Footwear – Essential PPE


My wife calls me a centipede because I have so many shoes down by the door. I take the criticism on the chin since she’s absolutely right, but each pair of shoes seems to have its own purpose. As I walked down the hall I saw one of my co-workers sporting a pair of sandals which seems a little odd for work, especially since its 15 below outside. At one of my presentations it was very frosty outside and most of my attendees had the warmest looking winter boots I’ve ever seen. Is your footwear appropriate for your situation? Is it keeping you safe? One of the top safety hazards in nearly every line of work is slips, trips and falls. That safety starts with our selection of shoes.

I’m not sure if you’re growing weary of my “growing up” type stories, but I have one more for you. I guess I would be about 15 years old by this time and my brother and I were working for my Dad’s Construction Company. This was at the outset of his demolition days and the target was the local grain elevator. We collected great amounts of rough lumber as the elevator was being taken down and it was time to harvest the wood. All of the nails needed to be removed. This may sound like a very monotonous job, but there was a sense of accomplishment as the unorganized entanglement of lumber became nicely stacked two by fours.

This process had gone on for many days and we were fairly skilled at removing the three and a half inch spikes. I just finished stacking a two by four and as I went to grab another one I stepped on a nail sticking out of another board. This wouldn’t present a problem with proper footwear, but my work boots didn’t have a steel shank or steel toes. I felt the nail go right into the bottom of my foot. I immediately yelled out “Ahh … I stepped on a nail!” I couldn’t lift my foot off the board since the nail was stuck in my foot and in the sole of my work boots. My brother was right beside me, but he non-chalantly said “Yeah, hurts doesn’t it”. “Does it ever! Do you think you can help me?”, I replied. With a lot more urgency I added, “I can’t get my foot off the nail!” He replied, “Oh right now?”

I got my brother to stand on the other side of the two by four and pulled my foot off the nail. Immediately my sock and work boot filled with blood … apparently I had pinpoint accuracy on where not to step. The nail didn’t go right through my foot, but was in the arch area and apparently punctured the vein. I got to the house and got cleaned up, then went to the hospital to update my tetanus shot. Later that month I had a brand new pair of work boots, this time with steel toes and a steel shank.

A while back Dad was telling me he took two 45 Gallon drums full of nails to the scrap yard. After more than 30 years I guess that nail is finally getting re-used 🙂

Is your footwear and clothing appropriate for the job you are doing? Is it appropriate for the elements you are facing? What about the rest of your PPE?

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