.

Improper footwear, ageing and diabetes are some contributors to foot problems. The employer can therefore not just issue safety footwear in a generic manner, as employees foot conditions as well as workplace hazards need to be considered before an individual is issued with safety footwear.

When considering the type of protective safety footwear, the employer should keep in mind the hazard of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, objects that can pierce the sole of the footwear, uneven surfaces where ankle protection is imperative and the hazard of static discharge or electric-shock is possible. Other hazards like flying objects; cutting hazards; slips, trips and fall protection; burns, extreme temperatures and even foot fatigue must be taken into consideration when supplying employees with safety footwear.

Protection from hazards

Now let’s look specifically at certain hazards, and how we can protect against them.

Protection from falling, flying and rolling objects

Consider a safety shoe like a steel toe boot to prevent crushing injuries to the feet.

Protection from punctures

Where the hazard of sharp objects that may penetrate the foot sole or even fall from above onto the foot is eminent, one must select a safety shoe with a thick, heavy-duty sole and even extra protection surrounding the safety shoe.

Protection from cutting hazards

Ensure that the safety shoe is made of cut-resistant material.

Protection from electrical hazards

Non-conductive footwear that are made from leather, rubber or other material that do not conduct electricity should be worn in environments where static electricity can lead to electric sparks or where a person could face a potential electrical shock.

Footwear for slip, trip and fall prevention

If a slip, trip or fall hazard exists, select footwear with appropriate traction and proper treads.

Selection of footwear to prevent foot and leg fatigue

Where the man job specification requires a lot of standing, climbing or crouching, footwear should provide adequate cushioning and arch support to keep the feet as comfortable as possible in order to alleviate strain on foot muscles.

Protection from burns

Open flames, molten metal, sparks and chemicals can cause burns and the correct footwear must be issued depending on the type of burn hazard that exists.

Protection from extreme temperatures

Frostbite and hypothermia are hazards associated with cold environments. Cold work employee’s feet should be protected by selecting footwear that will keep their feet warm, and, if rain, water or snow is an added hazard, waterproof or insulated footwear must be considered.

When working in extreme heat environments like steel mills, smelters or foundries, feet can suffer severe injury if not protected. Boots built from special neoprene, heat-resistant soles and leathers treated with heat resistant materials can be selected to protect feet from intense, hazardous hot environments.