A step ahead

12 November 2014

Stricter legislation in the workplace is increasing the demand for industrial footwear. Coupled with advancing technology and product innovation, shoes and boots can now incorporate safety features into styles that wouldn’t have been considered a few years ago.

With more than 50 years of boot making heritage, Dr. Martens has a wide range of shoes and boots in its Industrial Collection, all carrying the fixed European standard mark EN345 or the more recent EN ISO 20345. In recent years this has extended to include women specific designs.

The availability of suitable female footwear has traditionally lagged behind within industrial environments. To address this, Dr. Martens has designed safety boots that are built on women’s need for an improved fit and accurate sizing. The results offer a rare opportunity for women to utilise safety, comfort and style in the often uninspiring industrial footwear market.

Whatever the design, comfort is a key consideration for a safety boot and Dr. Martens has focused on the construction of the inner boot, providing extra cushioning and shock absorption properties with the footbed and breathable linings.

For all employers, accidents are expensive and demoralising so it's important to take whatever steps are necessary to minimise the risks. Quality footwear that provides appropriate protection for the job in hand is essential. If it is comfortable and stylish as well, there is much more chance that they will be worn by employees.

Semmco is a design and engineering company offering specialist services for access platforms, ground support equipment and respiratory protection systems. There are 30 employees, with 50% working on the factory floor and a 70:30 male:female ratio. Dr. Martens supplied its women’s safety chukka boot, Izzy ST, to two female employees, Amanda Franchetti and Janine Eames, to see what difference it made to their working day. 

Both women are both production technicians, but Amanda is also required to regularly visits customers for airtesting respiratory protection apparatus. There are numerous hazards that are encountered on a daily basis from potential injury from wooden pallets and large, heavy boxes of equipment, to slipping on workshop floors.

Statistics from the HSE show slipping and tripping to be the single most common cause of major injury in UK workplaces. Combined with falls, it is responsible for 56% of all major and 31% of over-7 day injuries to employees. Having worn the boots for a couple of months, both were impressed by the slip resistant soles and the protection that they provided.
Amanda commented: "The boots grip really well. They have definitely increased my confidence walking around the workshop, climbing up and down the metal stairs and also visiting customers onsite, which typically includes aircraft hangars. I take delivery of component parts of the equipment which often includes heavy metal pieces so it’s good to feel protected should anything drop on my toe.
"A real surprise was the roomy toe area of the boot. I have owned safety boots in the past where the safety toecap has cut into the toes. That wasn’t the case with the Izzy STs; there was plenty of space. The anti-static sole hasn’t really been put to the test yet, although I do handle printed circuit boards that could be sensitive to static electricity and so far have had no problems.”  

Amanda spends approximately 75% of her day on her feet, whilst for Janine it can be up to eight hours a day. For this reason, comfort is as essential as the safety features. Ill fitting, uncomfortable footwear causes pain and fatigue and can contribute to a higher risk of an accident.
"Heavy, uncomfortable boots are never good when you are working in a factory," noted Janine. "It is so distracting if your feet hurt.” Amanda added: "I also found that I have experienced less knee pain– perhaps due to the cushioned soles. My last shoes were a trainer style and I had lots of problems, including having to wear arch supports to prevent foot pain.”

With regard to the size and fit of the boots – of particular importance when purchasing online - Janine concluded: "Perhaps it is because they are designed for women’s feet, rather than having to scale down a man’s boot to fit. It’s not always easy to find good quality women’s safety footwear; especially ones with a bit of style for when you are going to and from work."