Putting Your Best Footwear Forward: Set a Policy and Follow Through

Often employers tell me that they are interested in developing a workplace footwear policy, but they don’t know how to define “appropriate footwear” and they know that any definition will likely cause disagreement with their workers.

Appropriate footwear, of course, depends on your work environment and any hazards your organization identifies. OSHA will tell you the same thing.  According to its standard (1910.132), the employer must decide (and document) what is appropriate foot protection.

You may find in an office environment that open-toed sandals with heels are completely appropriate. Would that same shoe be reasonable to wear working in the community with clients, or at a table saw?

My take is strictly from a safety standpoint.

When employees are working in the community or in an environment where they may need to walk fast/run, or are working around machinery, then flip flops, backless shoes (such as Crocs) or heels are not appropriate. Even in the office, shoes with straps are certainly safer than a strapless shoe.

I once learned of an employee wearing Crocs who got one of the holes in the shoe caught, causing the employee to fall, severely injuring a knee. I also know of employees wearing flip flops who have been injured as a result of the footwear falling off. The desire to wear comfortable and fashionable footwear is understood, but at what cost to an employee’s safety? 

When it comes time to the write a footwear policy, examine what your organization believes in, put it on paper, notify your employees, and most importantly, follow through. The disharmony from employees that you may get will hurt only for a minute compared with the pain of a fall caused by inappropriate footwear.

If you need help with assessments you may contact a MEMIC Safety Management Specialist or contact a safety footwear company such as Shoes for Crews at www.shoesforcrews.com.

You can also access MEMIC’s Personal Protective Equipment Assessment tool at www.memic.com, under the Safety Director link.



Posted by Donna Clendenning