Slips, trips and falls (STFs) are the most common cause of workplace injury, accounting for nearly forty percent of all reported major injuries, according to an article in Occupational Health & Safety magazine’s website. The National Safety Council estimates more than $70 billion is spent annually for worker’s compensation and medical costs linked to falls that occur at work. And when it comes to accidental deaths, only motor vehicle accidents outrank STFs. According to the article, many STFs are preventable, especially through the use of proper slip resistance footwear.
Why so many slips and falls? Environment plays a huge role. What’s on the floor where you work? Water? Chemicals? Grease? Powders? Are the floors polished or frequently waxed? Is the floor kept clear of any debris or products someone might trip over? Do workers carry or push things that can block their view of the floor? Do you work outside in mud, snow or ice?
Here are a few factors to consider when selecting slip-resistant shoes, according to the article:
- Sizing and fit: As slip resistant as it may be, a shoe won’t be worn for long if it does not fit,
- Insoles: An “insole” is the interior part of the shoe on which the foot rests. Look for extra cushioning and impact padding if you spend long hours on your feet or on hard surfaces,
- Lining: Look for a mesh fabric lining to wick away moisture and keep feet cool and dry,
- Uppers: The “upper” of a shoe is the material that covers the toes as well as the back, sides, and top of the foot. Choose a shoe that has an upper that fits your activity level, as well as your work environment.
- Midsole: This portion of the shoe is between the insole and outsole and provides foot support, cushioning, and stability. Improvements in midsole technology now allow for more cushion, greater arch support, and even ergonomic designs to decrease foot, leg, and back pain,
- Tread: The space and depth of tread on a shoe are an integral piece in the effectiveness of slip-resistant footwear. Beware of worn-down soles and soles that are flat or have a flat edge of the outsole. Instead, look for treads that allow more rubber to grip the floor. Treads with more 90-degree angles can help to reduce lateral slips, and
- Testing of outsole: The most important aspect to slip resistance is the outsole compound. Generally, rubber compounds are most effective for slip resistance in oil and grease, but results can vary greatly just by slight changes in the rubber compound. The best rubber compounds disperse most oil and grease to the channels of the shoes, thus allowing the sole to reach the floor. Other outsole compounds may have difficulty dispersing oil and grease, and the result is lower slip resistance and lower COF ratings. To know which outsoles work best, it’s very important to look at test results from independent labs.
Employers have a duty to create a safe working environment and should make floors and other walking areas as safe as possible. If you work at a job where slipping and falling is a risk, if your employer won’t pay for these kinds of shoes, it may be worth the money for you to invest in them. Staying upright at work, on the job and out of the hospital would be a good return on your investment.