Construction is no desk-bound job. Workers in this industry are on their feet all day, and face any number of hazards that could crush toes, puncture soles, or present uneven walking surfaces. Evaluating the workplace is an important step (pun intended) in selecting appropriate work boots. Here are a few risks to consider when deciding what footwear to bring to a construction site.
Objects falling onto, striking, or rolling over the feet – The toes and tops of the feet are extremely vulnerable to these sorts of injuries. Foot bones can break easily and, due to the stresses put on them by normal walking, can take a long time to heal. Selecting footwear with safety toe caps and metatarsal protection is key.
Sources of electricity – Steel-toe boots are the last thing to bring to a site with open electrical sources, especially if you are an electrician or if there’s a greater chance of electrocution. Electrical Hazard (EH) boots, sometimes called non-conductive boots, should be used on a site with a risk of live, unshielded electricity.
Sharp objects that may puncture feet – Punctures can come from above or below, either by dropping or stepping on sharp objects. Metatarsal protection and puncture-resistant soles can prevent sharp objects from penetrating a boot.
Presence of corrosive or irritating substances – From paint to oils to acids, a construction site can be fraught with many industrial chemicals. Be aware of what’s on site and choose footwear that will protect against the proper corrosives, oils, solvents or organic materials. Not only will this increase safety, but boots designed to resist chemicals will last longer in these conditions.
Static discharge – A spark of static electricity can damage sensitive electronics. It can even trigger an explosion in certain conditions. Static Dissipating (SD) shoes safely dissipate static built up by the wearer directly into the floor, avoiding sparks.
Extreme temperatures – Whether due to weather or a site’s working conditions, construction sites can be exposed to wild extremes in temperature. For comfort and protection, it’s important to know what temperature conditions exist on a work site when selecting a work boot. As well as ensuring the boots themselves insulate to protect against extreme temperatures, it’s a good idea to ensure they fit with enough room to wear extra socks for added protection should the need arise.
Walking surfaces – Construction work can happen anywhere. From standing on rock deep underground to walking across steel beams hundreds of feet in the air, each site’s surface presents a unique challenge. Even flat surfaces can present slipping hazards or objects that can make walking treacherous. Along with finding boots with the right soles for the job, consider whether you need ankle support for added stability on rough terrain.
On-site machinery – Construction machinery poses a huge risk to workers. Malfunctioning equipment, or even just a moment of inattention can cause devastating injuries. There are boots on the market that provide grinding, cutting, or abrasion protection on demanding work sites.
As always, proper footwear is just one factor in construction-site safety. While important, even the best boots are no replacement for following established procedures and paying close attention to what’s going on around you.