Personal protective equipment has been in the news heavily for the last couple of years. With Covid causing manufacturers to produce more PPE of certain types than ever before.
The PPE industry was worth $71 billion globally in 2021. 2020 saw a growth rate of 16.58% over the year before. Incidentally, this was the year the pandemic hit. However, PPE covers many areas and isn’t restricted to masks and gloves.
In the construction industry, PPE is also vitally important. Hard hats, gloves, high-vis jackets, and goggles are essential. One other critical piece of equipment is good footwear
However, not all safety footwear is comparable. Some might offer the minimal level of protection required, while others could save you from serious injury. Yet, how can you know one from the other?
The importance of good quality footwear in the construction industry safety
Utility boots would make most people think about safety concerns. Therefore, the boot should be strong enough to protect the foot from something falling on it. Many boots designed for this kind of work will be reinforced. Very often steel toecaps will be a feature.
However, the best work boots will help the wearer in many areas of safety. For a start, they should help with stability. They should have good traction and help to avoid slips, especially on a muddy construction site.
Two of the most common areas for an injury to occur in the hands, and the feet. Trips, slips, and heavy items being dropped can cause muscle damage, and breaks or fractures. Electrocution is also a possibility on a work site.
How to tell if your footwear is suitable for construction work
Although this topic is largely around construction, utility boots do have different purposes. For instance, one type may be very suited to construction, but less useful for forestry work or logging.
If you require good quality safety footwear, then consider how you will use it the most. If you are a keen DIY enthusiast more than someone working in the construction industry, you may not need such high standard levels. Nevertheless, buying cheap work boots will likely leave you with minimum safety levels, and poor quality materials.
When choosing new utility boots, look at the construction of the footwear. Are the materials sturdy or do they look cheap? Does the sole look like it will grip and last some rugged wear, or does it look poorly designed? It could be worth searching for brand names and comparing them online before making a purchase.
Yet, whatever brand you choose, there are some features that safety footwear should have. Or at least, there are some features you should check for.
What features should good safety construction footwear have?
Safety footwear of this type should be able to cope with several conditions, and with the potential for accidents.
Protection from the elements
Firstly, there are the elements to consider. Much of construction work is carried out in the open, or in cold conditions. After all, buildings don’t get heating installed until they are finished.
The boots, therefore, need to be waterproofed, and they should also be insulated. If you are working in cold conditions you need protection against frostbite, and you will need to stay dry.
Have reinforced areas
A steel toe cap is a minimum feature that these types of boots should have for impact protection. There are simple ways to enhance workers’ safety on site, and minimizing the impact of accidents is one.
Not only should these boots protect from something being dropped, but they should also protect from underneath. This means having mid-sole protection to reduce the chances of the foot being punctured by a nail or something similar.
Protect from electrocution
Materials that are not conductive should be used for safety boots. This means rubber and leather. While all precautions should be put in place to make sure electrical cabling and equipment are safe, accidents do of course happen.
Protect from caustic chemicals
The boots should be resistant to oil, acids, and other chemicals that may be in use on the site.
They should be comfortable
The worker is going to be wearing these boots for hours, so not only do they need to be protective but they need to be comfortable too. Cushioned soles for instance are a good feature to look for.
A good work boot can help reduce strained muscles and aid with posture. So this aspect is worth considering along with how many joules the steel toe-cap is.
They should be slip-resistant
Good grips and traction are necessary. You may be going up and down ladders in the rain. There will be mud and gravel around the site. Safety boots need to be able to provide a good grip for the worker to safely move around during the course of the work day.
What risks are there from cutting corners with PPE?
One post by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 52,070-foot injuries in one year in workplaces across the states. Of course, there would have been many more accidents that were not reported because the PPE in place worked.
Cutting corners on safety equipment doesn’t just put workers at risk, it is likely to lead to low morale and high turnover.
Cutting any area of safety may very well be breaking certain laws and regulations too. Safety boots needn’t be wildly expensive, but the consequences of trying to save a few bucks could be life-changing for the worker.
There are many ways to stay safe on the construction site, and all potential hazards and risks should be identified and managed. Nevertheless, extra precautions should be taken whenever they can.
Utility boots or safety footwear can help reduce the possibility of many different types of accidents in construction. Recognizing which footwear is good quality and which is bad could be the difference between avoiding a nasty incident, or becoming a workplace accident statistic.