Saturday, December 1, 2007


Economising on safety costs is something few would argue with either. So, here's a safety alternative you should know about.
Rubber safety overshoes - ' shoes with toes' - are getting more attention, for more reasons than simply cost-effectiveness. And not just because of the ever increasing numbers of temporary workers employed in this country. It's the ever increasing cost of providing fully-loaded temporary safety shoes that's bringing the whole matter of toe protection to the attention of senior management. The recent challenge by the United States Postal Service and OSHA's ruling attests to that. Anywhere a safety shoe alternative exists, that sits all right with OSHA in the USA or CCOHS in Canada, it's a win-win situation.

There’s not a thing wrong with generally accepted safety toe footwear, but all too often it seems the expensive choice is selected out of fear or a lack of understanding. Although it's true to say safety shoe policies in manufacturing have embraced rubber pull on safety toe cap products for visitors they have been 'missing in action' elsewhere. I know of one particular food processing plant that refuses to use a '”better than those yellow clacker things” solution, but tolerates gunk that might be introduced to the production floor on the soles of visitors' shoes. Their thinking is they had better address the greasy floors than more effectively provide toe protection. Some might argue the greasy floor is a hazard that should not be tolerated.

All workplaces are subject to statutory requirements and minimum standards that reflect our desire to protect workers. It is up to the employer to implement safety rules and regulations but bodies such as OSHA allows significant latitude in doing so, provided choices are reasonable and done responsibly. Careful attention is required as errors in judgement, as with willful neglect, will be punished under the law. Unfortunately, the tendency in a fear and compliance atmosphere is to avoid failure rather than attempt success. Compliance is commendable but can instill fear. That can stifle creativity which can result in unnecessarily high costs.

Take the whole matter of safety footwear. Company safety policies that lack creativity can result in over-spending far in excess of the typical fine for a safety transgression. It's a bit like this; we know there's always the possibility of rain but do we need to wear a raincoat every day? Or, would a small umbrella, costing a lot less than a raincoat, do the job just as well? Throw in the ability to offer others shelter if the need arises and you get the idea.

An employer is required to provide personal protective equipment where the risk assessment indicates as much. Risk assessment is the cornerstone of industrial safety and statutory bodies require employers to undertake one to determine what hazards can reasonably be expected in any particular working environment. There is always the chance of accident but risk assessments are not expected to be clairvoyant. They are expected to review routine operations and recommend the proper Personal Protective Equipment. (The employer is also expected to pay for it.) Risk assessments are expected to be 'reasonable' and the onus is on OSHA to prove otherwise.

There are two important things to remember. Firstly, it is the employer who decides how best to comply with the law. Secondly, organizations like OSHA do not mandate any particular piece of equipment to be used.

In the case of foot safety, OSHA’s occupational foot protection standard is 29 CFR 1910.136. This requires the use of protective footwear when employees are working in areas where there is a danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects. Once that hazard has been determined, OSHA does not recommend, or approve of, any particular safety footwear. According to OSHA in a recent letter to the United States Postal Service, an employer may comply with the criteria set forth in ANSI Z41-1991, replaced by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) F2412-05 and ASTM F2413-05, or the employer may opt to demonstrate that other criteria are equally effective. If the employer pursues the second option, then compliance with the consensus standards is not mandatory. This means, the burden lies on the employer to demonstrate that the footwear provided is equally as protective as the footwear that meet the ASTM F2412-05 and the ASTM F2413-05 standards.

In another fairly recent ruling, OSHA declined to comment on the suitability of the now ubiquitous ‘Croc’ clogs. It said, in situations where no hazard exists, the matter of appropriate footwear at work is between the employer and employee. This principle was reiterated when OSHA was asked to comment on rubber over-shoes. OSHA was firm in stating that it does not find rubber overshoes acceptable where they provide no toe protection. However, provided they can demonstrate that they meet minimum standards they are acceptable.

What then would be “acceptable foot protection” where there is a chance of toe injury? The first choice of many employers is ASTM or CSA tagged safety shoes or boots - the so called "approved" footwear we hear so much about in advertising. For sure, a fully loaded safety shoe or boot will provide more than enough legal defence in the event of a challenge from OSHA. What is also true is that such a policy comes at a very high cost. Not every employee requires safety toecap, steel-soled, electricity dissipative footwear. For many work situations only toe protection from falling or rolling heavy objects is required. Is it wise then to incur the full cost of a safety shoe or boot?

For example, an office worker visiting a loading dock to pick up documents will not perform any manufacturing duties while en route. This might imply that the PPE provided to the workers may not be necessary for the office worker. However, since the office worker might be exposed to falling objects, or in close proximity to heavy moving equipment, it would be reasonable to foresee only the need for toe protection against impact and compression.

In another situation a risk assessment for the production area might indicate the need for slip resistant footwear and toe protection. However, it is also reasonable to expect that a visiting office worker might not encounter slippery conditions. Furthermore, such conditions are not supposed to persist and it might be reasonable to expect the office worker to take reasonable evasive action to avoid the risk should it occur.

The danger from sharp objects underfoot requires steel sole protective footwear but where no such risk is anticipated toe protection may be all that is required. A good example would be the paper-making and the newspaper print production industry, where there is little chance of sharp objects but always a chance of rolling stock or heavy moving equipment that can injure toes. Having steel sole shoes or boots that can dissipate electrical shock is just over-kill and costly.

Rubber safetytoe overshoes provide the same protection from impact and compression as safety shoes and boots. The steel toecap meets the same ASTM standards and can easily be verified by test results from the major testing bodies. This is what makes OSHA happy. Rubber has been used for a long time in the safety footwear industry and its slip resistance qualities are well known. The rubber material is flexible but sturdy, in some cases as thick as 6mm resulting in a firm fit and some long wearing characteristics. Rubber safetytoe overshoes are a lot less expensive than safety shoes or boots and they eliminate the hazard of passing along unsanitary footwear. They are especially useful where only occasional toe protection is required, such as with visitors to production facilities, temporary workers and for medical reasons.

Safety personnel looking for budget savings, as in today’s economy, would be well advised to consider them for these reasons and more.

Saturday, September 1, 2007


My "Moroccans" are great little shoes I found in the souk in Marrakesh. They're called babouches in Morocco and they look like they were designed especially for the Moroccan climate and culture. The heel portion of the babouche folds down to allow rear entry slip-on slip-off. This is especially handy for their many visits to mosques but handy too for keeping floors clean inside their riads and homes.
And that's the main attraction for me. At first I was attracted to their smashing bright colours and I have a number of them for that reason, but these babouches mean I can have a pair for indoor use and a pair for short trips outside. Things like taking out the garbage or putting our cars into the driveway at night. I can slip out of my indoor footwear, slip on my babouches, take care of business and leave the rain and dirt outside when I return.

Babouches are made of leather with a foam or rubber sole. They're not the most sturdy of footwear but they seem to take a lot of beating. I've only worn out one pair in over two years, and I use them constantly. I even wear my orthotics in them with never a problem.

Now that the snow and ice is upon us I decided to try them out with my rubber safetytoes. I have to report they are perfect for the job. Since the sole of the babouche is made of a stiff material that protrudes beyond the stitching in the leather upper, I find that they fit very snugly inside my small size safetytoe overshoes. There's no movement at all when wearing them. I've now found it is very easy to simply slip my steel toe overshoes over my babouches and go outside. I don't even have to change my babouches which is a bonus over the other times of the year. Currently though, I'm trying leaving my babouches in my small size safetytoes. That way, if I have to go outside, I slip into my "outdoor moroccans" and venture out knowing that I will be warm, slip resistant and waterproof. I don't even have to worry about toe protection.

Altogether, this makes movement from inside to outside and back again much less of a struggle and mess at places like back doorways and mud rooms. Living with winter conditions in Toronto just got a whole lot better.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Safetytoes International Inc., of Toronto, Canada, Makes First Sale to China

Toronto, Canada -- Since launching their 'Slipp-R' brand of safety toe overshoes in October 2006, Safetytoes International Inc., has been selling their unique products all over the world. However, it is the sale to China that makes Patrick Smyth, company founder, most pleased.
"We decided to make our 'Slipp-R's in Canada at a time when North American industry was out-sourcing to China and Mexico." Smyth was adamant that manufacturing jobs should not be transferred overseas. "Our first order to China is a small one but it shows how our 'Slipp-R' safety toe is unique. And, we've already sold into Mexico!"
Companies all over the world have been showing a keen interest in the 'Slipp-R'. "We have been focused on the EU countries but word is spreading." Smyth says, "Our viral marketing is working. When we sell to a multi-national company in Belgium we get interest from South Africa! That's how we have been growing."
The 'Slipp-R' safety toe overshoe is made of vulcanized rubber and is worn mostly by visitors to industrial plants. The sturdy overshoe can be passed from person to person avoiding expensive or unpleasant alternatives. "The unfortunate thing about safety in the workplace is that not everybody likes to wear the proper gear. Sometimes it is too bulky or maybe just too ugly looking. Most of us appreciate looking good which is why we made the 'Slipp-R' so stylish." The founder of
the one-product company used Italian designers and the best of materials to promote toe protection at work and at home.
Of particular interest to food processing companies, the 'Slipp-R' safetytoe isolates germs and bacteria brought in by visitors' street shoes. Wherever toe protection is required the steel toe cap in the 'Slipp-R' is considered more than adequate. Generally toes needs to be protected from impact and compression to a minimum standard that is exceeded by the 'Slipp-R'. Tests done to gain the CE Approval for Europe show that the steel toe cap provides double the minimum toe protection. In North America tests done to compare against OSHA and CSA standards show that the 'Slipp-R' exceeds minimum requirements. The 'Slipp-R' has anti-slip qualities and is acid, oil and animal resistant. The unique design allows for ease of use and looks more like a piece of dress wear than industrial wear.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Accounts of lawnmower accidents attest to how quickly disaster strikes. Not surprising when you think how fast a lawnmower blade rotates. (100 to 190 MPH, actually)

A review of relevant internet sites affords much good advice on safety around the home and garden but many neglect to mention the wisdom of safetytoe protection. Where suggestions on toe protection do appear, safety boots are recommended. This is great advice but how likely are readers to heed it?

The safety boot is expensive. It has a guarantee period of around 90 days. You can’t easily share a boot with a stranger. Often, it comes with features we don’t always need - like protection from electrical shock.

When compared to a number of safetytoe products available from industrial safety catalogues the safety boot is kicked out of the game. For the price of a single pair of safety boots, two or three pairs of safetytoes can be bought, giving toe protection for all the family.

Safetytoes are the direct descendants of the rubber galosh of bygone days. Within the past 30 years rubber galoshes were commonplace around the home. Always made of rubber, they protected our “good shoes” against rain, snow and salt.

Today there are a few safetytoe products available to gardeners and DIY types. For slip protection, those made of a rubber-based material are recommended. The steel toes in all these products are rated for the same level of toe impact - so style, fit and ease of use are important factors. Some have varying degrees of protection from acid, oil and animal fats, which can be important features in certain kitchen and workshop/garage situations.

Check them out. Safetytoes now make it easier than ever to return to better protection for our feet as well as keeping our “shoes good”. Some of the new safetytoes are an inexpensive way to protect something way more valuable than a pair of “good shoes”.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Toe Protection Overshoes Make Headlines with New Materials and Designs.

Long considered the ''ugly duckling'' of the safety footwear business, the safety toe overshoe developed from the venerable galosh has a new lease on life.
To be fair, there have been some pretty ugly ones and even some that were downright dangerous. However, the ''gumshoe'' has come a long way since African-American inventor Alvin Longo Rickman first patented an overshoe in 1898. Over the last 109 years, improvements have been made that appear to ensure his legacy and bear testament to his ingenuity. Today, toe protection products have a pride of place within the PPE industry that would surely have pleased the man.

Unfortunately, there appears to be a gap in knowledge between what exists and what is acceptable with respect to those occasions when a safety boot is recommended and when only toe protection is necessary. Under OSHA and CSA, the rules governing "safety footwear" dictate minimum toe protection standards through ASTM 2413-05, which replaced the ANSI Z41 standard, and the CAN/CSA Z195-02. That these rules apply to "safety footwear" has made orphans of toe protection products since none of them are considered "safety footwear" by the testing bodies. Their definition of "safety footwear" precludes them from assigning anything but "qualified" test results.

But have no fear, where the rubber meets the road you won''t be found lacking if only a safety toe protector will do the job.

With the advent of new materials, production methods, and dare I mention it, litigation, galosh-type overshoes are getting some well deserved attention. In spite of abject avoidance by standards bodies in the USA and Canada, it''s a given today that safety toe overshoes can provide toe protection to the minimum standards required.

It was Charles Goodyear''s work on vulcanizing rubber (1844) that has facilitated the biggest contribution yet for toe protection. He found a way of making rubber stable in both hot and cold conditions allowing vulcanized rubber to be one of the mainstays of safety footwear. Since then advancements in vulcanizing rubber have allowed us to harness rubber''s tactile qualities which are much sought after for slip prevention. Prior to inserting a steel toe cap into a rubber ''galosh'', toe protection could only be provided using safety boots or a perforated steel toe cap with straps and buckles.

PVC materials, while they have many benefits, do not have the
same slip resistant qualities and are susceptible to change in hot and cold conditions.

Goodyear''s invention ultimately led to the creation of rubber overshoes with steel toe caps. These became suitable alternatives to perforated safety toe caps which have some safety negatives due to loose fittings and external metal buckles. Apart from ''ease of use'', other safety benefits emerged from the marriage. One major advantage became obvious with the absence of the ''clacking'' noise that sometimes resembled a flock of geese during visitations on concrete floors!

Safety professionals, and employers, are required to assess risks and provide personal protective equipment where necessary. In the absence of formal approval of PPE items, such as the Canadian Standards Association patch or an ANSI tag, it is considered prudent to provide protection nevertheless, so long as it is considered adequate. This is true especially in situations where a safety boot or shoe is not available or economical.

Office staff entering ''safety zones" and temporary workers are typical situations where it would be deemed prudent to provide the minimum toe protection. Further, employees who work in "safety zones" but who are mostly seated at conveyor systems may not require the burden or cost of a full safety boot.

Common to all jurisdictions, it is the ability of the steel toe cap in the overshoe, or toe protector accessory, to withstand Impact and Compression beyond the minimum requirements that convey compliance with OSHA and CSA guidelines.

Today, enlightened safety footwear buyers are ''seeing through'' the gap between products which have been approved as "safety footwear" and those which will satisfy their professional duty but which have no formal certification. Some perceive this as the politics of protectionism within the North American footwear industry that is a barrier to greater awareness and improved safety.

The European scenario is different. In that region, the CE certification body, SATRA, decided to champion a ground-breaking initiative. While there was no formal directive governing steel toe overshoes, SATRA reviewed the benefits in such favourable light that they created a unique category. In their view, occasional toe protection products had been overlooked for too long and they saw a need for the establishment of minimum standards and a formal certification process. This was implemented in 2006 with the SATRA document - M21:2006.

Now toe protection manufacturers can have their products tested beyond the essentials of Impact and Compression. Tests can be conducted for resistance to slip, acid, oil and animal fats, abrasion, tearing and flexibility.

Admittedly, there have been concerns around steel toe caps, this is to be expected. However, the myths have been debunked. (See MythBusters TV Show ) The TV show "MythBusters" proved that toes will not be amputated in the event that the safety toes are called into action.

Nevertheless, in all matters of safety, due diligence is still required.

If toe protection is the sole consideration, then any of the toe protectors on the market today will comply, provided that they meet or exceed 75 Joules of Impact and Compression. Toe injuries accounted for 1% of all days lost in the workplace during 2005. However, with slips and falls more frequent than actual direct hits on toes, there is often much more to consider.

In many workplace settings some surfaces are less slip resistant than others. This danger can be overcome with toe protectors that provide improved grip. Anti-slip soles are also quite common, with some unique designs. Certain situations underfoot must be compatible with the material of the overshoe. For example, will the overshoe perform well in cold settings since some brands are not designed for sub-zero conditions such as in the meat packaging industry?

While toe protector overshoes can never replace safety boots or shoes, their costs are often compared. In this instance care must be taken to evaluate cost-effectiveness. Industrial settings can be harsh and footwear must be able to withstand harsh treatment. If the use is infrequent, or if conditions underfoot are smooth, then safety toe protectors are inexpensive. If not, then you might find yourself replacing them on a regular basis, making them not so economical. Regardless, nobody wants to slip into safety footwear used by somebody else.

In all situations where items of a personal protective nature are recommended, willingness to wear, and wear-ability, needs to be considered. To be effective there must be few excuses not to wear; with ease of use, fit, stylish looks and sturdiness being the most important.

As an example of the versatility and usefulness of galosh-type toe protectors, within the food safety community the intrusion of bacteria and germs is a primary consideration. While a steel toe overshoe might well provide toe protection for visitors, any plant manager worth his salt appreciates how it might also afford some protection against contaminants being introduced to the production area since the toe protection covers the whole of the outer shoe and self contains the ''gunk'' brought in from outside. In the chicken farming sector, toe protection, comfort and water-proofing are welcome attractive attributes.

While these products are most commonly used by visitors to manufacturing facilities, their versatility is also taking them further afield. For the home market the refrain "Don''t mow without your ''toes" speaks to the danger of lawn-mowing in runners, clogs or open-toed sandals. (Around 80,000 Americans are injured by lawn mowers each year according to one study done by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) Diabetics too are now discovering the joy and comfort of stylish toe protection.

There are four manufacturers of safetytoe overshoes. Tingley makes the "Frigiflex"© and Wilkuro has the "Wilkuro"©. Both are made of PVC. The "City Work"© is made by Acton and the "Slipp-R"© is made by Safetytoes International, both of which are made of rubber. Safetytoes International has a "safetytoes blog" with some interesting articles. Each of these brands of safety toe protectors has features and benefits clearly laid out in their websites.

When toe protection is important chose the product designed for this purpose. Some pointers when evaluating steel toe overshoes;

1 Are the overshoes made of rubber or PVC?
2 Do they comply with minimum toe protection standards?
3 Are there other safety features associated with the overshoe?
4 Are they sturdy and resistant to wear, tears and cuts?
5 Will the overshoe be a good fit and easy to slip on and off?
6 Are heel types and outer shoe styles to be considered?
7 Will users embrace and use them?
8 What tests have been conducted and how favorable are they?
9 Can they be easily sanitized on a regular basis?
10 Are they cost-effective for your application?