This Little Piggy Went to The Hospital
Occupational Foot Safety
Foot safety at work is a topic that we as employers, managers, and employees all need to address. Far too many preventable foot injuries occur in the workplace every single day. According to the BLS, more than 60,000 foot injuries each year result in lost workdays. The National Council on Compensation Insurance estimates that the average cost of each lost day of work is equivalent to $9,600. Sadly, all of these injuries, and as a result, of this lost production, is largely preventable. Below we will explore what causes foot injuries on the job and what you can do to prevent them.
Foot injuries can be caused by a number of things. They can occur in an instance or they can occur over long periods of time. The most immediate dangers to your feet on the job are those hazards that could cause acute injury. Punctures, cuts, lacerations, burns, crushed or broken feet, sprained or twisted ankles, and even electric shocks are all possible dangers to your feet on a job site. All of the physical hazards on a work site leave your feet vulnerable to these injuries. Things like slippery floors, exposed sharp edges and nails, heavy objects falling or moving vehicles can all present danger. Recognizing these hazards is the first step to preventing injury.
However, there are dangers to our feet that are not so obvious. Improper footwear can have a much more long-term effect on your feet. Wearing shoes that don’t provide the proper support over long periods of time can do chronic damage to your feet—especially if you are standing, walking, or lifting for much of your job.
There are a couple of things that can be done to mitigate the risks of occupation foot injury. You can redesign the job so that it improves foot safety, you can employ the proper training to prevent injury, and you can mandate the proper protective footwear on the job.
The first thing you can do is design the job to minimize hazards. What does that look like? It looks like a tidy work environment—free of obvious visible hazards. The workplace should have a culture of tidiness. Make it the norm around the jobsite. It also means that jobs vary in the tasks that a worker does. Job should allow workers who are on their feet for long periods of time to have the opportunity to do tasks where they sit. Different tasks should involve different motions and different positions for your body. Repetition of a certain task can cause injury. Also, a work day should allot for breaks. Rest helps prevent injury.
The next, crucial step to making a job safer (in any capacity) is proper safety training. We can’t stress this one enough! Make sure that your employees are told explicitly what the dangers of the job are and specifically how to prevent them. And don’t stop after you tell them once. Safety training is something that needs maintenance. Frequent training sessions should take place among employees and management to remind everyone of safety’s important role on the job.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you need to be wearing the right PPE. With the right footwear, you can prevent these injuries from happening! Let’s look at what makes a shoe good for dangerous work environments:
- The shoe grips the heal firmly
- The front of the shoe allows freedom of movement of the toes
- Low, wide-based heel
- Steel mid-sole
- Steel toe cap that covers all toes
- Support for both arch and ankles
- Non-slip soles (although these are not 100% effective)