Updated: Dec 20, 2021
Believe it or not, each foot contains 26 bones for support and 38 joints for movement! Your feet are a critical part of your body that you use everyday and, in some cases, enable you to do your job effectively.
We wear protective footwear at work to protect the foot from physical hazards such as falling objects, stepping on sharp objects, heat, cold, wet and slippery surfaces or exposure to corrosive chemicals.
There are two major categories of foot related injuries. The first group include punctures, crushing, sprains and lacerations. The second is slips, trips and falls.
Prior to choosing footwear for employees the following should be considered.
Identify the Hazards
Footwear should be chosen based on what hazards have been identified as
present and the task for which their wear is intended. This could mean different
departments in the business could require different brands and styles of
Carry out a ‘risk assessment’ to identify requirements of the protective footwear.
Some questions to consider could be:
• What tasks will the worker be performing?
• What materials are used by the worker?
• Is there a risk of objects falling onto or striking the foot?
• If there a risk of objects rolling onto the foot?
• Are there sharp or pointed materials that might cut the top of the foot?
• Is there a risk an object could penetrate the bottom of the foot?
• Is there exposure to corrosive or irritating substances?
• Is the worker exposed to explosive atmospheres, including risk to static electrical
• Is there a risk of damage to sensitive electronic components or equipment due to
the discharge of static electricity?
• Would the shoe laces become a hazard?
• Is there water or oil in the work environment?
Also known as insulating, nonconducting or electrical shock resistant is footwear
that is manufactured with nonconducting electrical shock resistant soles to reduce
the flow of electricity through the footwear and to the ground, thereby reducing
the possibility of electrocution. It is intended as a secondary source of protection
against accidental contact with live electrical circuits, electrically energised
conductors or equipment.
Electrical hazard footwear is often used by electrical trade workers.
Anti-static footwear is designed to dissipate the accumulation of excess static
electricity by conducting body charge to the ground. Anti-static footwear should
be worn in the presence of flammable or explosive materials that risk ignition
from sparking or when handling sensitive electronic equipment.
People who work in electronics and petrochemicals, powder coating and spray
painting would wear anti-static footwear. This footwear has the “AS/NZS2210.3
Class I A or Class II A” marking.
Conductive footwear is worn in environments that are highly flammable and explosive, where reducing the possibility of a static spark or discharge is critical to safety.
Conductive footwear could also increase the risk of electrocution and must not be worn in electrical hazard environments near open electrical circuits.
Electrical hazard and anti-static footwear is compromised when they have had excessive wear, have soil on the outside heel, or are exposed to wet humid environments.
In environments with extreme risks such as steel works, foundries, forestry
areas, fire fighting, concreting and some mining sectors, there are footwear
options designed specifically that should be worn.
Research options and discuss footwear with your PPE specialist to find out more.
Think of the wearer
Feet come in many shapes and sizes. Feet can be skinny and long, short
and fat, have high or low arches. One brand and style may not be suitable for
everyone. Have a few suitable options available for staff to choose from.
It is important that your employees have footwear that is protecting them as
well as comfortable. If your employees are uncomfortable and sore from wearing
their foot protection, this can cause issues with knees, hips and backs.
When workers are selecting footwear the following should be considered:
• Does the footwear suit the tasks and environment the worker will complete
and work in?
• Does the footwear fit the worker?
• Is the footwear flexible enough when the worker bends?
• Is there enough grip on the footwear for the job?
• Is the worker comfortable in the footwear?
• Can an insole make the footwear more comfortable for the worker?
Look for Certification
Foot Protection needs to meet AS/NZ Standards as per HSAW2015. Any
safety footwear that has been checked and approved to AS/NZS will have a
certification logo on or inside the product.
Footwear should be replaced when:
• Toe Caps are exposed
• Leather is torn/ worn / split or damaged
• Soles have worn down
• Boots have been subjected to significant impact or trauma
• Excessive wear
• Exposure to harmful chemicals or products
• Leather has cuts
• Stitching is coming apart
Train your staff on how to properly take care of their foot protection.
Encourage staff to clean their foot wear regularly, untie any laces before
removing them / putting them on. Regular polishing (if able to) will help keep
footwear in good condition and can help stop moisture from soaking through.
Waterproofing sprays are also available to help with protecting from water.