How To Determine The Right Shoe For The Job?

Anyone working in an industrial environment knows that injuries can often be major, traumatic events. Using the wrong protective equipment or no protection at all can cause deadly electric shock, amputations or other serious, life-altering injuries. So do you know how to choose the best steel toe boots and other safety shoes that you need for your job?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 60,000 foot and toe injuries in private industry in 2002. The typical cost of these incidents can run into thousands of dollars each.

Determining when and how to protect feet should be part of your overall personal protective equipment (PPE) program.

OSHA requires that employers perform an assessment of potential hazards in each type of job category and workspace. Then you need to decide what kind of foot protection is required to adequately safeguard your workers from these hazards.

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Checking Your List

Here is a sample foot hazard assessment checklist that should help you determine if protection is needed (a “yes” answer would require PPE):

  • Could tools, heavy equipment, or other objects roll, fall onto or strike your employees’ feet?
  • Do your employees work with or near exposed electrical wiring or components?
  • Do your employees handle molten metal or work near such operations?
  • Do your employees work with explosives or in an explosive atmosphere?
  • Are some of the floors wet or slippery?
  • Do your employees work in hot or cold conditions?

Intended Purpose

Keep a chart of the job duties and clearly describe the hazards involved. You will then have to determine what type of safety shoe is needed.

If chemicals are involved, check the material safety data sheets (MSDSs) to see what type of protective equipment the chemical producer recommends. Safety footwear manufacturers provide tags and labels that inform workers of the footwear’s intended purpose. For example, the tag might tell the worker that the footwear is slip-resistant, protects from falling objects, or protects from electrical hazards. Never assume that the shoe will also protect against a hazard that is not specifically identified on a tag. If the hazard is not identified on a tag, the shoe may not protect against that specific hazard.

If you are unsure, contact the manufacturer directly and ask if the shoes are OSHA-rated for the specific hazards fund in your work environment. Check the OSHA standards for foot protection ([section] 1910.136). The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard Z41-1991 on foot protection referred to by OSHA can be purchased through ANSI’s website (www.ansi.org).

Depends on the hazard

Safety shoes come in a variety of materials and styles. The following types of footwear are designed to protect against different hazards:

  1. Steel toe or composite toe shoes protect against falling objects and crushing hazards. The composite material does not transmit heat or cold and will not trigger metal detectors.
  2. Metatarsal footwear has special guards that run from the ankle to the toes and protect the entire foot; protects against very heavy falling objects and significant crushing hazards.
  3. Shoes with reinforced soles have metal reinforcement to protect the foot from punctures.
  4. Latex/rubber footwear resists chemicals and provides traction on slippery surfaces.
  5. Shoes with heat-resistant soles protect against hot work surfaces in roofing, paving and hot metal industries. They may be designed to be electrically nonconductive.
  6. Footwear with special insulated liners protects against freezing outdoor conditions and refrigerated environments.

Worker Involvement

OSHA requires employers to provide adequate training on the PPE workers will use. This training for foot protection includes:

  • What specific hazards the equipment will protect against;
  • The limitations of the equipment;
  • When employees must wear their PPE;
  • How to adjust straps and laces on shoes to ensure a proper and comfortable fit;
  • How to clean and maintain shoes;
  • How to identify signs of wear and tear in the equipment;
  • How to inspect PPE for scrapes, cuts and lacerations. For shoes, look for holes or cracks in soles and heels and signs of separation between soles and uppers.

If you want to achieve a high compliance rate, include your employees in the footwear selection process. Form an employee-supervisor selection committee to review various options and test samples for comfort and use. Provide a variety of sizes, styles and colors. Set aside specific time periods to perform fittings by knowledgeable individuals, such as the manufacturer’s rep.

Use your imagination. One fun activity might be to have volunteers, such as employees or other supervisors, walk down the aisle in a PPE “fashion show.” Your workers will love it. Provide training on the same day your employees make their selections.

Document your hazard assessments, selection and training process; sign and date the documentation and file it in a convenient location. These papers are your PPE certification, as required by OSHA.

And remember–if your workers choose it, they will use it.

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Foot Safety Checklist

Wear approved safety shoes or boots to protect feet and toes from:

[check] Falling objects;
[check] Punctures;
[check] Rolling objects;
[check] Stubbing or banging;
[check] Chemical and corrosive contact;
[check] Electrical shock and burns;
[check] Slips and falls;
[check] Heat and cold.
Select footwear to protect against specific job hazards:
[check] Steel toes to resist impact;
[check] Metatarsal guards to resist impact above the toes;
[check] Reinforced flexible metal soles or inner shoes to protect against punctures (if there’s no risk of electrical contact);
[check] Metal-free boots or shoes with nonconductive soles for electrical hazards;
[check] Rubber shoes or boots with rubber, synthetic or wooden soles for wet surfaces;
[check] Wooden shoes or aluminized heat-protective footwear for hot walking surfaces;
[check] Removable gaiters without laces or eyelets in areas with welding sparks or hot metal splashes;
[check] Rubber or neoprene boots in areas with potential chemical or corrosive splashes (check MSDS to match footwear with individual chemical);
[check] Special insulated liners to protect against freezing conditions.
Follow general foot safety rules:
[check] Always wear sturdy shoes with nonskid soles;
[check] Don’t wear sandals, sneakers or old dress shoes;
[check] Get a good fit.

To know more about helpful tips that can help you choose the right shoes for your job, you can come to Lamont Ly’s resource (Footcareguru.com). He is an expert in footwear and foot care. He’ll show you more detailed reviews, interesting and useful ways about the best safety shoes that  you need to buy on the market.

Strong Gains Reported In Steel Toe Athletics

Strong gains reported in steel toe athletics NEW YORK — The sound of cash registers ringing up athletic footwear sales is not only music to athletic shoe resources’ ears but to work and safety shoe resources, as well.

More and more work and safety resources are jumping on the bandwagon and are now producing steel toe athletic shoes in both high- and low-tops for men and women, and, as a result, are reporting sizable sales increases.

Work and safety shoe manufacturers said they are marketing steel toe athletic shoes because they see a “need” for them. With the “booming” athletic market and the rise of people entering blue collar and related physical jobs, resources are attempting to make it “pleasurable” and “comfortable” for consumers in the marketplace by introducing them to sneakers with safety caps.

For the past few years, the market has been through a great deal of depression — sales were down, and manufacturers had mixed feelings about future growth. Now the market is becoming “stronger,” and sales are climbing, according to resources interviewed by FN. They are trying to respond to the needs of consumers and are coming up with new ideas and concepts.

A multitude of resources is making various styles and materials essential parts of their lines: soft leather uppers in the work and casual categories, and lighter weight footwear with comfort.

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Soft but Tough

Andy Thompson, advertising and promotions manager of Red Wing Shoe Co., Red Wing, Minn., said the company had put lighter weight and more supple leather in its work shoes. He explained that in the past year, Red Wing has “beefed” up the leather in its lighter weight shoes. “Our consumers are saying, make it soft but tough,” Thompson continued, “They want comfort, but also the durability they have gotten from shoes.”

Dunham Shoes, Brattleboro, Vt., has developed a line of lightweight shoes designed to offer year-round comfort, noted Richard Sherwin, vice president of sales for the firm. And, Steve Kellman, vice president of marketing, Weinbrenner Shoe Co., Merrill, Wis., noted the company had added more lightweight footwear for men and women, shoes he said are shock absorbent and comfortable.

Comfort, durability, and waterproof features are keywords in the work and safety market, and, according to James Levine, president of Import Systems International Inc. (ISI), the exclusive licensee for Dickies brand footwear, New York, they remain vital today. The key to selling work shoes, said Levine, is to put a soft, soft upper on them.

4

Demand for Waterproof

“The traditional work shoe buyer has to feel as if they (the shoes) are going to do the job,” Levine said. “It has to be rugged but with durability. If the boots are too light, they will not sell.”

And with more manufacturers getting into waterproof as a category, whether it’s with linings, leather or updated materials, Levine said, “The more expensive the boots, the better the waterproof.”

“There is a demand for waterproof,” declared Dunham’s Sherwin, explaining why Dunham has expanded its waterproof category for both men and women. Comfort gets the biggest emphasis, without sacrificing durability, said Sherwin.

Weinbrenner’s Kellman contended the company is using waterproof material — Sympatex — which has been a big help. “We are using special materials as heat barriers,” he continued. “That’s a very important segment of the market, using the specialized material.”

Work shoes are becoming more functional and casual as the market becomes more fashion oriented. Resources said the growing casual influence, and the renewed vigor of certain businesses requiring steel toe footwear have helped boost sales figures over levels achieved in the recent past.

3

Strong Market

“We have a 60 percent growth by pairs over the last six-month period,” said ISI’s Levine. He explained the market is very strong due to the influence of casual lifestyle clothes and a function of steel toe businesses, which he said has been “great.” For the steel toe business, he said, the key is to offer customers a broader range of products. “We are on the upside of a good swing.”

Dan Saylor, president, Titan Industrial Footwear, a division of Walker Shoe Co., Asheboro, N.C., noted Titan is showing a casual look — non-slip EDS soles. “Sales are up against last year, and the firm has added soft leather uppers in the casual category,” he said.

At Musebeck Shoe Co., Oconomoc, Wis., sales are way up, along with deliveries. Bill Ison, Musebeck vice president of sales, explained that there is a new direction in work shoes. “Light and high-tech industry are switching to casual and running shoes,” he said. “Since fashion is still a part of the work and safety market, people are looking for shoes that look somewhat like tennis shoes.”

Eric Merk, president, and owner, Danner Shoe Co., Portland, Ore., said overall business is up over last year, and they have introduced Gore-Tex work boots for fall ’89.

Consumers want shoes with an appeal, so they don’t look clumsy on the feet, noted Leonard Paul, general manager, Georgia/Durango Boot Co., Franklin, Tenn. Paul said the company’s business has improved, and its total business is up 10 percent over last year. The safety category is developing and has seen a tremendous increase within the last two to three years, and the work category has gone up. “The total output of work boots has improved in every category.”

Paul noted that 95-96 percent of Georgia/Durango safety shoes are made in the U.S. The firm has introduced basketball shoes with safety caps for both men and women, in addition to boat shoes for men and females. The company has been doing safety toe athletic shoes for both men and women in four colors for a while, according to Paul. “They want shoes that look like regular shoes; they don’t want clunky,” said Paul.

Red Wing sales are up moderately, said Thompson. Red Wing has introduced two safety-style athletic shoes in black and white in low tops for men and will introduce a group of shoes for next year that will be geared for the farm industry — barnyard acid resistant. Also, the firm will introduce a sole “Decathlon,” a material designed to provide lightweight and shock resistance, as well as durability and oil resistance.

Work And Safety Shoes Make Nick In Fashion Scene

Work and safety shoes are not only being worn by blue collar workers anymore. They are rapidly being bought by the more traditional, younger consumers, who are wearing them for fashion reasons.

People working at McDonald’s or Burger King are wearing them for the look, feel, and style.

But even as work and safety shoe manufacturers report sales increases in their companies, there are mixed feelings about future growth in the market.

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Future Growth in the Safety Shoe Market

While some resources said the market is growing somewhat, there are differences in opinion.

One manufacturer, who did not want to be identified, flatly stated, “The work and safety market is going straight to the dogs.’

“The market is growing, but it’s also changing,’ said Bill Ison, sales manager, Musebeck Shoe Co., Oconomowoc, Wis.

“People are wearing safety shoes while they are working on their feet. They are working at McDonald’s instead of U.S. Steel and wearing them because everyone else is.’

Last year, Musebeck Shoe Co. saw an increase of approximately 10 percent in sales. This year the percentage remains the same “because of the type of products and the way we are structured,’ said Ison.

“There is a definite growth in our company,’ he continued. “We recently started rethinking what our shoe is because a quarter of the time it is sold for casual as well as work’ wear.

At Dunham Shoes, Brattleboro, Vt., Rick Sherwin, vice-president, reported “having very healthy sales.’

“Our business is growing, but I’m not sure if the whole market is,’ he said. “We do a bigger job each year with steel toes.’

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Georgia/Durango Boot Co., Franklin, Tenn, is finding sales in waterproof, logger, and outdoor boots, according to Lenny Paul, the general manager. “We now have farm and ranch leather boots, which is a special leather that wears 80 percent better than a normal leather in a barnyard situation.’

While many manufacturers did not choose to disclose their sales figures, Kent Anderson, president of Walker Shoe Co., Asheboro, N.C., reported sales were up 100 percent in safety shoes and 15 percent in work shoes.

Anderson said he sees the work market as somewhat softening– the younger construction workers in the market are wearing them, but the safety market is stable and showing signs of declining.

“The market isn’t growing because of the decline in manufacturing,’ he added.

“The work market is shrinking for the American manufacturer because the importers are bringing in work shoes,’ said Georgia/ Durango’s Paul.

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Look, Features, and Durability

However, Paul noted the safety market is heading more towards consumers who have specialized needs. “The market is getting more specialized–whether for a carpenter, hunter or industrial worker. People are buying safety shoes for a look, features, and durability,’ added Paul.

“The whole concept of work is changing. The new channels of distribution are the farm, hardware, and sporting goods stores. They are developing footwear because the discounters in their stores are taking business away in other areas, and the ones that hurt the most are the small retailers in the work shoe business.’

Phil Margolis, the market research analyst for Red Wing Shoe Co., Red Wing, Minn., said the market is shifting to lighter types of footwear as opposed to the previously popular heavy-duty models.

Bob Selig, president, and chief executive officer, Weinbrenner Shoe Co., Merrill, Wis., agreed. Selig said the market, regarding style, is going towards lighter weight, softer, more flexible shoes and boots.

Palmer Beebe, general manager, Sheboygan Footwear, Inc., Sheboygan, Wis., believes the market has changed because of the new functional features being put in the shoes, explaining, “The shoe doesn’t look the way it used to.’ Beebe contended the market is growing because shoe manufacturers are offering consumers the looks and styles they want.
To get more out of their business, work and safety manufacturers are introducing features to the market.

Weinbrenner Shoe said it is emphasizing state-of-the-art footwear with the technological advances in components and manufacturing techniques. The shoes have Goodyear’s Indy 500 compound soles, which have wear abrasion ratings of 3,000, and a polyurethane midsole that is flexible.

Dunham Shoe is taking steel-toe production and adding it to the new higher tech waterproof boot.

Regarding work shoes, Walker Shoe Co. has added a Western styled engineers’ boot that still has a rugged look.

Red Wing introduced a heavy-duty, insulated boot for men who work outdoors in inclement weather. It is made of Full-grain, oil-tanned leather and is highly water repellent, the firm noted.

Following the general feelings of hopefulness in the industry, Selig envisions Weinbrenner business growing in 1987. “There will be a significant increase in the market,’ he said.

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Golfing Retailers’ Sales In The Rough

At least that’s the story if you’re a golf-focused retailer.

Austin retailers say the ordinary days of golfers are gone. Players no longer roam the links clad in black-and-yellow-checked polyester pants, a lime-green shirt and a hat with a furry ball on top.

Local golf retailers credit the professional circuit for helping end the life of the garnish golfer. They said duffers now want to look like their favorite pros.

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Polyester’s out; Big Heads had

“Whatever’s hot on the tour is what’s going to be requested the next day,” said B.J. Templeton of Supreme Golf.
Other retailers agreed times have changed.

“The days of the multi-colored pants and the shirts with palm trees are gone,” said Tom Pellet, owner of Nevada Bob’s Discount Golf. “It was a Mom and Pop Kettle industry with limited styles. But with all the popularity recently, clothiers have jumped on the bandwagon. It’s become pretty stylish.”

Tony O’Connor, the owner of Armadillo Golf Inc., said golf clothes now have a more European flair.

“There’s more earth tones. And materials aren’t bullet-proof,” O’Connor said.

Bring on Big Bertha

Retailers said there is one product that everyone wants right now. It’s a large-headed driver named Big Bertha, manufactured by Calloway. The club’s suggested retail price is $275 with a graphite shaft, $195 for steel.

“You can’t get it,” said Templeton. He said Calloway has told him it is receiving 7,000 orders a day when it only makes 3,800 a week.

Pellet said Big Bertha is popular because it limits both slices and hooks. The larger head means a golfer doesn’t have to hit the ball as precisely with the “sweet spot” of the clubhead, the area that drives the ball most right.

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“It’s real, actually a player-improvement club,” said O’Connor. “It’s not just marketing. It works.”

According to Pellet, Big Bertha may dominate the market for some time because few new products will be introduced in the next year.

Pellet said the economy didn’t recover as quickly as manufacturers and retailers had expected. That left businesses with too much inventory. He said before they bring out new products, companies first will want to empty their warehouses and shelves.

Golf retailers pointed to two problems in their business too many products and too many stores.

Templeton may be the local expert on such difficulties right now. Supreme Golf gave up the business earlier this month.

“I think the market’s probably saturated right now,” he said.

Another Austin store, Pro Golf, was bought out by Golfsmith, the Austin-based components-assembling giant.
O’Connor said Austin’s size makes it difficult for new stores to draw customers because golfers are usually “loyal” to wherever they are trading already.

“You’ve got an industry that’s very tight-knit, in a city that’s very close-knit,” O’Connor said.

Pellet said the explosion in golf has led to thousands of products being available, some of which are only knock-offs of other products.

“I believe the consumer’s being confused about golf,” Pellet said. “It’s like if there are two pieces of candy, you’re going to take the one on the left or the one on the right. But if there are 50 pieces of candy, you’re going to stand there for 40 minutes trying to decide which one to buy.”

And he said retailers are forced to pick and choose which products to keep in stock. That can leave some customers unsatisfied.

“Retailers can’t carry everybody,” Pellet said.

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