How can the right footwear help prevent slips, trips, and falls?
Wearing the wrong footwear can increase your chances of slipping or tripping. Injuries due to slips, trips, and falls cost the US billions of dollars each year and are one of the leading causes of lost time incidents.
(Learn The Top 5 Causes of Disabling Injuries in the Workplace.)
The first step to choosing the right footwear is to identify the slip and trip hazards in the work area. A hazard assessment should determine the types of hazards and conditions that are present and the types of footwear that will provide the appropriate level of protection. Often, employers or employees will make sure to get features like abrasion resistance, metatarsal support, and ankle protection but overlook slip resistance.
Most slips and falls are due to a loss of traction, or insufficient friction between the sole of your shoe and the walking surface. The sole of the shoe should be the right type of rubber to maintain sufficient traction and friction for the temperature extremes where you're working. Tread patterns should allow good grip while the right shaped channels allow appropriate dispersal of water where required.
Some workplaces also need more traction than typical shoes and boots can provide. Workers stationed in the Canadian Arctic, for example, must often removable cleats with steel or brass spikes to help prevent loss of traction on ice and snow.
Note that all footwear wears out after a while. The soles of your boots eventually need to be replaced because worn treads can increase your risk of slipping and falling.
(Learn more in Prevention: Slips, Trips, and Falls.)
If there is a risk of slipping in your workplace, consider looking for footwear that meets the ASTM F2913-19 standard for slip resistance. It is a "standard test method for measuring the coefficient of friction for evaluation of slip performance footwear and test surfaces/flooring using a whole shoe tester". In short, it measures how much friction is maintained between the footwear and the work surfaces that are measured in laboratory conditions. The test measures performance for most types of flooring and many types of surface contaminants including oil, ice, and water.
Your organization should provide guidelines to help workers purchase appropriate types of footwear.
Written by Todd Wells
Todd Wells is a safety professional who works to turn complex projects into successes, implementing effective safety initiatives and consistently achieving measurable positive results on his projects.
Todd is currently a Surface Safety Coordinator with Hatch and understands that world-class safety is about establishing a culture that manages risks and workplace behaviors that cost money.
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