09/08/2008

Drop 'inappropriate' footwear codes and reduce back and foot problems

Many workers face problems with their feet or legs because of the wrong
footwear or because they are forced to stand for too long. Feet bear the brunt
of the daily working life. Prolonged standing, badly fitting footwear, high
heels, slippery surfaces and falling objects are just some of the dangers to
which we expose our feet in the workplace.

It is estimated that around 80 per cent of the adult population has some form
of foot problem. This can vary from aches and pains, swelling and corns to
fungal infections and varicose veins. While not all of these are a result of
work activities, a large proportion are. Our feet are exposed to many dangers
at work and, like every other danger, the risk can be avoided or removed if
employers take simple straightforward steps to protect their workers.

The biggest risk probably comes from slips and trips. This can be caused by
inappropriate footwear but often the problem is not just with the footwear but
the actual surface. Employers should make sure that floors are kept clean and
dry and, where that is not possible, special flooring may need to be installed.

The British Trades Union Congress (TUC) called for employers to drop
'inappropriate' requirements for workers to wear uncomfortable or dangerous
footwear.

A new TUC guide Working feet and footwear found that while many employers allow
employees to wear healthy and safe footwear, a number of big city institutions
and upmarket shops insist female staff who deal with the public wear slip-on
shoes or high heels as part of a dress code. This can lead to long-term foot
problems, especially when combined with prolonged standing.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'When researching case studies for
the guide on footwear we were surprised how many times we found that employers'
dress codes did not permit the wearing of comfortable sensible footwear by
women.

'Heels may look glamorous on the catwalks and on Hollywood stars, but they're
not appropriate for day-to-day work wear. These dress codes - apart from being
blatantly sexist - can lead to long-term foot and back problems as women are
forced to stand or walk around in high heels or ill-fitting footwear.

'Feet bear the brunt of the daily working life and instead of worrying about
what their staff look like, employers should focus on the effect that the wrong
shoes and prolonged standing can have. Employers should look at encouraging
their staff to come to work in comfortable shoes and, where possible, provide
the option of sitting.'

Many problems are caused by inadequate footwear. Work in any environment where
there is a risk of slipping requires slip-resistant shoes. Where there is the
risk of a shoe being crushed or hit by an object, or even caught in machinery,
safety footwear must be provided. If there is the possibility of standing on
nails or other sharp objects then the employer must provide puncture resistant
soles.

The TUC believes that workers should be able to wear the footwear that is
appropriate to their occupation, working environment, and feet. That means
employers should ensure that the risk assessment they have to do by law
includes risks to the feet as well as slipping risks. If safety or special
footwear is required they must supply it at no cost to the worker.


More info


AplusA-online.de - Source: Trades Union Congress (TUC)