Trends in ... foot protection

Keep your work boots in good working condition

By Tracy Haas, editorial assistant

Steel-toe boots have long been a staple of safety footwear for employees who work around heavy machinery and equipment. “Safety caps that are forged from aluminum alloys or thermo-formed from resins and fiberglass composites are, however, challenging the dominance of the steel cap,” said Roger Huard, vice president of product development for Rockford, MI-based Wolverine. Huard admits that these new technologies are more expensive than steel, but said that “with improvements in the cost and performance of non-steel caps (especially in composite caps), the trend away from steel is growing and gaining momentum.”

No matter how work footwear is improved, however, a pair of boots will not last forever. “Footwear has a ‘useful life,’” Huard explained. “Extremely old boots with ragged outsoles, exposed toe caps, open-uppers and protruding footbeds cannot really offer essential protection from chemicals, slippery surfaces or electrical shocks that a boot in good condition will provide.”

So even if your favorite pair of work boots has sentimental value to you, at some point, you must replace them with a new pair to properly protect your feet. Examine your boots regularly to make sure they are in the best condition possible. Huard cautioned that certain parts of a boot might deteriorate faster than others. “The outsoles of boots that manipulate foot pedals or walk up grated steel steps will wear thin, even while the rest of the boot appears to be in good condition,” he said. “Excessive wear in steel-toe boots may actually increase the risk of electrical shock.”

As with any type of personal protective equipment, Huard touts the importance of knowing what hazards a worker may face on the job so that he or she can be best prepared with the right footwear. “Companies may have specific guidelines for footwear worn on the job, and beyond these formal requirements there are many safety and comfort technologies to consider when selecting work boots,” he said.

Take the time to find boots that not only protect you, but that fit properly and are comfortable.

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