Ongoing Inspection and Maintenance of Safety Footwear

As a workplace safety manager, you are not only responsible for assessing risks and hazards, implementing plans to reduce risk, determining and providing the necessary Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for your workers, but you are also responsible for ongoing inspection and maintenance of PPE. In the case of Safety Footwear, this means you will ascertain for each employee whether their footwear is appropriate for them personally, appropriate for their particular working environment, and the demands of their particular job, you provide training in the proper maintenance and storage of their footwear, and you schedule regular inspections for damage or wear as well as spot inspections when appropriate. For example, should a worker have a heavy object fall on his foot, you would inspect the steel or composite toe cap for damage that might require the footwear to be replaced. The goal is to keep workers safe at all times while following the Health, Safety, and Environmental (HSE) regulations.

Ongoing inspection and maintenance of safety footwear requires physical examination, testing, cleaning, repair if necessary, worker training in maintenance of the footwear, and replacement as needed. You would inspect different aspects of the footwear depending upon its type: shoe, boot, trainer, rigger, or wellington.

Inspection

Creating and following a checklist for your inspection is helpful:

Footwear Fit. Feet can change shape over time – as the individual ages, if the wearer gains or loses weight, if they become arthritic, diabetic, or develops plantar fasciitis. Fit and comfort are just as important as surface protections.

Sole Wear and Tear. The tread on shoes and boots will wear and slip-resistance will reduce over time. The footwear needs to be replaced in this instance also if the side of the shoe or boot has worn down as it creates less ankle support.

Faults or Damage. Footwear should be checked for defects at the time of purchase, and for faults that may show up later at scheduled times of inspection. Damage can happen to a boot or shoe through regular usage and through exposure to hazards, such as puncture, falling heavy objects, exposure to the elements and chemicals. You would inspect the interior and exterior of the footwear – for obvious damage, for sole separation, for dented toe caps, for punctures or abrasion.

Dirt. You should also check for dirt as the footwear needs to be kept clean to meet HSE’s safety standards. Keeping the footwear clean contributes to its longevity and functionality. If you require the employee to clean their own footwear, then you should note this in their employment contract and provide proper training at the time of allocation. In the case of safety wellingtons used in food processing or chemical industries, cleaning may also require disinfection; as safety manager, you would provide safety protocols for this.

According to the HSE’s L25 document, all companies are responsible for pulling PPE once they’ve hit their shelf life. It is the responsibility of the safety manager to note this date and replace footwear when it has hit its shelf life, regardless whether the boot or shoe “looks” like it is still good.

Maintenance

When not in use, footwear should be cleaned and stored in a clean, dry space, per HSE regulations for PPE care and maintenance.

According to the Safety & Health Practitioner, there are five components to any good maintenance system: examination, testing, cleaning/disinfection, repair, and replacement. If you provide protocols for these components, for which the worker is responsible, then you as safety manager would provide the proper training for these protocols.

At the end of a day the worker would clean & disinfect their footwear as indicated for its type, and during the process visually examine it for damage or defect. They would bring it to you for appropriate repair or replacement as needed. For more information about workplace safety practices please feel free to contact us.