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Stepping Towards Safety

Published: 04th Jul 2013 in OSA Magazine

Ninety-five percent of accidents in industry happen due to unsafe conditions. Due to many kinds of unsafe situations, accidents can occur in both your professional and non- professional life, and foot injury is one of the most common examples of the kind of injury you could sustain.

The major causes of injuries are also the most common workplace hazards; these are obstacles on walkways, often the cause of falls. Such accidents on the job are expensive and also painful and can be tragic, many a time causing huge pain.

One protection for avoiding a foot injury is choosing world class safety footwear. More than the advanced technology in modern footwear design, it’s also a matter of the safety culture in your workplace, and people taking the proper action to wear the appropriate safety footwear.

Slips, trips and falls, falls from height, and metal obstacles in walkways are all responsible for many serious foot injuries every year. If a person steps on metal or other hard objects while walking, the likelihood is that they will sustain serious foot injury.

The provision and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been a subject of much global debate over the years. Up until recent times, employers would simply state that you must have your own safety boots and overall before starting work.This is no longer the case, with changes in recent years to legislation ensuring that PPE is provided by the employer free of charge to the worker.

Fortunately this is now the case in many parts of the world, certainly in most of Europe; however, the same may not go for all workers in areas of the world not so well regulated. For the purpose of this article we will focus on international legislation as a guide to what is an acceptable level of provision of PPE, with particular reference to safety footwear.

Before we discuss the various types of safety footwear available on the market it is important that we review the legislation that drives the provision of, training for and the maintenance of PPE in the workplace today.The potential injuries that are possible to foot are as follows:

• Burns
• Sprains
• Fractures
• Puncture wounds

Why should we wear safety footwear?

Every working day accidents occur on worksites which result in both serious and minor foot injuries. Many of these accidents can be avoided by the wearing of boots or shoes having built-in steel toe-caps and steel midsoles. In hazardous environments, it is necessary to minimise the risk of accidents to personnel from slipping, and also to prevent faults and downtime caused by the discharge of static electricity.

The correct footwear is therefore necessary in addition to appropriate clothing and the installation of safety flooring in the plant. Many work activities involve walking, climbing, working from ladders, scaffolds and platforms, but there are many more activities where people cannot stop working in an unsafe atmosphere, and it’s important to be proactive and wear the proper safety footwear.

In general, the definition of safety footwear is a durable boot or shoe that has a protective reinforcement in the toe, which protects the foot from falling objects or compression.This is usually combined with a midsole plate to protect against punctures from below.

A person should always wear safety footwear in the following contexts:

• Greenfield construction sites or expansions, or any construction activity
• Plant side during maintenance/ modifications/operations
• High rise buildings
• Onshore or offshore fields
• Chemical and foundry industry
• Mining and electrical industry
• Defence and railways
• Engineering and automotive

Although traditionally made of steel, the reinforcement aspects of safety footwear can also be made of a composite material, a plastic such as thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) or even aluminium.

Steel-toed boots are important in the construction industry and in many industrial settings. Occupational safety and health legislation, or insurance requirements, may require the use of such boots in some settings, and may mandate certification of such boots and the display of such certification directly on the boots. In Canada, for example, certified boots have a Canadian Standards Association green triangle on them.

When we wish to improve safety culture and reduce incidents related to foot injury in any of the above situations, we should first following steps:

• Do a hazard identification and risk assessment for workplace and ensure hazards related to foot injury are identified
• Eliminate, reduce or control the risks by making changes to protect workers, such as issuing them with specific safety footwear
• Educate workers about potential hazards – training is essential
• Report any non compliance related to safety footwear wearing
• Record,monitor,reviewandprovide feedback to whole team

Types of safety footwear

Safety footwear now comes in many styles, including sneakers and clogs, some with with antistatic properties. Here is a list of different kinds of safety shoes for a variety of different applications:

• Lightweight PU molded safety shoes
• Lightweight high ankle safety shoes
• General purpose PVC molded safety shoes
• Oil resistant safety shoes
• Antistatic safety shoes
• Chemical safety shoes
• Shock proof and heat resistant shoes

Selection of safety footwear

Footwear selection should be based on the hazards that are present at the workplace. Assess the workplace and work activities for:

• Materials handled or used by the worker
• Risk of objects falling onto or striking the feet
• Any material or equipment that might roll over the feet
• Any sharp or pointed objects that might cut the top of the feet
• Objects that may penetrate the bottom or side of the foot
• Possible exposure to corrosive or irritating substances
• Possible explosive atmospheres including the risk of static electrical discharges
• Risk of damage to sensitive electronic components or equipment due to the discharge of static electricity
• Risk of coming into contact with energised conductors of low to moderate voltage

Risk evaluation while considering selection should take the following factors into account:

• Ankles from uneven walking surfaces
• Foot injury due to exposure to extreme hot or cold
• Slips and falls on slippery walking surfaces
• Exposure to rotating or abrasive machinery

Other than the above, look for:

• Safety. Comfort. Durability.These should be top priorities when it comes to the selection of safety footwear
• Every pair should meet international safety standards
• Comfort is important in any shoe, but particularly with safety footwear. As well as the fitting of the boot or shoe, the purpose for which it will be used must be considered. Again, the risk assessment will determine the most appropriate type of footwear
• Another consideration will be the type of surface on which the footwear will be used – will this be wet and slippery or oily?
• Will there by a considerable amount of rough ground? If so, boots providing ankle support would be preferable to shoes
• Is there a risk of electric shock? Then soles with high electrical resistivity would be a serious consideration here

Whether a person is working in the oil and gas industry, marine and offshore, construction, mining, manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, logistics, military or agriculture sectors, safety boots should suit safety needs.They should be kept simple and provide the users comprehensive protection over a prolonged period of wear in harsh environments.

Labelling and standards

With reference to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, the following symbols, or markings seen below, should be kept in mind while selecting the safety footwear.

Global compliance standards

United States
In the United States, the applicable standard for protective footwear is ASTM standards F 2412-05, Standard Test Methods for Foot Protection, and ASTMF 2413-05, Standard Specification for Performance Requirements for Foot Protection.

OSHA requires compliance of ANSI Z41.1-1991,‘American National Standard for Personal Protection- Protective Footwear’, if purchased after July 5, 1994. If purchased before July 5, 1994, ANSI standard ‘USA Standard for Men’s Safety-Toe Footwear’, Z41.1-1967 applies.

The International Organization for Standardization provides the European standard for Safety footwear.The current one is ISO 20345:2004.

The standards that are mainly followed in Asia region are:
• India:JAS-ANZISO9001:2000
• Indonesia:SNI0111:2009
• Japan:JIST8101
• China: GB 21148 & An1, An2, An3, An4, An5
• Singapore:SS513-1:2005

Inspection and maintenance

PPE should be examined in accordance with manufacturers’ recommendations, by properly trained persons before being issued.The wearer should also inspect it before use to ensure that it is clean and not defective. Maintenance must be carried out in accordance with manufacturers’ inspections and schedules which will include where appropriate, examination, testing and record keeping.Where equipment is used by more than one person, there must be arrangements for cleaning and disinfecting.


Where employees are issued with protective footwear, suitable arrangements must be made for its storage when not in use. Consideration should be given to providing individual lockers in drying rooms so that employees can look after such equipment properly.


Although no safety footwear can provide complete protection against all injuries, the risk assessment has to consider all of the injury risks and their potential seriousness.

There is always plenty of scope for improvement in the design and maintainenance of the workplace in such a way that will eliminate, or reduce the chances of foot injury. 

Published: 04th Jul 2013 in OSA Magazine


Sanjeev Paruthi

Mr Sanjeev Paruthi is a postgraduate Chemical Engineer from Punjab University Chandigarh (India), and is presently associated with a multinational EPC Company as its HSE and Process Safety Engineer at Gurgaon-India.

His experience of six years comprises of working with Hindustan Zinc Limited, Tata Coffee Limited and with leading consulting and Training Company in the domain of Process Safety/Risk Management. He also holds PG Diploma in Business Management from ICFAI. He is also pursuing an Advance Diploma in Industrial Fire Safety Management from Mohali Punjab, India.

Mr Paruthi has wide range of consulting and training experience for working with Chemical, Fine Chemical, Refinery, Petrochemical Storage Installations, paints and allied chemical industries. He has also designed Fire Prevention and Detection systems for Refinery in his current company. He has led various HAZOP and HAZID sessions and prepared various HSE documents under a refinery project.

Mr Paruthi has also conducted Operational Process Safety Studies.

His technical expertise is in the following domain areas:
• Quantitative Risk Assessment, HAZOP Studies, Process Hazard Analysis
• Fire Risk Assessment
• Process Safety Training and Development
• Process Safety Management Studies and Audits
• SIL Studies
• Hazardous Area Classification
• Static Hazards Evaluation
• Lockout Tagout
• Chemical Handling Safety (Gas/Vapour/Dust)

Sanjeev Paruthi




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