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Protective Footwear

1.0 Introduction

Foot injuries are common in the workplace. More than 100,000 employees suffer disabling injuries to their feet every year. Approximately 75% of these injuries could have been prevented if employees had worn proper foot protection. The feet should be treated with care because even a minor injury can cause extreme pain, injury, and lost time on the job. Proper footwear can protect the worker from falling and rolling objects, punctures, chemicals, slips, and electric shock. Falling and rolling objects alone account for more than 73% of all injuries to the feet. Stepping on sharp objects accounted for another 13% of injuries. Most injuries are caused by objects weighing less than 65 pounds falling less than four feet. Safety shoes are puncture and crush resistant, and contain soles made of slip resistant materials to maximize traction and reduce the incidence of falls. Modern safety shoes are comfortable, lightweight, and attractive. Employees should be able to find safety shoes that fit properly and are appropriate for the hazard. To reduce injuries to the feet and decrease the potential for slips and falls, Radford University has developed this program to ensure that employees wear appropriate footwear on the job.

2.0 Procedures

  1. Identifying hazards. The Safety Office, in cooperation with supervision, will identify areas requiring foot protection and the type of protection needed by employees. Proper safety shoes will be worn in areas where there is a reasonable probability of injury that could be reduced or prevented by their use. Depending on the potential hazard, safety-toe shoes, electrical hazard shoes, rubber overboots, or metatarsal guards may be required. In some areas such as housekeeping, canvas type shoes may be adequate. Instead of safety shoes, departments should strive to decrease the possibility of foot injuries by reducing or eliminating hazards through engineering controls or procedural changes.
  2. Work shoes. Work shoes are sturdy low heeled shoes that protect the feet and reduce slippage. As a minimum, non-office employees should always wear sturdy work shoes. Depending on the activity, safety shoes with steel toes may be required. Work shoes may be made from leather, canvas, or synthetic materials. Soles must be made from slip-resistant materials. Uppers should be resistant to the type of work being performed. Protection may be needed from chemicals, abrasions, cuts, heat, and cold. Leather uppers offer greater protection and are more comfortable because they "breathe" allowing perspiration and heat to pass through. Light weight athletic shoes and canvas shoes offer limited protection and are not acceptable as work shoes for most types of manual labor. Office workers should wear sturdy low heeled shoes with slip resistant soles. Open toe shoes and sandals should be discouraged.
  3. Safety shoes. For certain job tasks the greater protection provided by safety shoes may be required. Safety shoes are required to protect workers from falling or rolling objects, wet surfaces, shock hazards, corrosive materials, or punctures from nails and other sharp objects. These shoes contain a toe-box made of steel, plastic, or a composite material to protect the toes from falling objects, non-skid soles to prevent slips, and a metal or reinforced insole to protect from punctures. Safety shoes must be worn if workers are exposed to potentially falling objects that weigh more than 15 pounds and these objects are routinely handled more than once per day. In general, this will apply to most maintenance employees, dishwashers, stockmen, and housekeepers who routinely move heavy objects. Employees assigned to jobs within foot protection areas on a routine basis shall wear appropriate safety shoes at all times. Employees assigned to jobs that require lifting of heavy objects on a non-routine basis shall wear safety shoes or foot guards when required. In general, safety shoes must be made of leather. If approved by the Safety Office and supervision, workers may wear safety-toe athletic type shoes. Safety shoes must meet the requirements of ANSI Z41.1, Class 75.
  4. Specialized footwear. When necessary to reduce hazards and protect employees, departments must supply specialized footwear such as high voltage overboots, welding leggings, chemical resistant rubber overboots, and metatarsal guards to affected employees at no cost.
  5. Electrical hazard overboots. These boots are designed to provide protection against live electrical wires and circuits and should be worn when working with voltages in excess of 600 volts.
  6. Welding leggings. Welding leggings are designed to protect the shin and the top of the shoe from splashes of molten metal or welding sparks. Leggings can be removed quickly to avoid serious burns.
  7. Rubber boots. Rubber overboots should be worn in areas that have a high potential for slippage and to provide protection from corrosive chemicals and pesticides.
  8. Metatarsal foot guard. Foot guards protect the top of the foot and should be worn when unusually heavy objects are handled or to supplement regular work shoes for non-routine handling of heavy objects. A metal foot guard shall also be worn for pavement breaking and similar work where a jackhammer is used.
  9. Care. Employees are responsible for ensuring that all work shoes are maintained in a safe condition. To increase the life of work shoes they should be kept dry, clean, and polished. Safety-toe shoes should not be used to kick objects. Shoes should be regularly inspected for damage such as cracks and holes.
  10. Medical waivers. Employees who cannot wear safety shoes for medical reasons must furnish a letter to supervision from their physician stating the reason and the anticipated duration of the condition. Employees shall wear toe or foot guards over regular work shoes in foot protection areas until a proper safety shoe is purchased or the condition subsides.
  11. Subsidies. Workers are expected to supply adequate work shoes as a condition of employment. To promote the wearing of safety-toe shoes and increase employee morale, departments are encouraged to provide a subsidy to permanent employees required to wear safety shoes. If granted, the amount of the subsidy will be re-evaluated at the beginning of each fiscal year and subject to change. Employees should contact supervision for the amount of the current subsidy. Any cost that exceeds the subsidy must be paid by the employee. Subsidies are not additive and are lost at the end of the year. Employees should present the invoice and shoes to supervision for approval. If approved, supervision will ensure that the employee is reimbursed the current subsidy toward the cost of the safety shoe.
  12. Facilities Management Subsidy. Each full-time employee required to wear safety shoes in their job position will be reimbursed for safety shoes purchased up to $50 in a 12 month period. Employees must have the original receipt for reimbursement. If the purchase price is less than $50, the employee will be reimbursed for the actual cost of the shoes. If the purchase is more than $50, the employee will bb responsible for any cost over $50. All part-time employees will be required to wear safety shoes and will be reimbursed for up to $50 after they have been employed in the Facilities Management Department for at least 6 months, and will be eligible for reimbursement every 12 months thereafter.
  13. Ordering. Employees may order safety-toe shoes from catalogs or local vendors. Catalogs can be obtained from the Safety Office.
  14. Repairs. Repairs are normally the responsibility of the employee. Damaged shoes needing replacement prior to a yearly subsidy should be presented to supervision for evaluation. If damage is greater than normal wear and tear, the employee may be granted a subsidy for the purchase of a new pair of safety shoes.