Your feet are the root of your body and when not kept healthy, it can ultimately cause pain in your knees, hips, and back. Protecting your feet is a proactive way to prevent debilitating health conditions and boost your healthfulness. (MEGAComfort photo)

Foot Injuries: Why They Matter and How to Avoid Them in Any Workplace

Supportive footwear with added comfort and shock absorption can prevent injury, illness, and fatigue.

Working hard is part of our everyday lives, but sometimes this work can put us at risk, whether we're aware of it or not. There are many jobs that can put individuals in dangerous circumstances and employers are responsible for minimizing the risk of injuries, major or minimal, that could negatively impact their employees. Foot injuries are one of the most prevalent incidents in the workplace, regardless of occupation.

In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 52,070 cases of foot-related injuries. As a result, these injuries can lead to missed work days, pain, decreased productivity, higher expenditures in health care costs, and even partial or permanent disabilities. Fortunately, employers and employees can work together and take steps towards minimizing risks and increasing wellness.

Constructing Happy Feet
Construction is known as one of the most dangerous occupations, due to all of the workplace hazards that these workers are exposed to on a daily basis. On an average construction site, workers might see falling/loose objects, be required to participate in heavy lifting, climb ladders, or use unsafe equipment and heavy machinery. These are some of the common hazards facing construction workers, so they must always be prepared and on high alert while on the job site. Not only do these items present danger, but the physical exhaustion these professionals experience can lead to unsteadiness, causing slips, trips, and falls.

To prevent these injuries, it is recommended that workers take breaks throughout the day to rehydrate and rest their feet. Employers can do their part to protect employees and help reduce the risks associated with daily construction duties by investing in personal protection equipment (PPE). Almost everyone, including full-time, part-time, and visiting employees, benefits from PPE. For example, construction workers are constantly walking on hard surfaces, filled with dangerous items such as shards of glass and nails. Puncture resistant anti-fatigue insoles not only support and comfort workers, but also they provide much-needed protection from objects that can penetrate and potentially stab workers.

Managers and temporary workers who visit construction sites also need to be cautious and benefit from composite-toe overshoes, which are easy to slip over most shoes and prevent injury from falling objects. These items are best used for temporary protection when moving large objects and when on site where material may be falling unexpectedly.

Assemble the Foot Protection
While physically demanding jobs such as construction tend to be thought of as dangerous, assembly line workers can also experience many on-site injuries. Assembly line workers are an integral part of manufacturing goods, but their close proximity to heavy machinery and the amount of time spent of their feet can be a recipe for disaster. The machines these workers are using can be extremely harmful when used incorrectly and can even cost people their limbs, or worse, their lives.

Workers who stand in the same place for a long period of time put themselves at risk for arthritis, back and posture problems, and severe foot pain. Although factory workers often stand in the same position and area for hours on end, it is common to experience slips, trips and falls. These employees often spend the majority of their time in workstations with anti-fatigue matting. Although these mats are placed with good intentions, they are often the culprit of countless disasters and accidents.

Floor matting frequently peels, becomes uneven, and collects debris, making them dangerous hazards for slips, trips, and falls. Employers can save time, money, and the headache of installing, repairing, and maintaining costly anti-fatigue matting by swapping them for personalized anti-fatigue mat insoles. Starting an anti-fatigue insole program not only reduces slips, trips, and falls, but also these products provide each employee with constant and continuous support and shock absorption.

According to the 2016 edition of the National Safety Council chart book "Injury Facts," slips, trips, and falls in the United States alone resulted in 44.5 million injuries, costing companies $967.9 billion. To help prevent these slip-ups, assembly line workers should invest in sturdy footwear, such as protective work boots, that provide arch support and have good traction. Boots that are cut higher give the ankle added protection and ideal traction for an environment with slick and cluttered floors.

Supporting Foot Health
Professional drivers, such as bus drivers and truckers, are at a higher risk of foot injuries than one might think. These employees are often seated for most of the day. Transportation professionals are prone to weakened foot muscles, which can lead to sprains and strains. When these workers are in action, they are typically required to lift heavy objects while unloading vehicles, climbing in and out of raised transportation. Combine this burst of physically demanding activity with a lot of sedentary time and you have a recipe for fatigue and disaster.

All of these motions point straight toward foot injuries. To help reduce the risks associated with this job, it is best for these men and women to wear anti-fatigue insoles to give their feet the comfort, control, and shock absorption needed. Insoles that use memory foam technology, such as these personal anti-fatigue mat insoles, provide optimum support and comfort—instantly giving relief to their feet and preventing unruly, work-related aches and pains.

Foot Protection from 9-to-5
Even though active and physically demanding jobs may have a higher foot injury rate, individuals working a 9-to-5 desk job can still find themselves with similar foot injuries. Employees who do not walk enough during the day are prone to weak ankles, leading to strains, foot cramping, back pain, and even arthritis. In order to avoid this, employees should take it upon themselves to take a few walking breaks throughout the day. Doing small movements, such as ankle rolls under the desk or calf lifts during a break, can help keep foot muscles strong. Whether an employee is sedentary or active, the same principle applies; Supportive footwear with added comfort and shock absorption can prevent injury, illness, and fatigue.

Regardless of profession, various workplace responsibilities place employees at risk for foot injuries. Workers suffering from pain and injury are forced to take time off of work. While it is not ideal to miss work to heal and recover, it is also important to focus on how these injuries affect us outside of work and why we need to take recovery seriously. Your feet are the root of your body and when not kept healthy, can ultimately cause pain in your knees, hips, and back. Protecting your feet is a proactive way to prevent debilitating health conditions and boost your healthfulness.

In order to steer clear of injuries, individuals must remember to focus on foot preparedness, because healing a foot injury is much harder than preventing one. Utilizing puncture-resistant insoles, composite-toe overshoes where needed, wearing anti-fatigue insoles regularly, investing in sturdy footwear with good traction and arch support, and working out your ankles and feet whenever you have the time can all help in reducing your chances of experiencing foot injuries—no matter what occupation. Regardless of an individual's workplace or level of activity, there is one thing that remains true: Employees and employers should all work together to create a workplace culture of healthfulness, starting from the ground up.

This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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