What are Safety Boots and Why Wear Them
Updated: Jul 7, 2020
This post defines Safety Boots and explains the reasons for wearing them in the work place. This post is definitely for you if you are trying to understand the use of Safety Boots as a component of Safety Clothing. This post also sheds light on why you should not do away with your boots because of an earlier experience of discomfort in your Safety Boots. Read on!
Your first experience wearing safety boots may have been horrible. Maybe not yours, but stories of blisters and feet fatigue arising from safety boots leave you wondering whether or not they are essential wears for your work place safety.
Imagine an impromptu shift on a drilling rig in poorly fit safety boots. Out there, getting a replacement or thicker socks to cushion the effect of the boots on your feet is usually not an easy task. You continue in the discomfort for days and are wondering "why on earth do I have to go through this?"
Safety boots associated discomforts arise from improper choice of boots and are mostly of lower severity in comparison to the hazards workers are often exposed to if they fail to protect their feet.
A definition of the term will shed some light on the importance of wearing Safety Boots.
Safety Boots, often referred to as work boots, is a personal protective equipment (PPE) for foot protection in the workplace.
They are essential component of your Safety Clothing. They come in different designs and protect your feet from injuries, improve your balance and keeps your feet from extreme weather conditions.
Chosen correctly, safety boots provide protection and comfort to the worker.
Causes of Feet Injuries at Work
Injuries to the feet may arise from any of the following:
Falling objects. Most discussions of the hazard posed by falling objects focus on heavy objects. However, where significant height is involved, a relatively light object can cause significant damage on hitting the feet.
Foot compression – An unprotected foot may be squeezed in between two objects leading to fracture and dislocations of foot bones and joints
Piercing – in work environments with exposure to sharp objects such as nails and scrap metals, an unprotected worker is exposed to potential piercing of the feet
Trips, slips and falls – Many outdoor work environments are often wet with rain, snow or oil/grease. This leads to a loss of traction resulting in slips and falls.
Corrosive chemicals – These lead to chemical burns of an unprotected foot
Extreme weather conditions – extreme wetness, cold or hot weather conditions can be a great discomfort to the feet in the absence of properly insulated Safety Boots
Electrocution– in high voltage work environments, especially those involving wet weather conditions, an unprotected foot is a potential point of contact that can lead to electrocution and death.
Let us look at the following statistics detailing feet injury reports in the work place before considering the benefits of wearing safety boots.
· According to the BLS, 8.5 percent of all lost-time injuries in the construction industry is related to foot injuries. A record 40 laborers suffer disabling injuries to their feet and toes per day.
The US Department of Labor report indicates that 666 workplace injuries are associated with slips, falls and trips.
According to the National Safety Council, slips, trips and falls in the United States alone resulted in 44.5 million injuries, costing companies $967.9 billion dollars
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 80 percent of foot injuries are caused by objects that weigh 30 pounds or less and at least 60,000 foot injuries are responsible for keeping people from work each year
A study of 700 cases in Maryland found that broken foot, stress fractures, broken toes and severe heel injuries consist the most common forms of foot injuries with varying cost for treatments.
In 2018/2019 slips, trips and falls on same level accounted for 29 percent of non fatal self reported work related injuries in Great Britain
According to statistics from the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada, 2016, more than 42,000 workers are injured annually due to fall incidents in Canada. This represents nearly 18% of the time-loss injuries across Canada.
The above statistics calls for a close attention to feet protection as component of our Safety Clothing. While slips, trips and falls can be prevented by proper house keeping in the work place, the proper use of Safety Clothing is a necessary mitigation against falling objects, extreme weather effects and potential electrocution in high voltage work environments.
This brings us to the question “why wear Safety Boots?’’
Why Wear Safety Boots
There are numerous reasons for wearing safety boots in the work place. They include the following:
1. Protection of the feet against injuries.
This can be considered the primary reason for wearing safety boots in the work place Safety boots are designed to give protection against foot injuries in the work place. These injuries may arise from man made factors or forces of nature – extreme weather conditions.
They offer protection against:
· Slips, trips and falls by increasing traction on surfaces and providing additional balance,
· Chemicals injuries
· Electrical hazards
· Fire and heat burns
· Potential collisions with hard surfaces and falling objects.
· Piercing objects such as sharp metals
2. Safety Boots provide additional support
Workers on duties requiring long standing hours are find safety boots useful in providing additional support and balance to their muscles. This reduces muscle strain and the risk of developing muscular/skeletal injuries and disorders. This reduces fatigue and improves productivity in the work place.
3. Safety Boots provide protection against extreme weathers
An extreme cold winter weather can lead to frozen feet and consequent reduction in blood flow around the feet. This can potentially lead to nerve damage. On the contrary, in extreme summer heat, the ground on outdoor surfaces can get hot enough to cause some degree of burns to the unprotected feet. A good safety boot with good insulation is able to protect the feet against these extreme conditions.
4. Use of safety boots is a regulatory requirement
As part of efforts to ensure the safety of workers, there are regulations mandating the use of Safety Boots and other components of Safety Clothing. It is expected that companies ensure the use of appropriate safety gear by their workers at all times of exposure to potential source of injury. Failure to comply to these regulations can lead to expensive law suits that sometimes result in the termination of a companies right to operate and dent the companies public image.
5. Failure to wear your Safety Boots can lead to a loss of your job.
According to the OHSA Compliance Standards, employers of labor can send their workers home or terminate their contracts if they engage in unsafe behavior in the work place. Failure to wear appropriate foot protection can be considered a safety misconduct and maybe punishable. Your safety today ensures you are able to work tomorrow.
In addition to protecting you from physical injury, law suits and a possible job loss, wearing the right safety boots increases your confidence and self esteem in the work place and hence improves productivity.
When working with cutting machinery and tools such as chainsaws, Chainsaw boots should be worn in combination with other PPE to protect against cuts.
By protecting the feet and preventing slips, trips and falls, safety boots protect other parts of your body from fall related injuries.
Details on work place safety laws and regulations can be found on OSHA website
Available Designs of Safety Boots
Safety boots come in different designs, shapes, materials, color and from different manufacturers.
The more common designs include :
1. Lace Up Safety boots – these boots, as their names imply, are equipped with a lace material that helps adjust its fitting and grip on the feet. It however presents a challenge if your work requires putting on and pulling off your Safety Boot several times in a single shift.
2. Slip On or Pull On Safety Boots – these come with no laces. They are easy to wear and mostly recommended for work environments that require regular pull on and off of your safety boots. However, getting a perfect fit with the right grip on your feet is usually challenging. Our post on how Work Boots should fit we be a good read before placing your purchase order. A follow up post discusses how to ensure you get the best fit for your work place comfort. A good remedy sometimes is to wear them with the right thickness of socks that ensure good contact with your feet.
Either option of safety boots can be Steel Toed, Aluminum Toed or have a toe design comprising a combination of plastic, carbon fiber and Kevlar. Read Composite Toe Vs Steel Toe Work Boots for the similarities and differences between Steel and Composite Toe Work Boots.
The third option are called Composite Toed Safety Boots. They are usually light but thicker than steel, have good insulating properties and are an excellent alternative for work environment fitted with metal detectors.
Your choice of a Lace Up or Slip On Safety Boots should be guided by the nature of your job, work environment and your budget.
Factors to consider when choosing your Work Boot
A common concern for most persons starting out on a role that requires the use of Work Boots is ''what factors should guide my choice of one boot over the other?''
Beyond the beauty of a particular brand and design, you will need to pay attention to the following when before choosing a particular brand and design.
Protection: this can be consider the number one factor to consider when choosing your Work Boots. Does the pair meet the general OSHA standards for Work Boots and the specific standards requirements for your job? If you work for instance in an environment with high exposure to heavy and falling objects you will most likely be required to come in steel toe boots instead of composite toe boots.
Support and cushion: how long your job keeps you on your feet per day will significantly affect the choice of work boots that is best for you. if you stay long hours on your feet, you will need a pair that provides support, returns good amount of energy to your feet and legs and comes with good cushioning to improve your comfort.
Insulation, Waterproofing and Oil Resistance: while all work boots are designed to provide feet protection against impact and compression, not all Work Boots provide good insulation, waterproofing and oil resistance. If you intend to use your boots in the winter, a rainy weather or swampy environment, keeping your feet dry and warm will have significant impact on your comfort at work . In an environments with electrical exposure, a properly insulating pair of Work Boots will be required to ensure you don't get grounded by high voltage .
You are most likely familiar with these words, trips, slips and falls. How slippery is your work environment? The answer to this should guide you on the amount of traction your work boot should provide.
Traction is a measure of the amount of grip your work Boots establish with the surface on which you are standing or moving.
We generally advice getting a pair of work Boots with excellent traction regardless of the nature of your work environment. Jobs can change and liquids can spill and make a usually non slippery work environment almost frictionless.
Traction is a function of the out-soles of your work boots.
Outsoles could be made of ordinary rubber or Thermo Poly Urethane (TPU) materials. The later option offers greater resistance to abrasion, oil and chemicals. They weigh less and are able to withstand abrasion than the average rubber out-sole .
It is common knowledge that steel toe caps weigh more than their composite toe counterparts but the total weight of your work boot is a function of different factors. The toe cap material, the out-sole material, the leather material have contributions to the weight of your boot. For a few hours of being on your feet, weight might not be much of a factor but the smallest ounce of additional weight can be a significant discomfort if you are on your feet many hours of your work day.
In Summary, Safety Boots are an essential part of your Safety Clothing and must not be neglected. In addition to protecting your feet from injury, extreme weather and electrocution, your Safety Boots are required by regulations. Proper protection of your feet increases your stability, work confidence and productivity.
Furthermore, protecting your feet is a great contribution to your general safety in the work place. Remember that a slip and fall can lead to head and hand injury.
To enjoy the full benefits of Safety Boots, you need to buy the best fit for your feet and work conditions. We have discussed finding the best fit for you in another post. Check it out and visit of Reviews for rugged work boot options before you place an order for your next Safety Boots
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