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The Region's Only Industrial Health and Safety Magazine
The Region's Only Industrial Health and Safety Magazine
by Mark Da Silva
Workplace safety has a simple formula and is of paramount importance in all areas of industry.
The formula is quite simple: good safety practice equals good business outcomes. This formula examines the return of investment in occupational health and safety. Personal protective equipment (PPE) in one form or another constitutes an investment in safety, and includes anything used or worn by a person to minimise risk to their health and safety. This article will focus on industrial safety footwear.
With acknowledgement and reference to the hierarchy of risk control, PPE is one of the least effective ways of controlling risks to health and safety and should only be used:
PPE is useful, but it is also one of the least effective ways of controlling safety hazards. PPE works best when used with other control measures – or when absolutely no other safety measures are available.
There are specific laws about using appropriate PPE in the workplace. This includes providing PPE if your workers (including contractors) do not have it and you require them to wear it. Moreover, consultation with your workers is also important when selecting PPE, and training on how to use it also applies.
The standard of PPE used at a workplace must be:
Safety boots are shoes made with a protective reinforcement at the front making them quite durable. The reinforcement helps to protect the toes from falling objects or any kind of compression. They are normally installed with a sole plate in the main sole to prevent against punctures that may come from below. The reinforcement is normally made of steel, hence they are sometimes known as steel toe cap boots.
The US Congress in 1970 enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which was aimed at ensuring that workers operated in a safe environment. An administration was created to ensure that workplace safety standards were enforced. These standards included those that required the use of footwear that is protective in places that posed the threat of foot injuries. Safety footwear these days is a mandatory requirement in many industries like the construction and mining industries.
Various subcultures have adopted the use of the safety boots. These shoes were very dangerous when it came to frictions between wearers because of their sturdiness and also due to the steel toe. During the 1960s and into present day several work boots and varieties of steel toed footwear brands particularly Grinders and Dr Martens were popular among punk subcultures.
Safety boots have continued to develop to reflect the current fashions, unlike many other protective gadgets. Customers’ expectations keep changing, hence the manufacturers are forced to produce such boots in a variety of styles. Despite steel being the main material used for making reinforcements, other composite materials or even plastics may be used for the same purpose. The popularity of the safety boots is bound and continues into the future due to the importance they have to various industries.
Safety footwear these days comes in different styles like clogs and sneakers. Some are meant for formal purposes, while engineers who work in sites that require protective footwear use others. Due to the popularity of safety boots, other brands that mainly featured in the fashion business have diversified to target the safety footwear industry.
Footwear must be chosen based on the hazards that are present. Assess the workplace and work activities for:
Slip resistant footwear reduces slips, while other footwear can increase the risks. To assess shoes, you need to check that they suit the tasks and the flooring or ground surfaces, providing adequate friction between the footwear and the surface.
Signs that shoes are placing wearers at risk of slips, trips and falls include shoes with:
Ensure the shoes you choose for work suit the environment, the tasks and the types of potential contaminants. Some jobs may require a few different types of shoes. To encourage workers and others at the workplace to avoid slips, trips and falls, the following strategies can help:
Sensible footwear for most work tasks has these features:
Also, evaluate the risk:
What should I know about the fit and care of safety footwear?
Make allowances for extra socks or special arch supports when buying boots. Try on your new boots with the supports or socks you usually wear at work. Check with the manufacturer whether adding inserts will affect your level of protection.
Boots should fit snugly around the heel and ankle when laced.
Lace boots up fully. High-cut boots provide support against ankle injury.
Legislative requirements ensure persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) should ensure:
If PPE is required, the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) who is directing the work must provide PPE to workers at the workplace, unless it has been provided by another PCBU. This will usually be the person’s employer but could also be, for example, a main contractor at the workplace.
When choosing the right personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job the selection processes must include consultation with users and their representatives and should also include:
PPE must be maintained, repaired or replaced so it continues to minimise the risk to the worker who uses it. This includes ensuring the equipment is:
The PPE must be maintained to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that it is available for use by the worker.
Where PPE is provided and used at work, you should remember that:
A worker who is provided with PPE must:
A person other than a worker must wear the PPE at the workplace in accordance with any information, training or reasonable instruction provided by their person conducting a business or undertaking.
If you are at risk of foot injury at your workplace, you should wear the appropriate protective footwear. If foot protection is required, set up a complete foot safety protection programme including selection, fit testing, training, maintenance and inspection.
Safety footwear is designed to protect feet against a wide variety of injuries. Impact, compression and puncture are the most common types of foot injury. Choose footwear according to the hazard.
Refer to the International Organization for Standardization which provides the European standard for Safety footwear. The current one is ISO 20345:2011. The ISO 20345:2011 standard specifies basic and additional (optional) requirements for safety footwear used for general purposes. It includes, for example, mechanical risks, slip resistance, thermal risks, and ergonomic behaviour.
Special risks are covered by complementary job-related standards, e.g. footwear for firefighters, electrical insulating footwear, footwear protecting against chainsaw injuries, chemicals, molten metal splash, and protection for motorcycle riders.
Ensure that the protective footwear has the proper rating for the hazard and the proper sole for the working conditions. In addition, use metatarsal protection (top of the foot between the toes and ankle) where there is a potential for injury.
The future of PPE will come down to practicality (slip-resistant), lightweight and comfortable style and proper adjustment for worker fitment, rather than a one size fits all approach. The technology of urban industrial footwear may also feature slip resistant compounds that grip the microscopic roughness of the floor surfaces using a tread type pattern that channels liquids away from the bottom of the sole; similar to that of a car tyre. Whichever way you look at it the science is the same – one of protection. The contribution to industrial safety will finally depend on the organisations direct investment towards workplace safety. This will validate the return of investment to produce successful safety outcomes.
Mark Da Silva
Mark Da Silva is Director of Work, Health and Safety Programmes at WorkSafe Victoria. As the Director of Programmes his remit includes leading and facilitating the delivery of the strategic health and safety improvement programmes; aimed at reducing injury, illness and fatalities in Victoria workplaces.
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