Trends in ... foot protection
Take steps to protect workers
Foot injuries caused nearly 44,000 employees to miss work in 2014, according to the 2017 edition of Injury Facts, a National Safety Council chartbook. Here, foot protection industry insiders discuss new products and technology, as well as how workers can help keep their feet safe on the job.
When asked about technological advancements in foot protection, Robin Skillings, global marketing director for Portland, OR-based KEEN Utility, pointed to materials that have helped make footwear lighter and more comfortable. “Technical fabrics made from high-tensile and abrasion-resistant materials are becoming more prevalent, especially where lightweight footwear is paramount,” Skillings said, adding that other “advancements, including composite safety toes, odor-eliminating linings and innovative comfort technologies, have created work footwear that is much more versatile and adaptive than the work boots of the past.”
Kevan Orvitz, podiatrist and CEO of Tustin, CA-based MEGAComfort Inc., spoke of “smart” insoles: “Smart insoles, for example, introduce new features like step counting to insoles without the need for a separate device.” In addition, Orvitz said, foot protection manufacturers are incorporating more composite materials that help make “safety toes 25 percent lighter than steel, reducing bulk and adding comfort to overshoes and footwear.”
Avoid these mistakes
The most common instance of misuse, according to Orvitz, is when workers choose foot protection in the wrong size. “One should understand his/her needs, goals and associated risks, and ensure the product … fulfills their requirements,” he said, adding that, “having a deep understanding of the product and how to properly use it is key to negate any possible risks that come with use.”
Another frequent problem is workers using the wrong footwear for the job or work environment. “For example, selecting a pure EVA midsole for working in/around a more caustic environment when, in fact, a PU midsole would fare much better and provide a longer-lasting product,” Skillings said. To help remedy this, Skillings recommends clearly understanding the safety requirements of the jobsite.
If your workplace doesn’t have a foot safety program, it might be worth pursuing the matter. “Implementing a foot protection program can revolutionize a workplace,” Orvitz said. “However, these programs are most successful when the correct footwear protection is actually worn when required.”