What makes safety shoes safe? Care and maintenance

Investing in safety footwear is a bit like investing in anything: there’s more to your purchase than just the initial outlay.

You wouldn’t spend money on a shiny new motor and drive it as supplied until it wore out. For a start, you wouldn’t get very far without filling the tank. Then there’s the MOT, service, new tyres, brake pads, topping up the screen wash – myriad care and maintenance tasks that help keep you safe and allow you to get the most return from your initial investment.

It’s the same with safety footwear. Choosing the most appropriate safety boots, shoes or trainers for your working environment and the demands of your job is just one part of the equation. To get the most life from your footwear and to maintain comfort, performance and its protective properties requires commitment to regular inspection and maintenance.

As with all PPE, employers have a legal duty to ensure safety footwear is regularly inspected, carefully stored in a clean, dry space, and properly maintained. In practice, as footwear is specific to individual employees, much of this care and maintenance will likely be carried out by workers themselves, so it is vital to educate your workforce on the importance of looking after their PPE, provide training in the proper maintenance and storage of their footwear, and to carry out regular scheduled and spot inspections to check compliance.

 

Footwear inspection: things to look out for

The inspection process will focus on different elements depending on whether the footwear is a safety shoe, safety boot, safety trainer, rigger or wellington, but should include:

  • FIT – Does the footwear fit as well as it should? People’s feet can change shape as they age, or if they gain or lose weight. Conditions like arthritis, diabetes and plantar fasciitis can also affect the comfort and fit of existing footwear.

  • SOLE WEAR AND TEAR – The tread of safety boots and shoes will wear down with use, reducing slip resistance. The sides of a shoe or boot may also wear down, providing less support to the wearer’s ankle. In both cases, the footwear is no longer fit for purpose and should be replaced.

  • DAMAGE – Inspect the inside and outside of the shoe for any obvious damage caused through regular use, exposure to the elements or chemicals, or contact with hard objects. This might include punctures, abrasions, dented toe caps or sole separation.

  • DIRT – Safety boots and shoes that are kept clean will last longer and perform better. In the case of safety wellingtons or rigger boots used in chemical or food processing industries, cleaning may also mean disinfection. In both cases, the requirement for employees to keep their footwear clean should be set out in their contract and through clearly communicated safety protocols.

  • SHELF LIFE – Employers are responsible for removing PPE that has reached its shelf life, and this includes safety footwear. Expiry dates should be logged, and footwear replaced by this date, even if it appears to be in good condition.

 

Creating a checklist for employees and their safety managers to follow when inspecting safety footwear will help ensure nothing is missed.

At iSB Group, we are experts in safety workwear of all kinds, including footwear. Browse our range of protective footwear, including safety boots, safety shoes and safety trainers. We are on hand to answer any questions you may have, and to advise on workplace safety practices. Give us a call on 0121 749 4433 or you can email us.