The Quick Maintenance Checklist for Safety Footwear
By Alexandra Serban
January 15, 2020
Buying the right safety footwear is the first step in keeping workers safe and reducing musculoskeletal problems
Yet safety shoes don’t last forever. They experience wear and get damaged, so, may eventually not offer the protection that workers rely on for their safety and health. Correct usage and practical maintenance tasks are the next steps in prolonging the life of your safety shoes.
Here is a helpful checklist on how to use, care and maintain your safety footwear in top shape.
1. Check the cushioning of the shoe regularly
Shock absorption comes from the structure of the heel, which provides some spring to the foot. The inner sole also provides cushioning and support to the toes for propulsion. All these elements will deteriorate from consistent daily use. It’s best to check the condition of the shock absorption and inner sole on a weekly basis. An inner sole could be replaced without replacing the whole shoe to prolong the life of the shoe and maintain a high level of safety and comfort.
2. Brush and wipe the exterior
Clean the outside of the shoe when you clean the soles and cleats. Removing contaminants extends the life of the shoe by preventing damage to the material over time and keeping the shoe flexible. Use a damp cloth on leather shoes and oil the shoe from time to time to keep it flexible.
Cleaning under the shoe should be done after each working shift.
Tread depth is also important. When the tread is worn down, there is no pathway for the liquid to flow and this leads to slipping. Wear indicators offer an early warning sign of sole wear. Shoes should be changed out for a new pair when the wear indicator becomes visible on the sole of the shoe.
3. Inspect for cuts, wear and tear
The outer material of a safety shoe may be compromised from impact with a sharp object or the wear and tear of constant use. If a steel toecap or metatarsal shield is exposed, it is time to replace the shoe. Cuts or perforations in the upper material of safety shoes are also a serious safety concern. Their presence means that the shoe has been compromised and does not offer the same protection as a new shoe.
This presents several risks:
• Sharp objects falling on the shoe could penetrate the weaker upper material and pierce a worker’s foot.
• Waterproofing is compromised. Once water enters the body of the shoe through a cut in the outer material, it will soak into the shoe. This makes the shoe heavy and makes it more difficult to walk.
• Chemical resistance will be compromised in the same way as waterproofing. Instead of the feet being protected from chemicals, a splash can make its way to the skin, causing burns.
Carrying out daily inspections of the integrity of the outer shoe will identify these risks before an incident occurs.
4. Avoid extreme heat
Drying safety shoes using extreme heat is not advisable. Heat may damage the chemical resistance or waterproofing, rendering the shoes unsafe for use even though there may be no visible signs of damage. Air dry safety shoes in a room temperature environment. This applies to storing safety footwear too. Never store shoes in direct sunlight nor in damp environments.
5. Inspect soles and check to see if the shoe fits
Insoles provide comfort for different shapes of workers’ feet. Fortunately, Insoles for standard feet, narrow or broad feet are available on the market. As the insoles wear down, the fitment of the shoe may no longer be ideal. This creates friction inside the shoe and can cause injury to the foot. Where visible signs of wear appear on insoles, these must be replaced.
6. Check laces and bindings
Broken shoelaces or bindings increase the risk for injury more than one might think. The obvious result is a loose shoe, which may slip on the foot while walking. Even worse is a slip while climbing, which could lead to a serious fall. Daily inspections on the condition of bindings and laces will identify problems so that they can be replaced before an incident happens.
7. Replace shoes struck by heavy objects
Although the toecap protection is designed to absorb a heavy blow, it is not wise to assume a safety shoe can be subjected to many blows without being compromised. It is advisable to change a shoe that has performed its protective function, rather than use it multiple times.
8. Use multiple pairs of shoes and rotate them
Feet sweat and cause moisture to build up inside safety footwear. Not only is this uncomfortable, but it can also do harm to the material over time. Rotating two pairs of shoes gives time for evaporation in each shoe and ensures that the build-up of sweat is minimal and does not cause safety or health issues.
Having a routine maintenance task list will help to extend the life of safety footwear as well as protect workers from unsafe conditions. While most workers want to quickly exit the workplace at the end of a shift, an extra 5 minutes of care for safety footwear and other personal protective equipment (PPE) may make the difference between safety and an injury on the next shift.
For more information about the risks to workers’ feet and advice on how to overcome them, download our Safety Footwear Risk Report.