Maritime News @ a Glance


PostHeaderIcon ... PPE comfort vs. safety awareness


Before we start this discussion, ask yourself these few questions:

1. what's going through your mind when your feet feel like they've been fighting hell all day?

2. how is your brain working when the safety glasses you must wear pinch hard on your temples?

3. how does your body respond to a tight fitting overall or one with legs and sleeves too long?

4. can you easily overcome the above listed discomforts so you're alert at all times and not thinking about getting it done faster (less safely) or inclined to cut corners?

Above points may seem obvious to many. After all, when we purchase safety work clothing or equipment for our own private use, we choose what fits us best. But when we go to work, it's the employer who will impose safety wear requirements on us. For one to minimize accidents, two it's an OSHA (or other governing body) requirement. Depending on how that particular employer decides to go about it, you end up either comfortable (and safe and effective), or NOT.

The above list covers only safe-wear that are most often required at any work place. Depending on work environment you may also use some other, far more task-specific gear, which by shear lack of choice may not be available in a most comfortable variety. However, the ones listed above should pose ZERO discomfort, if chosen properly. Before we start, let's finish this topic first:

" uncomfortable clothing will cause fatigue, unwelcome attitude, and rush to judgment, and eventually will blow up in your face when you expect it least"

Fatigue often starts with feet. When they're unhappy, nothing else wants to perform. And so it is the work boot that should be carefully chosen to provide the best comfort possible. In fact, it is the single most important part of protective clothing, if our safe work place is to actually become one. Foot discomfort has historically caused or lead to accidents, which were otherwise quite avoidable.

How hard is it to make that RIGHT choice?

Here is a short excerpt from the Canadian CCOHS (OSHA equivalent) :

link to entire section on CCOHS' web site

What should I know when I buy footwear for work?

Good footwear should have the following qualities:

  • The inner side of the shoe must be straight from the heel to the end of the big toe.
  • The shoe must grip the heel firmly.
  • The forepart must allow freedom of movement for the toes.
  • The shoe must have a fastening across the instep to prevent the foot from slipping when walking.
  • The shoe must have a low, wide-based heel; flat shoes are recommended.

People buying footwear for work should take the following advice:

  • Do not expect that footwear which is too tight will stretch with wear.
  • Have both feet measured when buying shoes. Feet normally differ in size.
  • Buy shoes to fit the bigger foot.
  • Buy shoes late in the afternoon when feet are likely to be swollen to their maximum size.
  • Ask a doctor's advice if properly fitting shoes are not available.
  • Consider using shock-absorbing insoles where the job requires walking or standing on hard floors.

When selecting footwear, one should remember that tight socks or stockings can cramp the toes as much as poorly-fitted shoes. Wrinkled socks, or socks that are too large or too small, can cause blisters. White woollen or cotton socks may be recommended since coloured socks cause skin allergies in some people.

It's easy to see from the above passage that, if our feet are to welcome the boots, the latter must be consciously picked from an almost unlimited choice available these days. However, one must also remember, especially the employer, that human foot comes in at least as many varieties as boots do. It essentially means that there is NO single boot model that will provide the necessary comfort to ALL. It is as personal as it gets and it is the EMPLOYEE who should ultimately decide what boots to wear. Many companies have figured this out a long time ago, others continue to propagate their "standard" as the only prevailing choice. This isn't about a foot doctor giving you a letter so you can at last wear what your feet like. If a company supplied foot-wear isn't comfortable to you, you should have the option to pick your own.

Here is a link to Shoe Analysis, an article on foot problems and injuries as they relate to a wrong shoe type. It may not be mentioning a work boot specifically, but the last known body part to entertain itself inside a shoe OR a work boot is still the same ... THE FOOT.

How do employers deal with the proper footwear selection? Generally there are two ways to getting it RIGHT.

1. an employee is issued a voucher he can redeem at a store, where he can pick the pair on his own while not incurring any up-front charges.

2. an employee purchases a pair on his own and is then reimbursed for the purchase.

In both cases there is usually a cap on how much can be spent. In case one wants to go above, he covers the difference. Simple, effective, respectful and should be commended. Why is this not a common practice? Call it ignorance or arrogance ... or both. Perhaps it's just a lack of common sense, but whichever holds true, it is inexcusable. The tight correlation between work boot comfort and safety awareness is an indisputable fact.

Providing proper footwear is important, but educating employees on the subject is no less.

Usually, you will not see any foot health training if an employer gives you no choice as to what footwear is allowed. It's a policy created by those who never need to endure its consequences.

If foot health information isn't provided, we should educate ourselves as foot problems compound over time and lead to far more serious issues. Most of all, if you happened to be working for a company that displays no regard for your foot health, speak to your supervisor or a union representative.


Foot pain is very common. About 75% of people in the United States have foot pain at some time in their lives. Most foot pain is caused by shoes that do not fit properly or that force the feet into unnatural shapes

Here is a few points on foot pain.

Preventing foot pain

You can help keep your feet pain-free during the work day by following these tips:

  • Buy footwear that fits. Shoes should grip your heel firmly and allow your toes to move freely. Look for good arch support and buy shock-absorbing insoles if you spend a lot of time on hard floors. If you must wear elevated heels, keep them below 1 1/2 inches in height.
  • Wear protective footwear. If you work in a hazardous area, wear boots or safety shoes to protect your feet. If you wait tables, find industry-recommended slip-resistant shoes. Slip-proof clogs are also available for people who work in restaurants or health care facilities. These exercise your ankles while taking strain off your feet.
  • Get off your feet during your breaks. Elevate your feet for a few minutes if you can.
  • Be alert and aware of hazards, whether you work with chemicals or need to walk on a wet floor,
  • Concentrate. Don't take needless risks.
  • Keep your work area clear of clutter to avoid slips and falls.
  • If possible, alternate shoes each day. Wearing the same pair constantly can aggravate foot problems.


What are the Best Ways to Treat and Prevent Foot Injuries?

Wearing appropriate selected and correctly fitted shoes can help eliminate so many foot problems. Feet can change in size during the day (later in the day), and with weather temperature changes (smaller during the cold). Size and shape can differ during activity and with age.

This article focused on our foot comfort as it is the most pronounced fact that can quickly lead to or amplify body fatigue. But don't forget about the comfort of any gear you must wear on a job. All of it compounds the problem even further. Your coveralls should have correct sleeve and leg length and have a slightly loose fit. It should also be made of 100% cotton. Your eye wear must fit comfortably as well, especially it must NOT pinch on your temples or it can lead to headaches and other ailments.

Remember only one thing: protective gear must meet govermental standards such as OSHA or ANSI or other, country specific, authority. Depending on job specificity there may be a more rigid standard of approval required.





Last Updated (Wednesday, 24 July 2013 03:55)

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