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Stepping Into Safety

Published: 29th May 2014 in OSA Magazine

Protect your company from expensive legal actions by protecting workers from hazards. Thomas Raldorf explains how to select the correct safety footwear.

Far too many companies, especially in Asia, forget not only to make a hazard identification and risk assessment (HIRA) of their activities, but they also forget to use the hierarchy of hazard control (HHC) as the first step to protect their workers. Instead, they go straight to issuing them with a standard list of personal protective equipment (PPE).

When the HIRA and HHC are followed effectively, the hazards can be reduced to a grade where a much lower level of protection is required.

The first step is to assess the workplace using a HIRA form. Using this form allows companies to determine the intended activities and their potential risks, and to then rate the likelihood of these risks occurring, along with their potential consequences and severity.

The ultimate result is always to reduce the likelihood, consequences and severity to zero, but due to companies’ activities this is not always possible. The next best thing would be to reduce negative outcomes to as low as practicably possible.

The hierarchy of hazard control

Using the following steps, the HHC enables you to most effectively reduce the likelihood and consequences of any potential accident and to put protective measures in place.

Step 1
Review the activity and consider if it is actually required.

Step 2
If the activity is required, look at other potential ways it could be done with lower risk and consequence levels, possibly by substituting manpower with machinery.

Step 3
When the safest, most practicable method has been selected, consider which engineering controls can be put in place, such as implementing guards on machinery, barriers or safe walkways. Then ensure that the procedures and work instructions are in place and revised to fit with any changes implemented once the previous steps are complete.

Step 4
You now need to deal with the people. This means ensuring the workers performing the intended activity are properly trained, have the right knowledge and experience and are properly supervised. Choosing the right people with the right safety attitude and skills for the job is very important.

Step 5
Once all the above steps have been completed comes the final step, which is choosing the right PPE. To assist with this, a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) must be completed. The findings in the JSA then determine which type of PPE is required for the intended activity.

Choosing the right footwear

There is a very large range of safety shoes available in terms of models, protection levels, designs, colours, weights, fits, and of course, prices.

In many small and medium sized companies where there is no separate HSE department in place, the responsibility for selecting, ordering and purchasing the PPE is often given to the human resources (HR) department.

Generally, due to a lack of understanding and knowledge of the PPE options available, the only factors considered by the HR team would be price, delivery time and type or model, with this last criteria limited to deciding between a shoe or boot, size, and colour.

This can cause situations where the PPE purchased is not worn or is worn incorrectly, because it is either uncomfortable or not practical for the tasks being performed.

The relevance of the following features to activities being performed should be considered when selecting footwear:
• Anti-slip soles with or without steel toe caps or steel midsoles
• Slipper type, low or high cut shoe, half or full boot
• Water resistance, waterproofing
• Oil and chemical resistance
• Approvals and certifications of the footwear
• Electrically non-conductive
• Foundry protective
• Insulated
• Availability of different widths
• Clients’ additional requirements

Review all the requirements from your clients, as if they stipulate a specific brand, model or certification requirement this should be considered in your selection process.

Get input from the department manager on the type of footwear required for the job activities, keeping the JSA findings in mind when choosing the footwear.

Consider whether the activities require the employees to put on and remove the footwear very frequently, as if so your selection criteria should also include how easily this can be done, while still covering all other safety requirements. In some cases two different pairs of footwear may be required for different activities.

In small companies, you might even consider getting feedback from the employees and letting them choose between models you have selected as suitable for the activities they perform. Letting them choose also allows them to be a part of the process and they may be more inclined to wear it properly.

A big consideration, which is often neglected, is the width of the footwear provided for employees. Everybody has different feet, not only in length but also in width, and some have wider feet than others. If you were selecting a glove, it would be normal to consider the size required; if you were choosing a shirt or a jacket it would be normal to consider the size and length of arms and general fit required; and if you were buying a safety helmet it would be normal to buy one that was adjustable in size, as we are all different.

The same goes for the feet, and choosing footwear that fits in both length and width is very important for the health and comfort of the user.

Ill fitting footwear can cause a variety of serious conditions such as bunions, corns, calluses and athlete’s foot.

For sizing, try footwear on at the end of the day when your feet have generally swelled and are at their biggest, and make sure to wear your usual work socks. The footwear should feel comfortable from the minute you put it on. Never expect to ‘break in’ footwear; instead select models and sizes that fit comfortably from the outset.

Most well known suppliers of safety related footwear offer their products in different widths, so here you will generally be looking for a width of EE or EEE, with EEE being the wider than average models.

Required certification

There are several certification bodies to refer to when choosing footwear, including ASTM, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and European Standards (EN ISO).
More guidance on protective footwear and what to consider can be found on the following websites:

• www.hse.gov.uk
• www.osha.gov
• www.astm.org
• www.ansi.org
• www.en-standard.eu
• www.nssn.org
• www.standards.org.sg
• www.aofas.org
• www.nsc.org

If the footwear has the following certification it would generally be considered to meet the necessary standards for occupational and protective footwear:

• ASTM F 2412-11 & ASTM F2413-11 (ANSI also refers to these ASTM standards)
• EN ISO 20345 – 2011 for safety footwear
• EN ISO 20346 – 2004 for protective footwear
• EN ISO 20347 – 2012 for occupational footwear

In 1999 ANSI had a standard called ANSI Z41, but this is now outdated and has been replaced by the above ASTM standards.

Protection levels

There are several different levels of protection available when considering personal protective footwear. These can be divided into safety, protective and occupational footwear.

Safety footwear features:
• Steel toecaps that provide protection from compression forces of up to 15,000 newtons (N)
• Protection from impact energies of up to 200 joules

Protective footwear features:
• Steel toecaps that provide protection from compression forces of up to 10,000N
• Protection from impact energies of up to 100 joules

Occupational footwear:
• Does not have steel toecaps
• Does not provide impact protection
• Could provide protection for slipping or electrical shock

All PPE footwear manufacturers have to, or at least should, follow some established directives and standards. In Asia, however, this industry is not all that well regulated, so always look for international markings such as ASTM, ANSI, EN ISO and CE.

As an example, the companies that wish to have their footwear CE marked have to follow the Personal Protective Equipment Directive 89/686/EEC. If not followed, heavy fines and imprisonment could be imposed and the CE marked footwear recalled.

Care and maintenance

Taking good care of protective footwear will help to extend the life of the product and will ensure that it remains comfortable to wear throughout its lifespan.

The following are recommended practises for footwear maintenance:
• Inspect footwear regularly for cracks and wear damage, removing any embedded objects from the soles
• Clean footwear with an appropriate recommended cleaning product and do not use caustic cleaning agents
• Air out the shoes and boots if they will not be worn for a long period
• Dry them thoroughly if they get wet on the inside
• If your feet tend to perspire, change into clean dry socks during the workday - a person can perspire up to 200 ml a day through the feet if working in a very hot environment
• If footwear has been subjected to wet conditions allow it to dry naturally in a cool, dry area. Do not force the drying process, such as with high temperatures, as this can cause a deterioration of the upper material

When to replace footwear

The criteria for replacing protective footwear are based on excessive wear and tear, but are very subjective. The National Safety Council’s (NSC) recommended practise is to replace all types of industrial footwear every six months and in some cases even more frequently.

More information on NSC guidelines can be found under the heading of Selection and User Guide for Protective Footwear on the NSC website. See the URL in the previous list.

Some activities are more demanding on footwear than others, so the footwear should meet with different levels of wear and tear depending on the wearer’s activities.

Deciding when footwear should be replaced is not always very simple, but if there is any doubt at all in whether the footwear can provide the intended level of protection then it should be replaced.

A good rule of thumb to remember is if in doubt, change it out.

There are many variables to consider, so it’s impossible to give a one size fits all rule or guideline for when footwear should be replaced. Good common sense should also be applied during the evaluation.

Below are signs to look for when deciding if footwear needs replacing:
• The non-slip grip of the sole is worn down
• The sole material is coming apart or bits are falling off
• The sole is separating from the footwear
• The steel or composite toecap is exposed from wear or scratches
• The steel toecap is dented
• The composite toecap has had an impact from a heavy falling object
• The steel midsole is showing
• The steel or composite shank is showing
• The steel metatarsal is showing
• Separation of rubber or PVC parts, including outsole and foxing
• The footwear, if a waterproof model, should be checked for leaks

In situations where there is no dedicated HSE department, the HR department responsible for the PPE has, on many occasions, set up rules stating that the PPE is to be replaced based on a set time interval, because it is more convenient, purchase is easier to plan and bulk discounts may be secured. Again, this practise is very common in many countries throughout Asia.

Having a set interval for when new PPE is issued could create a false sense of ‘good’ economy, dangerous situations and unhappy employees. When the exchange interval is based on the employees with very demanding tasks, other employees with less demanding tasks have less wear and tear, but still get their PPE replaced before it is required. This increases the cost for the company unnecessarily.

When the exchange interval is based on an average period that the PPE is estimated to last, then until the new PPE gets issued some employees will have to use worn out PPE that is no longer fit for purpose. In cases where accidents happen that can be directly attributed to the bad condition of the PPE the company will be held liable, which can be very costly indeed.

Conclusion

Replacing footwear when required as determined by the actual condition of the footwear provides the best duty of care to the employee and is also the most cost effective in the long run.

By protecting workers from the hazards of incorrect and insufficient footwear, you will protect your company from potentially lengthy and expensive legal proceedings. While it may be a somewhat Westernised viewpoint, if workers feel that their wellbeing is taken into consideration they will be more loyal, more inclined to work harder and faster, and take fewer sick days.

Don’t subject your employees to situations that you would not allow yourself, or your family, to endure. They all have families, too, and just want to return to them unharmed at the end of each working day. 

Published: 29th May 2014 in OSA Magazine

Author


Thomas Raldorf


Thomas Raldorf, HSE Manager, Beacon Offshore Limited

Thomas has been involved with HSE at different levels for the past 24 years, the last 15 of which have been in both topside and subsea work in the oil and gas industry.

Thomas has worked in refineries and chemical plants in addition to working offshore on both floating storage and offloading (FSO), and floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) wellhead and production platforms.

Thomas has lived in Asia for the past 20 years and has travelled and worked in most countries in Asia, from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia to countries including Bangladesh, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. Thomas is fluent in Thai and understands the Asian work environment well, especially the Thai culture.

Thomas is an Associate of the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (AIIRSM).

About Beacon Offshore Limited

Initially founded in Thailand in 1982, Beacon Offshore is an ISO 9001:2008 certified and classification approved company, providing a broad range of maritime services to clients in Thailand and Southeast Asia. With headquarters near the Laem Chabang deep sea port on the Eastern Seaboard, a branch operation in Songkhla and a representative office in Bangkok, the company has easy access to all Thai ports and excellent connections to major ports and airports in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.

Beacon Offshore offers an extensive range of quality services to the offshore oil and gas, merchant shipping, marine civil engineering and petrochemical industries from its three main divisions: subsea, which handles underwater inspection repair and maintenance; safety equipment, which handles the service and sale of life rafts, lifeboats, transfer hoses and firefighting equipment; and rope access, which handles non-destructive testing, repairs and maintenance.

The company is managed by dedicated professionals with strong regional backgrounds and significant experience within their fields of operation.

For more information about Beacon Offshore Limited please contact Stuart Walker.

E: stuart.w@beacon-offshore.com
W: www.beacon-offshore.com
T: +66 38 348 080


Thomas Raldorf

Website:
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