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Safety Toe Boots in Warehouses

- April 2, 2019 by Jacki Mortenson (View all posts by Jacki)

Do warehouse employees need to wear protective shoes? As a Risk Management Consultant, I get this question a lot. There is no single answer that fits every organization. But, there is a consistent approach to analyzing your workplace to determine what requirements you should have.

The first thing to ask is, has a PPE assessment been conducted? How is PPE determined for the work environment? Each department may have different exposures and should complete an assessment to determine task-risk-hazard exposures. Using our hierarchy of control method mentioned in Robert’s recent blog post, we only want to protect employees from injury using PPE as a final resort. We should also look to eliminate or reduce the exposure through engineering or administrative controls first.

Once the employer completes an assessment (similar to a job-hazard-analysis) and reduces the hazard through engineering controls and administrative controls, then the PPE can be determined. To develop risk reduction controls we need to consider how to PREVENT or REDUCE FREQUENCY of employees walking up to a powered forklift to speak to the operator.

Some ways include:

  • Enforcing policies and consistent training.
  • Warning Signs – Several employers I know have stenciled on a reminder to pedestrians to remain at least 3 feet from the side of their forklifts when the forklift is powered.
  • Technology – Some employers invest in warning light attachment that shine a warning light on the ground reminding pedestrians to stay away.
  • Aisle Markings – Warehouses can also have painted pedestrian walkways.
  • Formal intersections – with the right traffic control accidental contact can be reduced.
  • Using Convex mirrors – these work especially well at blind corners.
  • Limiting the number of office workers allowed on the warehouse floor.
  • Prohibiting pedestrians in high traffic areas.
  • Restricting the use of forklifts near break rooms or high traffic aisles.

If the risk exposure for pedestrian vs forklift contact has been minimized, non-safety toe work boots may be suitable for the facility. A policy that states what footwear is allowed should still be created even if “safety” shoes aren’t required. You may choose to require non-slip footwear, no open toed shoes, no high heels, no canvas material (i.e. sneakers) to be on the warehouse floor. After all, if you do not provide any guidance on proper footwear, you could have an employee reporting to work in flip flops.

If a company does believe that their assessment warrants employees to wear safety toed boots, they should consider reimbursing the employee for the boot/shoe cost or partial cost (say $100). If the employee separates from the company before a determined amount of time, the company could deduct the cost of the boots from his/her last paycheck. If the company is a union shop, then you should review the contract to see if there is a clause determining the cost reimbursement for personal protective safety equipment that the employee will wear on a daily basis, such as footwear.

If administrative controls such as training, aisle markings, and intersection rules are part of your injury prevention plan, then you should have a routine audit process to make sure rules are being follow. A regular training plan should also be in place for forklift drivers and pedestrians.