As the temperature begins to drop, workers are preparing for winter replacing their old, worn-out work boots. There are a lot of factors to consider when purchasing safety footwear. Each boot carries a variety of features, technology and protective attributes. And once you throw sleet, snow and rain into the mix, the search for the right fit can be overwhelming.
So, how does today’s worker choose the right footwear for the season, and what should he/she look for before making a purchase? Below are five tips to serve as a guide for selecting boots that will keep you safe and warm this winter, no matter the jobsite environment.
The specific industry and the type of work greatly affect the type of safety footwear needed. These industries can be broken down into three categories:
- Heavy industrial—This is a highly specialized professional that works on hazardous jobsites with strict safety requirements, deals with harsh elements and needs footwear that is tough, rugged and built to last. Industries can include forestry, petroleum, mining, railroad, steelworks, utilities and masonry.
- Industrial—This industry includes skilled trade professionals who are highly experienced at his/her job. They can work in professions such as agriculture, airport, carpentry, construction and manufacturing. Construction workers usually fall into this category and need a broad range of safety features in their boots.
- Light industrial—Whether it is a general contractor, delivery driver or handyman, more workers are entering the light industrial segment. These workers need their shoes to be flexible, lightweight and slip resistant, especially in the winter season. This consumer often prefers a style that feels similar to a tennis shoe, but carries the same protection as a traditional work boot.
You should also look at the environment in which you will be exposed on a daily basis. In general, the industry and the work environment are directly correlated. Consider your working conditions. Assessing your environment will help you begin to formulate the type of protective attributes you will need in your work boots.
3. Potential Risks and Hazards
Next, it is important to evaluate potential risks and hazards that can occur on the job. For example, if you are at risk for large falling objects, extreme slippage or will be handling heavy materials, choose footwear that will minimize those risks and keep you out of harm’s way.
4. Footwear Protection Features
Once you have identified your environment and the potential hazards you may encounter, use the following tenets of effective footwear protection as a checklist to ensure you buy the proper boot.
- Toe protection (steel, alloy or composite)—Many workers prefer composite toes in the winter, unless otherwise required, as they will keep feet from becoming too cold. Steel toes adhere to outside temperatures, so wear thick socks if wearing steel in the winter.
- Slip resistance—If working in roofing or on the highway, slip resistance is very important. When working in icy conditions, look for boots or shoes with high slip-resistance or oil-resistance ratings.
- Breathability of uppers—A general rule of thumb is the lighter the industry, the more breathable you can buy. If working outside, choose footwear with less breathability to ensure adequate warmth.
- Electrical protection—If you are working in an industry that requires electrical safety, look for electrical hazard (EH) or electrostatic Dissipating (ESD).
- Metatarsal guard—The metatarsal guard is used to protect the top of the foot from compression injuries and should be used in any workplace where there are risks of large objects falling or equipment rolling over the top of a foot.
- Water resistance—If you are often outside, looking for waterproof boots is a must to prevent cold, wet feet during the winter.
- Reflectivity—For those involved in roadwork and construction, some work-boot brands now include reflective technology, which keeps workers safe in potentially lowlight conditions.
5. Personal Style
Safety footwear has come a long way. Now, instead of brown or black with steel toe or alloy, work boots are being constructed not only to fit safety needs, but also personal style. As more millennials enter the workforce, they are demanding better performance from their boots and shoes. There are now unique styles for every worker.
As you begin to tackle your winter workload, consider the five tips above to not only stay safe, but also stay warm and comfortable.