Safety shoes: more than just steel toes

Safety shoes: more than just steel toes

10/2/2018 - SPI

Despite the existence of strict labor standards around safety equipment, nearly one in ten accidents reported are foot injuries. The risks of accidents vary between the different industries.

Safety at work is a daily concern, and to have a better grasp on it, it is necessary to understand the short-term and long-term risks

Industry Risks of Incident and/or Accident
Transportation and Storage • Heavy objects falling on the foot
• Sharp-edged or blunt objects on the ground
• Foot struck or crushed by a moving vehicle
• Falls
Welding • Molten metal splatter
• Contact with welding arcs
• Burning objects that fall or come in contact with the feet
• Heavy objects falling on the foot
Food Processing • Feet pulled in sharp machines
• Sharp-edged objects on the ground
• Heavy objects falling on the foot
• Slippery surfaces
Concrete and Cement Industry • Heavy objects falling on the foot
• Foot struck or crushed by a moving vehicle
• Spraining the foot on irregular ground
• Irritations which can lead to burns
Mining and Hydrocarbons • Static electricity
• Burning surfaces or objects on the ground
• Spraining the foot on irregular ground
• Falls
• Heavy objects falling on the foot
• Chemical spills
Forestry • Heavy objects falling on the foot
• Sharp-edged or blunt objects on the ground
• Foot struck or crushed by a moving vehicle
• Falls
• Spraining the foot on irregular ground
• Animal bites
• Cutting machinery: chainsaws, lawnmowers
Emergency Services and Firefighting • Extremely hot and/or cold surfaces
• Contact with fire, explosive atmosphere
• Spraining the foot on uneven or rugged ground
• Heavy objects collapsing on the foot
• Sharp-edged or blunt objects on the ground
• Cutting Machinery (vehicle extrication)
• Falls: cluttered alleys, bad lighting,

Extremities, like the feet, are usually more vulnerable, more so because we pay less attention to them. This chart illustrates that risks emerge from sources that are sometimes unexpected. This list is not exhaustive. It is, however, possible to be adequately protected thanks to a good analysis of the work environment or situation.

Consequences related to foot injuries are just as numerous as the risks: strains, sprains, rheumatism, fractures, lacerations, feet/toes shredded or severed, crushed feet, amputation, electric shocks, burns, electrocution, and may even lead to death.

How Can a Shoe Protect Me?

It is necessary to take into account your environment and the risks involved when choosing your footwear. A safety shoe that does not protect from the whole range of the risks associated with an activity may provide inadequate protection, causing problems or injuries, aggravating existing ailments, and thereby increasing the risk of an accident.

When the time comes to talk about safety shoes, we immediately think of steel toes, which were the first improvement to be used in protective footwear. Workers realized that while their toes were protected, other areas remained vulnerable.

Nowadays, it would be far too easy to only provide these safety features that are now considered insufficient to meeting changing standards and ensuring maximum safety.

That’s why additional improvements have been developed, such as anti-puncture midsole to protect the sole of the foot. Other safety features have also been added to the overall shoe, since the risks may be coming from higher ground. The metatarsal zone is vulnerable to heavy or blunt objects falling on the foot. The same applies to the lateral sides of the foot which can be hit by objects on the ground.

The sources of danger that are generally perceived include objects which can pierce, strike and/or fall on the foot. However, inadequate ankle support can also be a hazard; an ankle can sprain without any physical trigger element. Any scenario is possible and this is why we should consider these situations in order to prevent a wide range of incidents and accidents.

A Safe and Comfortable 360° Metatarsal Protection

Unlike prejudices based on past experience, the presence of a metatarsal protection does not have to come with discomfort whether this additional feature is inside or outside of the boot.

As mentioned before, the metatarsal zone is vulnerable to falling heavy or blunt objects and needs added protection. External metatarsal protections, well known in the industry, offer good shielding but can be cumbersome, and can cause accidents due to its bulkiness. Additionally, they don’t protect the sides of the foot.

On the other hand, most of the internal metatarsal protections, even though they comply with CSA standards, are made of flexible materials that do not offer the same level of protection as the external rigid versions. They also do not protect the sides of the foot.

In order to protect the worker against these risks, STC has developed a unique metatarsal protection system: the Metatech 360°. This protective system provides an internal rigid metatarsal safety feature without being bulky, and also protects the sides of the foot. Unlike similar metatarsal safety features, the Metatech System 360° is rigid, internal and certified CSA. All of these benefits come from wearing this innovative footwear. Made of a composite material, it is light and non-conductive of electricity and heat resistant. In addition to its rigidity, wings extend onto the sides of the foot which allows for the impact load to spread on a larger surface. These features considerably reduce the pain and the injuries that such an impact could cause.

This technology protects a wider surface of the foot and many bones, joints, ligaments, nerves and muscles in this area.

Discomfort can cause fatigue, pain and injuries, the Metatech System 360° was designed to allow the foot to bend normally so as to not create discomfort even after long hours of wearing the boots.

The Metatech System 360° technology is considered unique to the safety shoe market and specific to STC Footwear, as well as a major innovation in the fire brigade market.

Additional Protection to Prevent Foot Sprains

A loss of balance, stumbling, or a bad fall, and you can easily sprain your foot. If specific protection for the ankle is non-existant, the worker is unable to adequately prevent this type of incident or accident. These examples show how important it is to choose a shoe that has an increased level of stability.

A foot that is not well supported is more susceptible to a blow or a fall. The injuries caused can be very serious.

A lack of ankle support can create a loose fit that would be undesirable in occupations where it is necessary to intervene quickly in hostile environments. As in the clothing industry, there are several types of safety boots available. It is not uncommon, especially for non-laced or pull-up boots, to give a feeling of floating due to a gap at the heel or on the sides. In addition to being unsafe, it can create friction causing blisters, making daily tasks painful.

The Lock Fit Ankle is an integrated padding system, located at the ankle, that allows the foot to position itself inside the boot in a way that will prevent foot sprains. The Lock Fit Ankle gives excellent support to the ankle and the heel. A miner who has to evacuate a dangerous area quickly, must be able to get optimal support from his shoes, enabling him to maintain good balance and react in seconds. Ordinary actions, such as, climbing on a ladder, are also movements that require excellent ankle support.

The Lock Fit Ankle also helps to absorb shocks and reduce pain in the event of a blow.

Having a proper fit also prevents the friction that can cause blisters. There are two types of ankle reinforcements available in the shoe market, rigid plastic or foam. The Lock Fit Ankle uses foam, which is thicker and therefore, has a better shock absorption and is also more comfortable. This technology provides additional protection, offers better stability, and is synonymous with comfort.

Anti-Puncture Lateral Protection Made of Ballistic Nylon

The anti-puncture sole has become the standard in safety shoes. In terms of their construction, those made of steel require some space around the contour of the foot. This space significantly increases the area not protected from sharp or blunt objects. The soles, made of composites, are able to cover the whole foot without pulling up on the sides, which otherwise would create an area of vulnerability that does not comply with current safety standards.

However, in certain environments and situations, sharp or blunt objects can easily pierce through the sides of the most durable boots. In these specific cases, a metatarsal protection would unfortunately not be sufficient.

The Pierce-Protect-Arch Protection System (patent pending) provides a multidirectional protection against punctures in the ball of the foot. This technology also provides an additional layer of protection in areas that can be more vulnerable despite the sturdiness of the boot upper.

The Pierce-Protect-Arch Protection System uses advanced ballistic nylon recognized as one of the most durable materials in the world. If we use the example of a firefighter, it is essential that he can tackle uneven or rugged terrain with the confidence that he won’t hurt himself. In a hostile environment, where it is sometimes hard to identify the sources of danger, it is crucial, even vital, to opt for safety boots that will act like real shields.

Conclusion :

The environment that we live in constantly changes and with it comes additional daily risks. Therefore, it is necessary to be able to design additional features to guarantee the highest level of safety for the worker.

This is why it is important for STC to receive feedback from footwear users, to ensure a constant level of improvement and innovation, meeting the rigorous standards of the industries.

It is essential to choose safety shoes that comply or exceed these standards without compromising the comfort of the foot, which is equally important.

Jessica Garcia Lucas – STC FOOTWEAR INC