“Never underestimate the power of a shoe.” Giuseppe Zanotti, Italian Fashion Designer
Shoes are your connection to the surface you work on and wearing the right ones can help prevent a slip and fall. Consider shoes for their kind and condition - or what they are designed to do and how well have they been maintained. A brand-new shoe that is not designed for the environment or surface can be as hazardous as one that is worn out or damaged.
The shoe should have a sole that is designed for the surfaces you will be walking on and provide support for your foot and ankle. There are also protective properties that can be considered such as steel toes or puncture protection, but these features are not discussed here.
The sole is in contact with the walking surface. Consistent traction, or slip resistance, can be achieved if the sole material used and tread design create a high enough coefficient of friction with the surface.
Flat leather or hard plastic-soled shoes offer low slip resistance and would be poor choices in snow, ice or hard, wet surfaces like tile or concrete.
Softer rubber, malleable plastic and natural fibers can have slip-resistant properties which are important on floors found in kitchens, maintenance shops or industrial areas that may be contaminated with oils, greases or liquids.
Soles with a deep wide tread pattern can improve traction by letting loose material such as gravel or snow push into the area between the tread and provide contact with the more stable surface below.
Some soles have a closely positioned pattern with deep groves. This can push liquids up into the spaces and allow the treads to have contact with the surface below.
Shoes with worn soles clearly will not perform as the manufacturer designed them. It's important to periodically inspect shoe tread and replace shoes when significant wear is noted.
Worn or deteriorated uppers provide little to no support for the ankle. Ankle support can prevent a fall when someone starts to lose their balance.
Here are some tips for shoe selection:
Evaluate the surface you are going to walk on and purchase shoes that are compatible.
Check for industry or environmental recommendations made by the shoe manufacturers and suppliers.
Choose a shoe that matches the environment you will be working in the most often.
Peter Koch is a Safety Management Consultant with MEMIC. He holds certifications from the National Ski Patrol, the Professional Ski Patrol Association, and the Professional Ski Instructors of America. Peter is an authorized instructor in both the OSHA 10-hour Construction and the OSHA General Industry Outreach Training Programs. To read more of MEMIC's blog, click here.
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