FOOT & ANKLE SAFETY
Foot & Ankle Specialists have programs designed especially for educators and employers that focus on foot health and safety. Here, employers will find information on promoting a safe workplace environment, selecting safety footwear, and more. Educators can find kid-friendly quizzes dealing with foot and ankle health. If you're interested in having one of our doctors introduce a program for educators or employers to your faculty or staff, please fill out the form on our Contact page.
IN THE WORKPLACE
Foot & Ankle Specialists would like to help you promote a safe workplace environment. We’ve gathered some helpful tips on workplace safety and safety footwear. In the event of a work-related foot or ankle injury, we are here to help get you or your employee back to work as quickly as possible.
Whenever there’s a risk of foot or ankle injury in the workplace, appropriate protective footwear should be worn. When foot protection is required, it should be implemented as part of a complete foot safety protection program that includes guidelines for selecting shoes, finding the right fit, proper maintenance, and regular inspections for wear.
Safety footwear should protect against a variety of injuries, such as impact, crushing, and puncture. If there is a chance for injury to the top of the foot (the metatarsal), specific protection should be used for that area.
A comprehensive foot safety program is important to protect your employees from injury. The following ten steps are a good place to start:
- Know the rules: OSHA has many regulations relating to foot and ankle safety—from hazard assessment to occupational foot protection—and it's important for you to understand these rules. When purchasing safety footwear, select a company experienced in supplying OSHA-approved safety footwear. For more information on Michigan's OSHA (MIOSHA), please click here.
- Know the causes: Work-related injuries fall into two major categories: foot injuries from punctures, pressure, sprains and lacerations, and those from slips, trips, and falls. Keep in mind that foot problems not directly related to the workplace, such as calluses and ingrown toenails, may lead to diminished productivity or further injuries.
- Enlist the help of a professional: Hiring a third-party professional (such as a footwear manufacturer representative or dedicated safety distributor) to inspect your facility will give you an objective look at potential safety hazards and necessary foot protection. Start by going over your employee injury logs to get an idea of which areas need the closest scrutiny.
- Stop problems before they begin: Your safety auditor will be able to help you recognize potentially hazardous conditions within your facility. You may then restructure or reorganize your facility in a way that prevents injuries from ever happening. Begin by focusing on proper guards on machines, quick spill response, and areas like stairs, ramps, and places where pedestrians come into contact with mobile equipment.
- Go to the floor: Ask your workers for their input on the hazards they face each day and what might be done to fix any potential problems.
- Find the right shoes: There is an enormous range of safety footwear available on the market today, each designed for a specific list of injury prevention and style requirements. Evaluating which type of protection your employees need will help you narrow down your choices. Your safety auditor should also be able to give you a good idea of what you need.
- Footwear for employees: Whether you opt to use a distributor, catalogs, a voucher system, or an on-site safety center, there are many ways to be sure each employee receives the necessary safety footwear. Find the method that works best for you.
- Make sure the shoe fits: Safety footwear must fit correctly and comfortably to do their job and ensure employees actually wear them. When possible, opt for lightweight and comfortable footwear with a low heel or no heel. Boots should always be fully laced and should fit the ankle and heel snugly while providing ample toe room. For the comfort of your employees, shock-absorbing insoles may be used. Employees should own at least two pairs of safety footwear.
- Build a great training plan: Train your employees how to put on, wear, remove, and care for their footwear and what the limitations are. Welcome questions from your employees, providing answers and checking back to be sure that everyone understands. Motivate them to follow through with their training with posters, articles, and incentive programs.
- Focus on the big picture: While saving a few dollars on footwear may be appealing now, it may cost you the difference many times over in the long run. Rather than price, focus on the total value of the footwear, which includes factors such as durability, comfort, and finally, cost.
OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has an extensive catalog of specific and detailed regulations and guidelines for workplace safety. To give you an idea of the scope and focus of OSHA regulations, below is an unofficial, partial list of regulations relating directly to foot and ankle safety. Read more about OSHA and access their complete list of regulations.
- Fixed stairways shall have a minimum width of 22 inches: 1910.24(d)
- All stair treads shall be reasonably slip-resistant and the nosings shall be of non-slip finish. Welded bar grating treads without nosings are acceptable providing the leading edge can be readily identified by personnel descending the stairway and provided the tread is serrated or is of definite non-slip design. Rise height and tread width shall be uniform throughout any flight of stairs including any foundation structure used as one or more treads of the stairs: 1910.24(f)
- A floor hole less than one foot (30.5 cm) in its least dimension need only be guarded by a toeboard or equivalent means to prevent the feet of employees from entering the hole or tools from falling through the opening and onto employees below: 29 CFR 1910.27(b)(4)