Product Focus: Foot Protection

Trends in ... foot protection

The importance of ‘common sense and good judgment’

In 2013, foot injuries resulted in 43,570 cases involving days away from work, according to the 2016 edition of “Injury Facts,” a chartbook from the National Safety Council. To help reduce this number, foot protection manufacturers strive to make better, safer foot protection – but it’s up to workers to act in a safe way as well. “All safety footwear is designed to enhance human performance but not replace common sense and good judgment,” said Yahn Lebo, product line director for Rockford, MI-based Wolverine.

What’s new

What work boots and safety shoes are made of is a hot topic in the foot protection industry. “We are seeing some great advancements in materials, from ‘barnyard-proof’ leathers that resist caustic chemicals like oleic acids, to high-tenacity fibers that are stronger than steel with exceptionally high melting points,” said Mark Reilly, division director for Portland, OR-based KEEN Utility. “Construction methods continue to improve as well, utilizing new product techniques that continue to improve the overall efficiency of production without having to sacrifice quality, durability or comfort.”

Andrew Althorpe is head of product innovation at Steel Blue, an Australian company with an American headquarters in Houston. Althorpe touted the benefits of nanotechnology, noting that footwear companies are investing in “lighter, thinner and more flexible protective components.” Lebo also spoke about nanotechnology, pointing out that nanoparticles are being used to make toe caps lighter with more interior space. “These do not conduct heat/cold when used in extreme environments,” Lebo said, “but still meet ASTM standards.”

Even the fastenings of boots are evolving. “New lacing technology and side-zip release have increased in the market,” Althorpe said, adding that this has led to much quicker donning for workers in the event of an incident.

Good advice

If you experience a foot injury, it’s important to replace the affected work boot immediately, Reilly said. “A traditional steel toe may become dented and serve as an easy indicator that the boot must be replaced,” he said. “However, composite safety toes may crack or fracture upon impact without showing any external indication because it is covered by the leather upper.”

In John Raimondi’s quote on sensor technology in the May issue’s Trends in…” article on instruments and monitors, “C2” was used when it should have said “Cl2.”
Safety+Health regrets the error.

Coming next month ...
Hand protection

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association