It may sound strange, but even in this day and age it is legal for employers to require female employees to wear high heels. TUC footwear guidance states that it is estimated that 80% of adults have a foot or leg problem, such as swelling or varicose veins. Many of these issues can often be attributed to or exacerbated by work activities. Wearing inappropriate footwear can lead to back pain, and could also contribute to an accident, for example, if heavy items are dropped onto poorly-protected toes in a warehouse.
6 Tips to Help Protect Your Workers’ Feet
- Where the risk assessment of a work activity indicates that risks to feet cannot be controlled by other means, then workers will need appropriate safety footwear. Any footwear provided for this reason needs to be done so free of charge, and you must show workers how to wear and look after it correctly.
- Consider all possible hazards to feet in your workplace, including how they could be crushed, run over or caught in machinery. Communicate these hazards and your identified control measures to workers. Consider what footwear is appropriate in specific environments – you might allow flip flops in office settings, but not in the machine shop, for example. Keep floors clean and dry, as this could cause a slip or trip no matter what the footwear might be.
- Investigate ground conditions that could cause problems for feet, for example, nails found on the floor that could puncture the sole. Provide puncture-resistant footwear in this scenario.
- Make sure the safety footwear provided fits properly – there should be ‘wiggle room’ for toes. Give staff a choice and consult with them over options – get feedback on styles to be ordered next time.
- Review your dress code on a regular basis to ensure that staff are not prevented from wearing comfortable shoes – get safety representatives involved to ensure dress codes do not affect staff safety.
- Prevent prolonged standing, as this can cause leg, hip and back pain. Offer options on whether staff sit or stand, adapt the workplace where feasible, and rotate jobs regularly.
Feet need to be comfortable and protected at work – so make sure your footwear policy allows this to happen.
Contact us should you require advice.