Respondent is Xavier Kawula, Product Manager – Work and Hunting, rock marksWestwood, MA.
Shoes are the key to a comfortable and safe working day. Standing for long periods of time can lead to tired and injury-prone feet, so having the right footwear should be considered essential to any workplace safety and health protection program.
Slip resistance is an important part of a safety shoe and something all workers should look for. However, a standardized/credible slip rating is something that can cause a lot of aggravation. Many shoe manufacturers claim that their products are “slip-resistant” or describe their resistance as “ok” or “good”, or use another subjective term. If you’re really looking for shoes that meet a slip risk assessment plan, it’s important to be able to examine the manufacturer’s actual slip scores in standardized tests. SATRA Technology, a testing organization, has a Whole Shoe Test which is the current standard for slip resistance testing. At a minimum, look for SRA-approved shoes when a certified option is important.
Consider all features
When looking to buy shoes for work, you can’t just look at the upper material. It is important to focus on the overall boot and assess it against the job at hand. Find out about physical durability, chemical durability, slip resistance, and safety features like toe caps and comfort. Finding the right shoe is about the right fit and protection for your tasks, not just your profession.
As with any shoe, fit is the most important feature. No matter how good the materials are or how excellent the design is, a boot that doesn’t match your particular foot shape will be uncomfortable. Questions to ask when buying boots: Do your toes have room to move? Is there noticeable heel slippage? Are the lining materials rough or do they have thick seams? Does the insole have too much or too little structure?
One of the important new considerations for many professions is climate control. In the past, higher temperature ratings were the main consideration, with the understanding that more is always better. Now we are seeing a demand for climate control features in boots rather than just insulation. High insulation values that cause the wearer to sweat create a condition worse than the cold itself, as perspiration condenses. This draws even more heat from the body, especially when the person goes from active to inactive.
Although the move towards using “greener” materials in the casual shoe market has been around for years, environmentally conscious decisions seep into every aspect of our lives today. For work boots, that means taking a closer look and being more responsible for how we make and choose our products. Not only are material sustainability factors important, but also transparency throughout the supply chain – from fair labor factories and corporate social responsibility to carbon emissions.
Be sure to invest in the quality, fit, comfort and protective features that will work best for the job, keeping an eye on sustainable materials and social responsibility around production. Footwear should be a primary consideration in any workplace safety and health program.
Editor’s note: This article represents the independent opinions of the author and should not be construed as an endorsement by the National Security Council.