Did you know that over 40% of work injuries occur to the feet and ankle? If you think about it, there are 26 bones in each foot. In fact, 25% of your body's total bones and muscles are below the ankle.
So if toes are critical for balance, arches support your weight, and the bones in the ankle provide you with stability and flexibility, then it should only make sense in construction work to have safety footwear that protects your toes, supports your ankles to improve stability when lifting and carrying, and supports your arches for a comfortable full day's work.
When we think of PPE, we tend to focus on hard hats, safety glasses, or gloves. However, it is critical that foot protection be equally as important and not be missed. There are many hazards that can expose construction workers to leg or foot injuries including the following activities:
- Falling or rolling objects
- Hot substances or electrical hazards
- Slippery or wet surfaces
- Surfaces with sharp objects such as nails
- Operating tools like jackhammers, etc.
- Pouring or spraying chemicals
- Lifting or working with heavy objects
Because every job site is unique, there may be different footwear requirements for any identified hazards or specific tasks being performed. It is important to choose protective footwear that will protect you from these potential hazards. Here are safety features to be aware of when selecting the best footwear for the job:
- Insulated - for warmth in cold working environments
- Heat Resistant - durable in hot environments
- Slip Resistant - provides traction on wet or oily floors
- Water Resistant - repels water
- Waterproof - Inner liner to keep feet dry
- Metatarsal Guard - additional protection for the top of the foot
- Electrical Hazard (EH) - additional protection from electrical hazards
- Static Dissipative (ESD) - minimizes static electricity build-up
- Chemical Resistant - made with products like rubber, neoprene, or PVC
- Puncture Resistant (PR) Sole - for sharp objects like nails or broken glass
- Safety Toe - integrated steel, metal, or composite toe guard for falling and crushing objects
Once you've determined the best type of footwear to protect you on the job, consider these tips before purchasing:
- Throughout the day, your feet swell and expand. Try on footwear towards the end of the day to help you figure out what size and style you like best.
- Wear a normal work sock when you try on footwear.
- Try on both shoes and walk around.
- Rotate between two pairs. Don't wait until your work shoes/boots are totally worn out before getting a new pair. if you can rotate the new pair with the old pair for a period of time, you can avoid some of the discomfort of "breaking in" your new footwear.
- Remember that any time a heavy object hits your foot, the shoe/boot's toe could be compromised and need replaced.
Be sure to keep foot protection as a key PPE component and recognize the many job site hazards that have the potential to injure your feet. Basically, if the safety shoe fits... wear it.