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Footwear programs

What should our company look for in a safety footwear program/provider?

Image: Red Wing Shoe Co.

Responding is James Iwanski, director of industrial business, Red Wing Shoe Co., Red Wing, MN.

At its core, a footwear provider should deliver high-level service and quality products. Anyone responsible for employee safety will benefit from working with an established, knowledgeable and experienced provider who can help navigate the world of safety standards and offer the best possible footwear solutions for the job. Here are a few attributes to look for in a safety footwear provider:

Total foot protection: A quality provider will offer a comprehensive and customizable assortment of footwear to help keep workers safe and productive. Everything from safety toe options to outsoles designed to handle a variety of conditions and hazards should be considered when selecting a footwear program. Partnering with a provider who has a broad catalog of products and services will help eliminate the time, money and energy spent searching for additional options.

Comfort and style should also be considered.People have grown accustomed to wearing featherweight sneakers in their free time, so they’re starting to expect the same of their work boots. Look for a manufacturer that stays at the forefront of materials science.

Knowledge of safety standards: Safety standards generally change every three to five years and provide a set of minimum requirements footwear must pass during testing. These safety standards vary by country, but all are intended to protect workers on the job. Although all global safety footwear standards include key elements of protection, the testing methods, performance requirements and certification process may have significant differences.

A good partner should consistently update its offerings with the latest up-to-code, lab-tested and field-proven materials. The partner also should use high-quality leathers, fabrics and components – which are subjected to rigorous internal and independent third-party testing to ensure all safety standards are met – sourced from trusted brands.

Industry expertise: A footwear provider must understand the unique work environments a company deals with. Knowing whether a specific boot will provide adequate, long-term protection requires a deep understanding of what the job actually involves, including the relevant surfaces, potential contaminants and physical requirements. An optimal provider will have experience developing purpose-built safety solutions for a variety of industries.

Distribution footprint: It’s important for a footwear partner and its products to be accessible. Whether it’s conveniently located retail stores or mobile shoe trucks, look for a provider who can properly fit and administer solutions in an optimal manner. In addition, the provider should have experts who can help define workers’ needs and guide them through the selection and fitting process.

Full-service partnership: The footwear provider should have a solutions-first, product-second mindset. A good partner should form a close, strategic relationship with all stakeholders to help determine the biggest safety risks posed to workers and provide ongoing solutions and education to mitigate those risks.

Finally, certain safety footwear providers offer virtual platforms that enable customers to easily and quickly access product and order information. These programs reduce administration time, mitigate risks by ensuring that the right products are selected for the job, and eliminate costly waste and inaccuracies.

The best safety providers will be a true one-stop shop and simplify the entire footwear procurement process to allow safety managers to remain focused on key business activities and workers’ needs, while remaining confident their workers are safe on the job.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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