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At the forefront of safety footwear

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hes oct 19 23At the forefront of safety footwear

Simon Ash, UK Sales Manager at HAIX explores the history of safety shoes and how protective footwear has evolved.

Then vs. now

The history of safety boots can be traced back to the 20th century. Before this time it was was cheaper and faster to replace the injured workers than to introduce safety measures or provide personal protective equipment (PPE). It was the introduction of liability insurance costs that made larger corporations (Read More)

take notice and start focusing on protecting their workforces. Invented at the end of World War II, steel toe boots originated in Germany, and were designed for the military , built to stand the test of time offering durable and robust foot protection.

In 1970, the United States enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act that aimed to improve working conditions and create safer environments for workers. The standard included the use of protective footwear for workers that work in situations that could pose a risk of foot injuries. Today in the UK, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, wearing protective shoes or boots is a legal requirement in a number of industries like construction or manufacturing . Employers have a duty to protect the ‘health, safety and welfare’ of all their employees at work, as well as others on their premises, ensuring the assessment and implementation of appropriate controls to manage potential risk and suitable provision of PPE.

Safety footwear is an essential part of PPE that provides protection against risks such as slips and trips, sharp, moving or falling objects, electric and chemical exposure, poor weather conditions and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Foot injuries can be debilitating, resulting in workers needing to take time off work. However, not all footwear is created equal.

Give subpar footwear the boot

It is important to get footwear right. Though the risk of not wearing safety footwear can be detrimental, the risk of wearing poor quality boots can be just as critical.

The current standard for safety footwear across Europe (EN ISO 20345:2011) requires all safety footwear to have toe protection against a 200 joule impact and a 15KN compression test; the equivalent to the amount of energy and weight it would take before breaking the toe region . There is no one-boot-fits-all rule, unfortunately. Not all safety shoes or boots will be ideal for all working environments. For this reason, employers need to ensure the boots purchased are fit for purpose and will protect workers against the risks they face. What are the key factors to consider for footwear?

Comfort

Models designed with arch support help to stabilise feet and maintain an employee’s correct posture, reducing harmful effects of impact-related stresses when the foot strikes the ground. It is also advised to look for an easy lacing system so that the process of putting boots on and taking them off at the end of the day is quick and easy.  

Foot shape

The shape of the foot fluctuates throughout the day. Ideally, boots should be tried on in the afternoon (when feet are at their warmest) to determine an accurate size. This will ensure a comfortable fit throughout the working day.

Quality over convenience

Accidents are expensive. There are many hidden and uninsured costs that as the employer you will be liable for. There is a temptation to skimp and save money, but improper use of PPE that leads to an injury or fatality could mean substantial fines for the company, even imprisonment.

Budget safety footwear costs the manufacturer less to make which means features such as comfort, breathability and ankle support may not be high priority. With footwear you tend to get what you pay for. Budget boots have a shorter lifespan and will need to be replaced more often, whereas making the investment in high quality boots could see you through for ten years – still suitably equipped with a good level of protection.
 
Protection

Choosing the right level of protection you need for the job could mean incorporating anti-slip, puncture-resistance, protective toecaps, waterproofing and breathability. When selecting safety footwear, it is important to carry out a proper risk assessment and consult an expert for advice and guidance.

Try before you buy

PPE is personal for workers, and some may have a pre-conceived idea of what’s ‘good’ or ‘necessary’ PPE, or not understand its importance. If workers do not understand why they need to wear PPE, or don’t have any say in choosing it, they are more likely reject it, some even refusing to use it. We expect workers to wear their safety kit every day, it’s natural there would be some push back if their PPE is uncomfortable, not the right fit or bulky and unattractive. Wearer acceptance is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when it comes to PPE.

In order to avoid an unhappy (and at-risk) workforce, try involving them in the PPE buying process, taking into account their preferences. Ask your workers about their current PPE, what it is they like and don’t like about it and show them the options you are thinking of purchasing. Having this conversation and giving them a choice may make them more likely to accept it, and will also give them a sense of empowerment in that they’ve contributed to the selection process.    

Sometimes, unfortunately, this won’t be enough, and a harder sell may needed. In this case, demonstrate the consequences of not wearing their PPE: what could happen, what would this mean for them, their job, their health, and hone in on why PPE is in place and why it’s in their best interest to abide by the rules.

Communicating the real, positive impact that PPE has and encouraging an open conversation should drive a positive change and create a more productive, safer culture.

Comfort, functionality and durability are key priorities for HAIX® and all boots are designed with end user-feedback in mind. HAIX® meets the highest demands of functionality, quality, design and performance all over the world. Discover the right boots for your workforce.

For more information about functional footwear that offer the optimal level of protection, visit the HAIX website: www.haix.co.uk