Slip-resistant shoes are an important component of a comprehensive slip, trip, and fall prevention program, and janitors who work on walking surfaces that are continually wet, greasy or slippery may benefit from slip-resistant shoes.

One of the main challenges BSCs face when choosing non-slip footwear for their employees is determining a budget and proving a positive return on investment. However, Liberty Mutual’s 2011 Workplace Safety Index found that slip-resistant shoes cut slip-and-fall rates by half, proving that investing in non-slip footwear is beneficial.

Many employers, however, may be tempted to choose a product of lesser quality due to its lower price point. While this may seem like the best economic choice when first purchasing the product, distributors caution that if the product doesn’t offer the support and slip prevention necessary to keep employees safely on their feet, it may not be the best choice.

“Most of the BSCs that I work with typically understand the importance of safety,” says Hall. “With some BSCs it is written in their safety manuals as a standard procedure when stripping any floor. The benefits far outweigh the negatives. One slip and fall can devastate a BSC.”

Some BSCs, however, still aren’t offering proper safety footwear for their employees, according to distributors who sell the products.

“They are important for safety, but unfortunately we do not see that many end users utilizing the shoes,” says Linda Silverman, president of Maintex Inc., a distributor in City of Industry, California. “I am not certain who resists wearing the shoes, if it is the front-line worker or the company being reluctant to invest in these products.”

Distributors say safety footwear is often not a top-of-mind product for BSCs until a slip-and-fall accident occurs.

“I have been in business for 30 years and have probably sold a total of a dozen,” says Kurz. “Fifty percent of my customers are BSCs. Why they don’t buy them is a mystery to me. I would think you would do anything to eliminate the possibility of slipping.”

Distributors say that BSCs should be on the lookout for cleaning personnel who show up to work wearing inappropriate footwear. Unless they have a medical release that provides clear guidance on what type of shoes they must wear, cleaners should be held to a company standard.

Unlike construction sites or warehouses where hard-toed shoes are a requirement, janitors tend to wear tennis shoes or soft-type shoes that may or may not have good traction or provide any serious level of protection to their feet. An example of inappropriate footwear is for a worker to wear open-toed sandals. These are not only a trip hazard by design, but they also expose toes and feet to possible injury.

A slip-resistant footwear program should be in the company handbook and should include a policy for footwear selection, purchase, reimbursement and replacement. This policy should be customized to meet the specific needs of a BSC’s organization. Before implementing a slip-resistant footwear program, it is a good idea to have legal counsel review the policy for potential legal exposures.

Implementing a slip-resistant footwear program can be an effective strategy in preventing slips and falls for BSCs. It is important that the features, benefits and limitations of slip-resistant footwear be understood by BSCs before a program is put into effect. When implemented in lock-step with good cleaning standards, safety footwear programs can offer a comprehensive approach to managing slips and falls in the workplace.

Nick Bragg is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee. He is a former Deputy Editor of Sanitary Maintenance, a sister publication to Contracting Profits.

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