Footwear causes about 24% of industrial slip and fall injuries.
Slips, trips and falls are common in every workplace and are the second-leading cause of lost-worktime injuries.
Wearing the right type of shoes can make a big difference in reducing injuries. Slip-resistant footwear is a tool and wearing the appropriate shoes can make an employee’s job safer and easier.
Slips happen when there isn’t enough friction or traction between a person’s feet and the surface they are walking on. Challenges can range from office workers wearing smooth-soled shoes into production areas, to selecting the wrong style of safety footwear, to wearing shoes beyond their life cycle to the point that minimal tread is left.
Consider these when choosing slip-resistant shoes:
Know the environment: When selecting footwear, it is important to know what is making a floor slippery. Shoes designed to be slip-resistant in wet, outdoor conditions may not be effective on a floor coated with oily overspray or chemicals. Likewise, shoes designed for hospital or restaurant workers dealing with water or food-based oils may quickly degrade in industrial cutting oils
Know what’s available: The slip-resistant footwear market has grown significantly over the past decade. Footwear is now available for many different work environments. Ask safety footwear manufacturers and suppliers for recommendations that match your specific needs. They will likely offer to test the footwear to demonstrate how it will work in a given environment
Conduct a risk assessment to identify slip, trip and fall hazards. This involves evaluating every walking surface in and around your facility to determine hazardous and dangerous conditions. Slips, trips and falls can occur in any area of your facility and can injure any employee
Bring a camera to take photographs: Begin in the parking lot, assess entrance doors, mats and floors then inspect every area in and around the facility, corner to corner. Include stairs, elevators, offices, restrooms, break rooms, walking paths, kitchens, production floors, etc.
Engage employees: Survey employees from various areas in your assessment process. This will help uncover conditions which may be common, however, may not be apparent or exist on the day or time of the assessment
Prioritize findings: A slip, trip and fall audit can produce a lengthy list of findings. As with other risk assessments, it is important to prioritize each finding by the probability and severity of any potential negative outcomes. You must also determine which problems you can eliminate and which you will need to control and manage
Communicate: Discuss risk assessment findings with stakeholders or your safety committee and develop an action plan designed to eliminate and/or manage hazardous conditions to help prevent these painful and costly injuries. Set timelines and hold people accountable
What to look for. Slips & Trips can be caused by:
Walkway surfaces that are in disrepair
Liquids that spill onto a floor
Dusts, granules or particles that accumulate on a floor
Wearing the wrong type of footwear
Improper floor cleaning techniques
Weather related conditions, such as rain, snow and ice
Transition areas with drastic changes in coefficient of friction
Uneven and defective flooring
Any area that requires an employee to step or down
Ramps and gang planks without skid-resistant surfaces
Polished or freshly waxed floors
Loose flooring, carpeting or mats
Uneven sidewalks, including curbs
A variation of ¼” or more on a walking surface
Buckled entrance matting or mating that moves
Worn and/or wrinkled carpeting
Clutter in aisles and walkways
Cords or cables that cross walkways
Drawers and cabinet doors that are left open
Poor visibility & low lighting
Selecting the Right Footwear
Look at the Sole
No single tread pattern is necessarily better than another – although shoe manufacturers have a lot of marketing out there to explain how features of their tread patterns help improve safety. That’s a good thing, but it’s still important to understand how those features actually help with slip resistance
Look for soles that grip the ground firmly. Super-deep treads or patterns with a lot of voids can feel unstable. Have tunnels to channel water or oil away from the shoe. When you step in a liquid, it will choose the path of least resistance. If the tread has lots of channels or pathways to facilitate this, it will provide a safer step. Have circular grips that help prevent hydroplaning better than square or triangular-shaped grips
Know the Limitation
No shoe is slip-proof. Just like earplugs, safety glasses, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE), slip-resistant shoes help to reduce hazards and improve safety, but they don’t make anyone a superhero
Like everything else, shoes don’t last forever, even the best footwear needs to be replaced from time to time. If the tread on a shoe’s sole is 50% worn the shoe is twice as likely to contribute to a slip and fall injury as a new shoe or one with less wear would be
Establishing a regular change-out schedule helps ensure that shoes aren’t worn past their prime. One suggestion is to replace shoes when two pennies can be placed on an area of the sole that has been worn smooth
Have a Plan for Everyone
Set clear guidelines about what types of footwear are acceptable for all employees, including office staff. Office workers who enter slippery production areas in dress shoes are more prone to injury than workers who are in the area daily, are used to the conditions and are wearing appropriate footwear
For office workers, stocking slip-resistant shoe covers at the entrances to production areas may be a solution to help improve safety, and may be a more viable solution than requiring everyone to wear safety shoes at all times. Proper signage can help remind office employees of the need for safety shoes (or covers) when entering production or other slippery areas.
Introducing the right type of slip-resistant footwear as part of an overall floor safety program can help to decrease the likelihood of a slip and fall injury, especially in wet or oily areas.
Whether your organization provides an annual shoe allowance or not, consider hosting a shoe fair with a quality shoe provider.
Accurate Ergonomics (AE) is dedicated to the prevention of workplace injuries, as well as injuries that occur at home. AE training courses include both injury prevention and slip, trip and fall prevention techniques.
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The information contained in this post is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of this blog post. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This post is not a substitute for review of the current applicable government regulations and standards specific to your location and business activity, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.