Feet at work
Your feet can take a pounding in the workplace. The daily demands of your job – walking, standing for long periods, lifting, jumping on or off machinery – all place your feet under pressure. While you are working your feet may absorb up to three times your body weight and working feet can travel up to 24 kilometres in a day! The work environment itself can create health risks for your feet. Hazardous conditions – oily or slippery floors, wet conditions, or extreme heat or cold – put feet at risk of injury and can lead to foot problems.
Stress fractures, sprains, strains, corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, chilblains, and tinea are some of the foot problems which can occur in the workplace or be aggravated at work. Problems such as calluses, corns, and blisters can be caused by pressure.
If your feet do not fit properly into standard shoes or boots, then you are more likely to experience pressure-related foot problems. Deep arches or pains in the arch, ball of the foot or heel may be related to muscle strain, which is associated with poor foot posture – correcting or improving foot posture can reduce strain.
As even minor irritations can reduce your mobility and productivity, it is important to seek help for all foot ailments including sore or tired feet. Individual assessment and advice from a podiatrist is recommended.
In almost every workplace there is the risk of trips, slips and falls, or objects falling or rolling on to feet. Be aware of foot hazards and use foot-safe work practices and use the necessary footwear to protect your feet.
Regardless of your workplace – office, shop, warehouse, or restaurant – comfortable, properly fitted footwear is essential to maintaining foot health. Appropriate footwear can protect your feet by insulating them against cold, preventing them from getting wet or by cushioning them from the impact of your job. In many workplaces safety shoes/boots are necessary to protect against environmental risks but they also need to be comfortable and correctly fitted.
Your Podiatrist talks about Feet at Work
Always have your feet measured. Remember that the length, width, and depth of the shoe should all be considered. Be specific and insistent about your requirements.
Foot care in the workplace
As an employer you can prevent foot problems at work by:
- promoting foot health in your workplace
- contracting a podiatrist to give a talk on foot care to employees
- encouraging your staff members to report foot problems, however minor (e.g. safety shoes that rub)
- looking at the foot health record of your company – multiple foot complaints may suggest the workplace itself is creating foot problems
- doing a “Foot Risk Assessment” in the workplace – look for ways to minimise the burden on your employees’ feet. (A podiatrist will able to assist you with assessing workplace foot risks)
- emphasising to the safety officer or occupational physician that foot complaints should be taken seriously
- if your employees wear safety shoes, ask yourself: Do we stock an adequate range of safety shoes to suit every staff member? If not, out-sourcing the supply and fit of safety shoes may be more cost-effective
- allowing employees a crossover period when they exchange their old safety shoes for a new pair.
As an employee, you can maintain your foot health by:
- being aware of the hazards in your workplace. If you have concerns about foot safety, alert your workplace representative or your employer
- reporting any foot pain or discomfort to your employer or safety officer
- making sure your shoes fit for your workplace (e.g. safety shoes if applicable)
- remembering – feet shouldn’t hurt. Sore feet are a sign of problems
- visiting a podiatrist if you have foot problems.
At AC Podiatry we have a special interest in Occupational Podiatry both preventing and treating injuries in the work place. We have provided on site visits, educational seminars and employee screening to companies in the manufacturing, viticulture and agricultural sectors with great success. We would love the opportunity to work with you to improve the foot health of your business.