Thursday, 17 March 2011 16:05

Foot and Leg Protection

Rate this item
(4 votes)

Injuries to the foot and leg are common to many industries. The dropping of a heavy object may injure the foot, particularly the toes, in any workplace, especially among workers in the heavier industries such as mining, metal manufacture, engineering and building and construction work. Burns of the lower limbs from the molten metals, sparks or corrosive chemicals occur frequently in foundries, iron- and steelworks, chemical plants and so on. Dermatitis or eczema may be caused by a variety of acidic, alkaline and many other agents. The foot may also suffer physical injury caused by striking it against an object or by stepping on sharp protrusions such as can occur in the construction industry.

Improvements in the work environment have made the simple puncturing and laceration of the worker’s foot by protruding floor nails and other sharp hazards less common, but accidents from working on damp or wet floors still occur, particularly when wearing unsuitable foot wear.

Types of Protection.

The type of foot and leg protection should be related to the risk. In some light industries, it may be sufficient hat workers wear well-made ordinary shoes. Many women, for example will wear footwear that is comfortable to them, such as sandals or old slippers, or footwear with very high or worn-down heels. This practice should be discouraged because such footwear can cause an accident.

Sometimes a protective shoe or clog is adequate, and sometimes a boot or leggings will be required (see figure 1, figure 2 and figure 3). The height to which the footwear covers the ankle, knee or thigh depends on the hazard, although comfort and mobility will also have to be considered. Thus shoes and gaiters may in some circumstances be preferable to high boots.

Figure 1. Safety shoes


Figure 2. Heat protective boots


Figure 3. Safety sneakers


Protective shoes and boots may be made from leather, rubber, synthetic rubber or plastic and may be fabricated by sewing, vulcanizing or moulding. Since the toes are most vulnerable to impact injuries, a steel toe cap is the essential feature of protective footwear wherever such hazards exist. For comfort the toe cap must be reasonably thin and light, and carbon tool steel is therefore used for this purpose. These safety toe caps may be incorporated into many types of boots and shoes. In some trades where falling objects present a particular risk, metal instep guards may be fitted over protective shoes.

Rubber or synthetic outer soles with various tread patterns are used to minimize or prevent the risk of slipping: this is especially important where floors are likely to be wet or slippery. The material of the sole appears to be of more importance than the tread pattern and should have a high coefficient of friction. Reinforced, puncture-proof soles are necessary in such places as construction sites; metallic insoles can also be inserted into various types of footwear that lack this protection.

Where an electrical hazard exists, shoes should be either entirely stitched or cemented, or directly vulcanized in order to avoid the need for nails or any other electrically conductive fasteners. Where static electricity may be present, protective shoes should have electrically conductive rubber outer soles to allow static electricity to leak from the bottom of the shoes.

Footwear with a dual purpose has now come into common use: these are shoes or boots that have both anti-electrostatic properties mentioned above together with the ability to protect the wearer from receiving an electrical shock when in contact with a low-voltage electrical source. In the latter case, the electrical resistance between the insole and the outer sole must be controlled in order to provide this protection between a given voltage range.

In the past, “safety and durability” were the only considerations. Now, worker comfort has also been taken into account, so that lightness, comfort and even attractiveness in protective shoes are sought-after qualities. The “safety sneaker” is one example of this kind of footwear. Design and colour may come to play a part in the use of footwear as an emblem of corporate identity, a matter that receives special attention in countries like Japan, to name only one.

Synthetic rubber boots offer useful protection from chemical injuries: the material should show not more than 10% reduction in tensile strength or elongation after immersion in a 20% solution of hydrochloric acid for 48 hours at room temperature.

Especially in environments where molten metals or chemical burns are a major hazard, it is important that shoes or boots should be without tongues and that the fastenings should be pulled over the top of the boot and not tucked inside.

Rubber or metallic spats, gaiters or leggings may be used to protect the leg above the shoe line, especially from risks of burns. Protective knee pads may be necessary, especially where work involves kneeling, for example in some foundry moulding. Aluminized heat-protective shoes, boots or leggings will be necessary near sources of intense heat.

Use and Maintenance

All protective footwear should be kept clean and dry when not in use and should be replaced as soon as necessary. In places where the same rubber boots are used by several people, regular arrangements for disinfection between each use should be made to prevent the spread of foot infections. A danger of foot mycosis exists that arises from the use of too tight and too heavy types of boots or shoes.

The success of any protective footwear depends upon its acceptability, a reality that is now widely recognized in the far greater attention that is now paid to styling. Comfort is a prerequisite and the shoes should be as light as is consistent with their purpose: shoes weighing more than two kilogram per pair should be avoided.

Sometimes foot and leg safety protection is required by law to be provided by the employers. Where the employers are interested in progressive programmes and not just meeting legal obligations, concerned companies often find it very effective to provide some arrangement for easy purchase at the place of work. And if protective wear can be offered at wholesale price, or arrangements for convenient extended payment terms are made available, workers may be more willing and able to purchase and use better equipment. In this way, the type of protection obtained and worn can be better controlled. Many conventions and regulations, however, do consider supplying workers with work clothing and protective equipment to be the employer’s obligation.



Read 12328 times Last modified on Thursday, 13 October 2011 20:44

" DISCLAIMER: The ILO does not take responsibility for content presented on this web portal that is presented in any language other than English, which is the language used for the initial production and peer-review of original content. Certain statistics have not been updated since the production of the 4th edition of the Encyclopaedia (1998)."


Personal Protection References

American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). 1991. Respiratory Protection: A Manual and Guideline. Fairfax, Va: AIHA.

American National Standards Institute (ANSI). 1974. Method for the Measurement of Real-Ear Protection of Hearing Protectors and Physical Attenuation of Earmuffs. Document No. S3.19-1974 (ASA Std 1-1975). New York: ANSI.

—. 1984. Method for the Measurement of Real-Ear Attenuation of Hearing Protectors. Document No. S12.6-1984 (ASA STD55-1984). New York: ANSI.

—. 1989. Practice for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection. Document No. ANSI Z 87.1-1989. New York: ANSI.

—. 1992. American National Standard for Respiratory Protection. Document No. ANSI Z 88.2. New York: ANSI.

Berger, EH. 1988. Hearing protectors - Specifications, fitting, use and performance. In Hearing Conservation in Industry, Schools and the Military, edited by DM Lipscomb. Boston: College-Hill Press.

—. 1991. Flat-response, moderate-attenuation and level-dependent HPDs: How they work, and what they can do for you. Spectrum 8 Suppl. 1:17.

Berger, EH, JR Franks, and F Lindgren. 1996. International review of field studies of hearing protector attenuation. In Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium: Effects of Noise On Hearing, edited by A Axelsson, H Borchgrevink, L Hellstrom, RP Hamernik, D Henderson, and RJ Salvi. New York: Thieme Medical.

Berger, EH, JE Kerivan, and F Mintz. 1982. Inter-laboratory variability in the measurement of hearing protector attenuation. J Sound Vibrat 16(1):14-19.

British Standards Institute (BSI). 1994. Hearing Protectors - Recommendations for Selection, Use, Care and Maintenance - Guidance Document. Document No. BSI EN 458:1994. London: BSI.

Bureau of Labour Statistics. 1980. Work Injury Report - An Administrative Report On Accidents Involving Foot Injuries. Washington, DC: Bureau of Labour Statistics, Department of Labour.

European Committee for Standardization (CEN). 1993. Industrial Safety Helmets. European Standard EN 397-1993. Brussels: CEN.

European Economic Community (EEC). 1989. Directive 89/686/EEC On the Approximation of the Laws of the Member States Relating to Personal Protective Equipment. Luxembourg: EEC.

European Standard (EN). 1995. Specification for welding filters with switchable luminous transmittance and welding filters with dual luminous transmittance. Final draft ref. no. pr EN 379: 1993E.

Federal Register. 1979. Noise Labeling Requirements for Hearing Protectors. Fed. regist. 44 (190), 40 CFR, part 211: 56130-56147. Washington, DC: GPO.

—. 1983. Occupational Noise Exposure: Hearing Conservation Amendment: Final Rule. Fed regist.. 48 (46): 9738-9785. Washington, DC: GPO.

—. 1994. Respiratory Protection. Fed regist. Title 29, Part 1910, Subpart 134. Washington, DC: GPO.

Franks, JR. 1988. Number of workers exposed to occupational noise. Sem Hearing 9(4):287-298, edited by W. Melnick.

Franks, JR, CL Themann, and C Sherris. 1995. The NIOSH Compendium of Hearing Protection Devices. Publication no. 95-105. Cincinnati, Ohio: NIOSH.

International Organization for Standardization (ISO). 1977. Industrial Safety Helmets. ISO 3873. Geneva: ISO.

—. 1979. Personal Eye-Protectors for Welding and Related Techniques - Filters - Utilization and Transmittance Requirement. International Standard ISO 4850. Geneva: ISO.

—. 1981. Personal Eye-Protectors – Filters and Eye-Protectors against Laser Radiation. ISO 6161-1981. Geneva: ISO.

—. 1990. Acoustics -Hearing Protectors -Part 1: Subjective Method for the Measurement of Sound Attenuation. ISO 4869-1:1990(E).Geneva: ISO.

—. 1994. Acoustics -Hearing Protectors -Part 2: Estimation of Effective A-Weighted Sound Pressure Levels When Hearing Protectors Are Worn. ISO 4869-2:1994(E). Geneva: ISO.

Luz, J, S Melamed, T Najenson, N Bar, and MS Green. 1991. The structured ergonomic stress level (E-S-L) index as a predictor of accident and sick leave among male industrial employees. In Proceedings of the ICCEF 90 Conference, edited by L Fechter. Baltimore: ICCEF.

Marsh, JL. 1984. Evaluation of saccharin qualitative fitting test for respirators. Am Ind Hyg Assoc J 45(6):371-376.

Miura, T. 1978. Shoes and Foot Hygiene (in Japanese). Tokyo: Bunka Publishing Bureau.

—. 1983. Eye and face protection. In Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety, 3rd edition. Geneva: ILO.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). 1987. NIOSH Respirator Decision Logic. Cincinnati, Ohio: NIOSH, Division of Standards Development and Technology Transfer.

National Safety Council. N.d. Safety Hats, Data Sheet 1-561 Rev 87. Chicago: National Safety Council.

Nelson, TJ, OT Skredtvedt, JL Loschiavo, and SW Dixon. 1984. Development of an improved qualitative fit test using isoamyl acetate. J Int Soc Respir Prot 2(2):225-248.

Nixon, CW and EH Berger. 1991. Hearing protection devices. In Handbook of Acoustical Measurements and Noise Control, edited by CM Harris. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Pritchard, JA. 1976. A Guide to Industrial Respiratory Protection. Cincinnati, Ohio: NIOSH.

Rosenstock, LR. 1995. Letter of March 13, 1995 from L. Rosenstock, Director, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, to James R. Petrie, Committee Chairperson, Mine Safety and Health Administration, US Department of Labour.

Scalone, AA, RD Davidson, and DT Brown. 1977. Development of Test Methods and Procedures for Foot Protection. Cincinnati, Ohio: NIOSH.