Footwear as PPE

Published Date
August 31, 2022
Photo of work boot
FM Safety Supervisor Sam Hatcher models
a work boot typical of those available
through the warehouse.

If you work in an office environment, daily footwear may be an afterthought or a choice made based on fashion and comfort. But for some FM employees, work footwear is a much more serious consideration. For FM staff who work long hours in hazardous conditions, work boots aren’t just shoes, they’re personal protective equipment (PPE) and a required provision under OSHA.  A new optional safety shoe program is helping FM staff who qualify get the shoes they need to stay safe and comfortable on the job.

The Challenge of Finding the Right Boot

Finding the right work boot is a bit more complicated than choosing a weekend sneaker. Work boots are notoriously uncomfortable. And while essential to protect feet from occupational hazards, it can be difficult to find boots that fit properly depending on an individual’s foot and gait.  

“Feet vary substantially from person to person in width, instep, and arch position factors that may not be adequately addressed by simply going up or down a size and/or width category,” explained Glynnis Bowman, Program Director, Safety and Emergency Management. “Besides being uncomfortable, wearing ill-fitting footwear can result in injury—bunions, blisters, pinch-points, increased stress on joints, and postural or muscular-skeletal injury.  Ill-fitting footwear can also increase the risk of tripping or miss-stepping.”

And when it comes to providing PPE, not just any boot will do. PPE must be selected in accordance with workplace exposure hazards.  “Safety Shoes are tested for impact, compression, and electrical hazard protections by ASTM test method F2413-18a,” said Bowman.  “Shoes that meet the test method are labelled for ASTM F2413-18 (Standard Specification for Performance Requirements for Protective Toe Cap Footwear).”

Red Wing Shoes Optional Safety Shoe Program

Until recently, FM workers needing work boots had few options. Staff would visit the FM Warehouse to request shoes. Many staff were successful in finding the right pair for the job, but staff who couldn’t find a good fit would either make do with an ill-fitting shoe or purchase a boot on their own, paying out of pocket, and waiting for reimbursement.  

Thanks to a new agreement with Red Wing Shoes, getting the right boot just got easier for FM employees who qualify for this type of PPE. The optional Safety Shoe Program, provides better options for staff who can’t find a good fit at the warehouse. Staff still begin with a visit to the FM Warehouse to try on boots. If they find a good fit, they’re done and they use those boots.

If they don’t find the right fit at the warehouse or if they later experience pain or injury related to the boots, they can request a Safety Shoe Program form from FM Safety. The form should be completed and signed by the supervisor, then returned to FM Safety. Forms may be requested and submitted by the supervisor or the employee. Imani Sisco manages the Safety Shoe Program and issues vouchers to employees who have been approved for the program. Vouchers can be used at any Red Wing location for shoes up to $200 that meet the required safety standards. The $200 limit is an increase over the previous reimbursement limit of $100, providing a wider selection for staff with hard-to-fit feet or special needs.

So far, 46 vouchers have been issued. For more information about the Safety Shoe Program, please contact Glynnis Bowman, gbowman@umd.edu or Imani Sisco, isisco@umd.edu.