According to the National Safety Council, one in four work-related foot injuries result from a lack of proper protective footwear. But if chosen correctly, your footwear can reduce fatigue and prevent the slips and falls that often lead to lost-time injuries.
1. Look for the green tag
Monica Thomsen, executive director of the Nova Scotia Trucking Safety Association, believes the best way to ensure safety boot quality is to look for a green tag that signifies Canadian Standards Association (CSA) approval.
This green triangle appears on the outer side or tongue of the right shoe. And this indicates that the protective toe and sole will withstand impacts equivalent to 50 lbs. the weight dropped from a height of 0.6 meters, says Dana Parmenter, CSA Group’s vice president of sales.
2. Choose a suitable sole
“Drivers should wear proper footwear like boots — not sneakers or sandals, as these don’t have the right grip for getting on and off a truck,” Thomsen said. But cost-conscious drivers sometimes buy shoes with plastic soles that become slippery in winter, causing slips and falls, she added.
Because a truck driver’s job is more than just driving, versatile boots can be the best solution for getting in and out of the cab and while working in a fleet yard, where unexpected weather changes and occasional oil and water spills become hidden hazards.
However, one boot does not fit all.
According to WorkSafe BC’s Guide to Preventing Slips and Falls, various contaminants interact with various types of soles in different ways, affecting traction.
According to WorkSafe BC, a flat, flexible sole with a compact, well-defined non-slip tread with deep lugs is most effective on wet ground. Studded or spiked soles are suitable for working on ice. However, these soles can be slippery on hard surfaces. When dealing with loose solids, such as gravel, the sole should be flexible, with wide channels and deep lugs in the tread.
So choose a sole that matches the type of hazards you will typically encounter.
3. Look for tests that measure slip resistance
When shopping for protective footwear, drivers should be able to find slip resistance test results in the packaging, printed on a label or product information sheet, says WorkSafe BC.
According to WorkSafe BC, not all safety boots are slip-resistant. Although manufacturers use different terms in the descriptions (e.g. non-slip, non-slip and improved grip performance), only the slip resistance test results identify a higher coefficient of friction between the floor and the sole.
4. Don’t forget the pegs
Every truck driver should wear a tall boot at least six inches tall, adds Robert McLellan, national safety manager at GFL Environmental. This height will protect the ankle and give it adequate support, he says.
But having the extra height is only part of the consideration.
According to Parmenter, lacing shoes firmly and all the way up is essential for supporting ankles and feet. The correct lacing also prevents liquids and hot sparks from entering the boot.
Loose or untied shoelaces become one of the hidden tripping hazards that lead to injury. To minimize this danger, an ordinary shoelace knot can be replaced with a strong and durable reef knot. Because the reef knot has no loops and bows, it doesn’t “whip” as it walks, and the crimp in the knot keeps the loose ends from slipping.
5. Inspect shoes frequently
Regular inspections help determine if protective footwear is still durable and appropriate for the workplace, Thomsen says.
Boots may look pristine on the surface, but soles can wear differently, depending on the work environment and how foot pressure is distributed. A worker’s weight and walking style, as well as the surface they walk on, directly affect the endurance of the sole.
To illustrate this point, Thomsen brought up the recent incident of a construction worker who broke his ankle. “He slipped on the steel steps because the sole wore off at the heel. He walked on his heel more than the rest of the boot,” she said.
Shoe checks can also spot contaminants that collect in cleats or treads. If obstructions occur often, WorkSafe BC says the type of footwear is inappropriate for the work environment.