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Stamping down on safety

07 April 2016

The most recent HSE statistics revealed that 28% of all non-fatal injuries recorded in 2014/15 were caused by slips and trips. These types of accidents are still the single most common cause of injuries at work and result in costs to employers from lost time working and possible life-long injuries to workers. Jon Marchant, global category manager at Dr. Martens looks at the potential risks and offers advice on ways to help reduce slips and trips in the workplace.

For the thousands of tradesmen who must spend part, or all of their time outdoors working in reduced daylight hours during the winter months, the risk of slips and falls naturally increases. Combine that with recent warnings from weather forecasters that this winter could be the wettest in recent history, with Britain experiencing heavy rain and gale force winds, workers must be extra vigilant when working outside. To help reduce the likelihood of a fall, workers should be provided with a quality pair of safety boots with adequate grip and protection as part of their personal protective equipment (PPE) ensemble.

First and foremost, boots should be checked to ensure they meet the correct technical requirements for the job. This depends upon the types of hazards a person is likely to encounter in their workplace, such as, cuts and punctures, electrostatic build-up, falling objects, heavy loads and chemical splash, or in the winter it can be cold and icy conditions. With a plethora of safety boot options available on the internet through Search Engines and online outlets, it is imperative that you check that they meet current EN and ISO safety standards as well.

All safety footwear should include a safety toecap to prevent the risk of the toes being crushed, being hit by an object or even caught in machinery. A slip resistant outsole and puncture resistant midsole are also essential to reduce the risk of a worker slipping on wet flooring, causing an injury, or to protect the worker against underfoot, sharp hazards. There are also sole materials which can offer heat resistance up to 300°C for 60 seconds where there is exposure to heat or if you’re working in damp conditions a fully waterproof boot or one with a water-resistant upper will be more effective.

Wearing ill-fitting or uncomfortable footwear can contribute towards serious injury, musculoskeletal issues and increased fatigue. As feet are bearing the brunt of daily working life, it is essential to select footwear that is stable, fits well and is lightweight. The main cause of fatigue can be an imbalance in the footwear and if the boots are too toe-heavy, it can lead to shin splints and sore shins, which in turn force larger muscles to compensate, causing accelerated fatigue in those muscles as well. This soreness becomes cyclical, resulting in more fatigue and will eventually have the potential to cause serious injury. Prevention is key, so workers purchasing their own safety footwear should thoroughly research the appropriate footwear before investing.

HSE statistics

Musculoskeletal disorders have been reported in around half of all workplaces, with five or more employees. Caused by muscle tissue being damaged by the wear and tear of daily activities, musculoskeletal injuries can be caused over time by uncomfortable or inadequate footwear. Wearing incorrect footwear day in, day out can have a serious long-term impact on muscle groups and tissue. Additionally, trauma to an area from accidents such as a slip or fall that creates a direct blow to the muscle is also a main cause of musculoskeletal pain. Ultimately, wearing the correct safety footwear can significantly contribute towards preventing long-term damage.

Although it is evident that the amount of injuries reported to the HSE by employers under RIDDOR for non-fatal injuries are decreasing, there are signs that the downward trend over the past 10 is in fact, slowing down. This emphasises the fact that although we have seen an improvement, both employers and workers must take a greater responsibility for selecting quality safety footwear and ensuring that they actually wear them.