Don't slip up

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When selecting slip-resistant footwear, it’s vital to also consider factors such as the level of comfort provided to the wearer.

Slips and trips are the most common cause of major injuries at work. Ninety-five per cent of major slips result in broken bones, requiring a minimum of six to eight weeks to heal. While the cost to human health is incalculable, the cost to employers from lost production and other expenses amounts to £512 million every year.

HAIX, a specialist manufacturer of functional safety footwear, understands that wellbeing starts from the feet up, and investing in quality, compliant protective footwear can prevent accidents in the workplace.

Slip resistance

When selecting safety footwear, the wearer should consider the level of slip resistance needed for their specific situation. For example, an individual working in construction on various surfaces would have different requirements to an arborist working predominantly in a forest.

Manufacturers should design safety footwear with a variety of surfaces in mind. Photograph: HAIX

Manufacturers should design safety footwear with a variety of surfaces in mind. HAIX footwear, for example, can help to maintain a secure grip when faced with steep slopes, wet roads or oil-covered floors in workshops because the outsoles are manufactured in a special abrasion-resistant rubber compound with a bold tread. Before selecting footwear, a risk assessment should therefore be conducted to help understand the main surfaces and contaminants that could cause slip risks in the workplace. In addition to selecting footwear with the right features, all footwear should be trialled to ensure it meets the need of the environment and the wearer.

HAIX safety footwear undergoes a series of more than 100 material and quality assurance tests, replicating the day-to-day challenges of its wearers, who spend most of their time on their feet. To ensure footwear is suitably slip resistant, it is tested according to the main safety standard, EN ISO20345:2011, with specific codes for certain conditions:

  • SRA – tested on ceramic tile wetted with dilute soap solution
  • SRB – tested on smooth steel with glycerol
  • SRC – tested under both the above conditions.

SRA and SRB test for specific environments, whereas products meeting SRC are tested for both SRA and SRB conditions, giving the wearer the best chance of preventing a slip, trip or fall.

Anti-fatigue properties and comfort

A recurring complaint from those who wear safety footwear at work is plantar fasciitis, an acute pain in the heel caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is prevalent among people who stand for long periods while at work, such as factory line workers.

If left untreated, it can lead to long-term health effects and pain that can negatively affect work concentration, increasing the likelihood of an accident.

Using advances in design influenced by biomechanics, footwear manufacturers can address such issues. A system that supports the natural curvature of the foot, for example, can maintain a more natural foot position. This helps to reduce wearer fatigue, especially when boots are worn over long working periods, ensuring better overall bodily posture and acting to minimise long-term injury risk associated with standing at length.

Choosing comfortable, supportive footwear with anti-fatigue properties can not only reduce muscle and ligament stress but also minimise the risk of slips, trips and falls caused by difficulty concentrating or weariness.

Other issues long-term wearers face, such as lower leg fatigue induced by overall boot weight, can also be countered by smart material choices. For example, advances in materials like nanocarbon can produce toe-caps and reinforced areas that meet the same safety and protection standards as steel toe-caps but remain ultra-lightweight.

Also, although puncture-resistance in boot midsoles is often accomplished using metal, advanced fabrics and textiles can be used to provide levels of puncture-resistance while decreasing overall weight and increasing comfort and flexibility.

Waterproof and breathable materials

Water-resistant qualities and breathable, insulating materials are key because wet or hot feet may cause concentration levels to drop as the wearer becomes more concerned about their comfort than the job in hand. Distraction at work can lead to an accident, so providing waterproof, breathable footwear can reduce this risk.

Waterproof boots adhere to the EN ISO standard: 20345/20347, which is the minimum European standard manufacturers should achieve. Boots that incorporate a Gore-Tex® membrane with microscopic pores that are 20,000 times smaller than a drop of water far exceed this standard and ensure footwear is watertight. To keep feet ventilated when working hard, uppers – the part of the shoe covering the top, sides, back and toes of the foot – should be made from appropriate leather or breathable material.

As workers look to manage the risk of slips, trips and falls at work, the importance of footwear as a core element of protection should never be underestimated. An investment in reliable, high-quality safety footwear is an investment in wearer health, comfort and safety.

Simon Ash is UK sales manager at HAIX


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