Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rubber safety overshoes – putting your best foot forward.

 There is nothing new under the sun but when it comes to safety overshoes there have been some exciting developments of late. Rubber overshoes with an enclosed steel toecap are now a far cry from the crude gluing together of two parts as seen in the earliest versions. Using cheap labor, plastic and an insensitive approach to health and environment, the cheapest of all versions are still around, but time is passing them by. Today, enclosed-toe safety overshoes provide toe protection as required in all of the World's Standards for safety footwear. They have significant differences over their older cousins, and all because somebody took the trouble to make a good idea better, and safer. 

Enclosed-toe rubber safety overshoes have a steel toecap positioned much as it is in a safety shoe or boot. In fact, this type of overshoe looks very much like a regular safety shoe. It is a style that has shed the rather comical look of overshoes with exposed, brightly colored steel toecaps. When those early models first appeared they were certainly an improvement over the "yellow clackers", but mostly in the area of convenience. While they did reduce the noise levels often heard during visitor plant tours, not many liked wearing big blobs of colour on their feet. Used as a visitor shoe, the appearance of the exposed-toe overshoes was not an issue since employers have a lesser burden for safety for visitors than for employees. However, when it comes to safety compliance on the job, employees found the comical look, and more, to complain about. Employee acceptance of PPE is totally dependent on comfort and look factors. If employees dislike wearing a particular piece they are more likely to do without it. Statistics show that the number of toe injuries where PPE was not being used is significant. Those unfortunate situations could well have been the result of an unwillingness to appear “strange” in front of other workers. Imagine a fashion-conscious office worker making their occasional trek through a safety zone to collect paperwork.

Rubber enclosed-toe overshoes are making other noteworthy contributions to safety cultures in many work environments. Unlike plastic PVC, an overshoe made of rubber will not stiffen or crack, even in cold temperatures. The material not only provides the kind of slip resistance long associated with rubber, it gives better wear, tear and cut-growth resistance. These qualities lead to ownership and longevity since the new enclosed-toe overshoe is not a “throw-away”. These qualities have taken the earlier lowly, 'ugly ducking' of safety footwear into many work environments. From the freezer to the furnace room, where toe protection is called for, enclosed toe overshoes offer a cost-effective alternative to expensive safety footwear.

Business entities such as in Manufacturing, Transportation and Storage, Retail Trade and Property Business Services are environments where a significant number of toe injuries happen. It's no surprise that laborers, trades people, drivers, machine operators and nurses are some of the most frequently injured. Even when we know that safety shoes can exacerbate a problem, and when risk assessments mandate that toe protection is all that is required, all too often it is only a safety shoe that is considered. Here then is a win-win compromise that results in compliance, added safety benefits and an improvement in foot comfort. Employees can now slip on steel toe protection over their recommended footwear and look very stylish to boot.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ontario steel toe requirements.

For sure, health and safety issues are in the best interest of all, but really, is it necessary to be told? For example, take the recent accident that caused the death of actress Natasha Richardson. Does anybody really believe that the absence of a CSA Standard for ski helmets contributed to the terrible outcome from not wearing one?

"I don't," the CEO of Safetytoes International Inc. declared, "but, I honestly think the 'CSA myth' unfortunately works against common sense thinking. Just because the CSA doesn't have a Standard doesn't mean we should not take appropriate precautions."

Likewise, workers shouldn't need to wait with baited-breath to be told how to approach each and every work situation.

It is true that healthy working environments benefit everyone. Occupational, Health and Safety Acts and Regulations in Ontario have existed for nearly 40 years, so workplace safety should be second nature by now. But it's not. Employees continue to complain and experts continue to point at reports that indicate improvements. Legislation and regulations have saved lives and thousands of lost days of work. However, the question remains, why are workers so dismissive of safety matters?

"Too often, injuries to toes are the result of not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)," says Patrick Smyth, who brought the Slipp-R safetytoe overshoe to the safety market in 2006. "We also know that if employees dislike a particular piece of PPE, they won't wear it." The Slipp-R safetytoe overshoe is a rubber galosh with a steel toe cap. They are slip-on, slip-off, alternatives to steel toe safety shoes.

Smyth has been dealing with what he calls the "CSA Myth" in Ontario. "Standards make a great contribution in raising awareness for safety. But, we weren't able to get the CSA in Ontario to even look at the Slipp-R. They say that it doesn't conform to their notion of what a piece of protective footwear should look like. The CSA brand is so powerful many employers in Ontario think all safety footwear must have CSA Approval. This is entirely wrong of course, and it has effectively hindered industry, government and consumers access to a very cost-effective piece of safety equipment."

The CSA Standard for protective footwear has requirements that appear to have little relevance for slip-on steel toe rubber overshoes. For example, to qualify for CSA certification safety footwear must have a 25 mm length of material extending beyond the edge of the steel toe cap. Smyth does not see this as having any significance when it comes to protecting toes. "What does it matter if there is one inch of leather or rubber upper retained for testing, when it is the steel toe cap that provides the protection. Another requirement for certification is that the sole of footwear must be higher at the heel. This too is totally redundant when the object of the exercise is to protect the front of the foot."

Safetytoes International, a Toronto based company, contends that safety should be a powerful unifying force for good but myths, slavish compliance and limiting beliefs are getting in the way. "The myth that steel toe caps could sever toes in the event of a direct hit has only recently been debunked. Now we're dealing with non-tariff protectionist trade measures that helps a few but denies the vast majority." Smyth thinks the "CSA myth" could be a wedge against the unifying force.

In Ontario the protective footwear regulations do not mandate CSA Approved PPE. Every employer is required to undertake a risk assessment and provide "foot protection that is appropriate in the circumstances." Risk assessments that indicate only toe protection is required allow for the use of rubber steel toe overshoes in Ontario.

Smyth says, "Our Slipp-R actually exceeds the performance standards for Grade 1 and 2 toe protection in the CSA Standard for safety footwear. Our CE Certification test results at SATRA in Europe indicate excellent slip resistance which, surprisingly, is something the CSA has little to say about. We sell throughout the world but the "CSA myth" has us stumped in Ontario, where the Slipp-R is made. Go figure!"

There are on average nearly 3,000 toe injuries every year in Canada. The minimum Impact and Compression requirements for steel toe caps hasn't changed for decades which gives credence to the notion adhered to by Safetytoes International that injuries to toes are happening because workers are not protecting them.

The Slipp-R rubber safetytoe overshoe has been tested to be hard-wearing, slip resistant and is transferable with no hygiene issues. Safetytoes International knows that there are many work environments where only occasional toe protection is required. Most toe injuries occur at close quarters and from only chest height. The Slipp-R can provide the appropriate protection at a fraction of the cost of a steel toe cap safety shoe. The Slipp-R is made from a thick, robust rubber material that completely encases the steel toe cap.

Safetytoes International continues to raise awareness for the Slipp-R which they say could result in improved employee comfort and use of PPE, significant cost-savings and increased safety in many Ontario workplaces.