Footwear that is slip resistant and protects the feet from falling objects is a must for working in the construction and any related hazardous environment. In addition, safety footwear must be durable, comfortable, practical and easy to work in.
Slip resistant footwear should have been tested according to a coefficient of friction (CoF) test and have a marked value as such. The higher the CoF, the less likely one will slip when wearing. Footwear should be labelled with ‘CE’ and comply with the requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002.
A closely packed thread pattern works best with fluid contaminants and indoor environments. A more open pattern is better outdoors or on solid ground. Sip resistant properties can wear away over time, so, footwear needs to be replaced as this happens. Rigger boots (a looser fit than standard safety footwear) are sometimes worn. Even though these are easier to put on than standard safety boots, (because they are a looser fit), the wearer can more easily sustain a sprained ankle. Lace up boots are not suitable for work with asbestos. For some work, for example when working with cement, wellington boots may provide the best protection.
The bones in the foot are quite delicate, as are the muscles and tendons, so suitable protection is necessary to protect from falling hazards or entrapment. Steel toecaps protect against falling objects and mid toe protection protect against puncture (for example, if one treads on a nail).
Even though footwear may be tested in a laboratory, it isn’t always a substitute for wearing them in real work conditions. One should consider asking a supplier for trial pairs of footwear before they make their final decision to buy. The employer, before buying, could also specify the main surface and contaminants used in the workplace, and so ensure that the most suitable footwear is purchased for the job. Suppliers can offer advice on the best footwear for the job.
In addition to wearing the correct footwear, there are other factors that can cause hazards. If there is too little light people may not see hazards on the stairs or floor. Condensation, collecting frost and rainwater from an outside source may cause a floor to become more slippery. Human factors can also contribute to hazards. There should be protocol in place whereby every spillage is cleaned up as soon as. Unexpected loud noises, rushing around and being distracted can contribute to slips, falls, trips and unexpected falling hazards.