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The Journal for Employee Protection
The Journal for Employee Protection
We offered footwear manufacturers the opportunity to explain what they think are the most important considerations when selecting this major piece of PPE, what developments they are particularly proud of and how they see the market progressing in the future.
1. What is the most important development or innovation you have seen in the industry over the last 12 months?
The safety world is clearly migrating to sport, thus applying technologies and materials typically used in this sector. The most striking developments in the safety shoes sector are the generalised use of midsole and toe-cap in composite material and the injected EVA midsole.
When it comes to safety shoes, awareness within industry and business has increased considerably in recent years. Across all professional fields, reliable work and safety shoes are increasingly considered an elementary component in professional clothing. Safety shoes must not only provide satisfactory protection from the most varied of hazards on the work floor, they must also be comfortable. This allows them to make a substantial contribution to the reduction of accidents and a decrease in expensive absence due to illness.
Within Bata’s ‘footwear beyond safety’ concept, we continuously focus on achieving a perfect balance between safety and comfort. In doing so, it makes the user the focal point of the research, development and production of high-quality safety shoes which offer perfect protection, support and comfort. It does this through various smart shoe and sock concepts, advanced technology and many welcome features. For example, the joint-saving Tunnelsystem® and the Easy Rolling System® ensure optimum support of the natural action of the foot. However, the four width system, an optimum climate management in the shoe and specially designed inlay and anti-slip soles for every work environment, are examples of unique extras which benefit safety as well as comfort.
The main technological protective equipment introduced in the latest years, the composite toe cap and the fabric puncture resistant insole, are now the basic equipment of almost all levels of safety footwear. An overview of the market could be seen at A+A in September, where a pure style exercise was carried out by many of the key players of the footwear market; stylish footwear with care for details and new aesthetic solutions. Cofra is pursuing the way of high performance footwear and has devised a concrete innovative product, which has no equal at the moment on the market. It is the boot Thermic, highly resistant to low temperature. Thanks to its highly technological manufacturing level, Cofra is one of the three manufacturers in Europe to have the technology to produce this boot. The actual innovation of Cofra’s Thermic boot is the nitrile sole, the fabric puncture resistant insole and the composite toe cap. Different PU densities from the bottom to the top of the bootleg guarantee high thermal insulation and lightness at the same time.
The Dunlop Purofort®+ ultimate safety, a high quality safety wellington boot with heel protector. This heel protector offers impact protection and stability to the ankle area that can prevent the ankle from twisting. A real new innovation in safety boots.
Most important developments are in raw materials, such as using different textiles, non-common leathers, micro fibres, aluminium toecaps, etc., as well as new styling process.
In the last 12 months, the application of technologies traditionally reserved to athletic styles together with the latest safety tools is by far the biggest innovation. Shoes provided with eva/rubber soles together with textile plate and alu toe-cap are the only ones able to grant at the same time extreme comfort, total safety and performances. See the new J-Runner line by Jallatte as the state of the art in this world.
Jalas eXalter safetyshoes, world’s lightest safetyshoe.
Increased quality of Safety Footwear with Gore-tex and Vibram Soles being incorporated into more standard styles. Ladies footwear specifically produced to fit women’s feet, instead of Unisex sizes.
For safety shoes; Kevlar midsoles, composite toe cap and sporty models.
Without a doubt the perspiration system from the company Linea de Seguridad, SL which is incorporated into their new brand Tao Safety. This is value added to the footwear, looking after the health of the user and preventing problems from occurring.
Recent technological advancements have seen the introduction of a specially formulated compound. Compound that is injected into the soles of some of our non-slip footwear and mats to eliminate the risk of bacterial cross contamination. This compound has been warmly welcomed by those where health, hygiene and the risk of spreading infection viruses and bacteria are increasingly sensitive and an important issue.
The metal – free safety shoe.
Toe protection started with steel toe cap, and then aluminium toe cap was discovered, after that composite toe cap came into market and finally plastic toe cap is in the market. Plastic toe cap protection is much better for multi purposes than the others.
Instead of steel midsole, kevlar midsole have started to be used, it has solved many problems that steel midsole cannot solve.
Rubber sole is a perfect solution for every risk environment. Polyurethane-Rubber or Rubber-Rubber injected soles together with plastic toe and kevlar midsole are perfect products for any risk environment.
2. Where do you see footwear for worker safety going in the near future?
The near future asks continuous technological innovations, focused on reaching the maximum comfort through lightness and special constructive solutions.
Apart from the basic requirements of pure safety, we see that there is a clear need for more comfortable footwear in all aspects, such as reduced weight, increased breath ability and more. Furthermore, the shoes should be looking smart. It is in the end the wearer’s experience that counts! With our focus on the wearer, the true user of the safety shoes, we need to become an expert in the field of use: knowledge of both the user as well as the application in which he or she is working. Every person is different and there are also numerous different working conditions. With our broad standard collection, we are achieving the almost perfect fit. Such as The Natural, a shoe line that’s available in 12 length sizes, 4 widths, two outsole materials, three types of lining and many upper designs, all specified to specific personal and working conditions. We also have a separate shoe line for ladies.
The current safety footwear market is mainly split into two levels: low price level products, in competence with Chinese products and high price level products with high level technology, whose request is increasing more and more by mature markets like Scandinavia or Germany. The medium price and product level segment is gradually disappearing. That is why Cofra is strengthening its position of safety specialist in the footwear market completing its offer with specialised products to cover even niche requests.
Increasing development of innovative products with new materials to improve the comfort, durability and protective properties of safety footwear for the end user to offer the right solution for the right working situation.
Safety footwear in the near future should be moving into the comfortable+fashion design mix, developing specific footwear for each worker situation.
I see safety footwear going closer and closer to fashionable and comfortable sporty shoes and at the same time providing a higher level of safety thanks to the introduction of more performing materials. More breathable fabrics, lighter components and technologies “stolen” from other fields.
More shock absorbing constructions in the whole insole area. The price competence is becoming much more important because the employers are looking after expenses more carefully. More specific models for workers in service sector.
Safety footwear will be more and more light-weight and will get a sportier look. You can recognise a trend towards very low price and high quality footwear. The medium segment is missing.
Light weight comfortable products which have been proven to stand up to the demands of the application.
Trendy and more fashionable styles.
If there has been a “boom” in the last few years for cheap safety footwear produced and imported from low cost countries with doubtful fulfilled requirements, the future is in high quality products with innovations that add a value to the health and safety of the footwear.
In the near future better quality composition, new materials and greater emphasis on composite toe will play a major role in footwear. Also design and comfort are increasingly becoming a greater factor in safety footwear.
Stronger separation into heavy duty and light industry applications.
EN standards are developed every period with additional or higher values. That is because of new protection or higher protection requirements. It shows us safety footwear users demand maximum protection levels with comfort and design concepts.
3. What is the most common problem you see end-users and/or specifiers struggling with when it comes to footwear?
End-users usually complain about lack of comfort, weight, rigidity of the shoe and its short life.
There is, and should be, more and more focus on the wellbeing of the people on the work floor. Maybe the quantity of people working in environments that call for protective equipment is reducing, the quality of their material is increasing. We have to assist the decision maker in making the right choice. With an extremely wide collection, with over 150 standard articles, Bata can accommodate almost every request for footwear solutions in a large variety of applications. We assist the decision makers through our network of specialised distributors, who are all experts in the field of Personal Protective Equipment. But they can also visit our website and be advised, 24hrs a day, 7 days a week, by our online shoe advisor. The shoe consultant will provide you with expert shoe recommendations. By simply answering questions about the applicable work conditions, the consultant can provide the decision maker with an indication of the best footwear for the specific application. This is one of the proofs of our focus on the wearer!
End-users seem not to accept anymore to wear uncomfortable footwear; their demand for wellness at work is increasing and the market is answering with higher attention to quality and details. Cofra’s answer is even higher quality for raw materials and high technology to grant maximum comfort: different width for different countries, breathable fabrics exclusive to Cofra worldwide, insoles devised to absorb the shock while walking.
Humidity problems, weight and tired feet are typical end user struggles that need to be addressed in product solutions from footwear suppliers.
Most common problem has a “triple” word: comfort + fashion styling at reasonable price.
To keep workers happy and willing to use safety footwear instead of “standard” shoes, because they feel no differences wearing them many hours per day.
Shoes are too warm to use the whole day.
Shoes do not give good shock absorption and not enough support and end users are getting problems for their feet and back.
The shoe has an unsatisfactory grip resulting in a lot of falling accidents.
The quality control of safety footwear increasingly imported from China is problematic regarding the use of hazardous substances (see e.g. Mattel).
Due to time restrictions on today’s H & S Manager or Buyer – A “one size fits all” approach is generally taken when specifying footwear. Risk assessments specifically for safety footwear would save companies down time due to absenteeism through back injury and accidents such as slips and trips.
Wrong use of the shoes.
When it comes to safety footwear, companies would like cheap, high quality shoes. This doesn’t always go hand in hand. You get what you pay! If you want the quality of a BMW, you have to pay for it. Decision makers see the requirements of safety footwear as an expensive investment. It does not have to be if you buy quality that lasts.
Major problems for end users and/or specifiers include comfort and quality. Comfort – especially in the heavier steel toe styles, Quality – as cheaper therefore lower quality alternatives available.
Limited knowledge about footwear and wearing comfort in general.
The most common problem is lack of risk analysis of the working environment and consideration of products bought from their regular supplier.
4. What is the most important thing for your customers to consider when researching and specifying PPE?
Comfort and appeal play an important role, but customers mainly search products with the best price/value ratio.
The focus should be on the wellbeing of the wearer, as mentioned in the previous points, with goal to reduce the costs caused by absenteeism and accidents on the work floor. This can only be achieved by putting the user central. For Bata, the whole story starts with a sublime fit. That is why we have developed special anatomically shaped lasts. Furthermore, we apply a new, revolutionary shank that combines a stabiliser and shock absorber ensuring better balance, added stability and extra comfort. Combined with breathable (and if required waterproof) upper materials, optimal anti-slip outsoles, comfortable linings and a range of insoles, we are ensuring that as many people as possible perform better with footwear from Bata Industrials. The decision maker has to focus on all these aspects whilst considering the necessary PPE.
Greater attention to profit is remarked. What customers ask for are good quality products at a workable price; high attention to service and punctual deliveries are strategic now because, due to cost reductions, all distributors have reduced stock volumes and expect to get goods in very short time. Cofra, with more than 600,000 pairs of footwear stocked, is able to manage daily shipments of about 15,000 pairs.
Looking at the most suitable safety requirements needed for the working risks at hand for their employees within their organisation.
An important background of years of experience in this specific area, along with a technical support to “beat” products coming from the Asian area.
They need added value.
That the shoes provide a good fit and they support your feet the whole working day. That the shoe model suits well to your working environment. That the shoe gives you a good grip when you have lubricants on the floor and during the cold winter conditions.
Facts like weight, equipment, etc. are the most important criteria when researching PPE. You cannot give a general answer as the individual situation of the customer decides.
The Footwear must be fit for purpose. Specifiers should consider each individual and their needs in relation to their working environment. Safety footwear should not be chosen on looks and price, it must protect the user against the risk and the industry should be very strict on compliance to the latest standards. We would welcome more policing of the industry and more controls by the governing bodies.
For which purpose and what kind of circumstances the shoes will be used.
The customer buying these products for their workers must realise that it is an investment for the health and safety of the users. The same safety footwear is used at least 5 days a week and 8 hours or more per day. Privately people change their fashion shoes daily.
High quality and an innovation are important when the footwear have to resist a long time use. As fashion footwear safety needs to be taken care of too and changed within reasonable time.
The greater the technological advancement in footwear the more expensive footwear becomes. In the case of slip resistant footwear, there are different levels of slip resistance therefore customer needs to be aware of the performance and characteristics of safety footwear available to them.
What they should consider: Next to safety – wearing comfort.
What they do consider: Price.
The most important thing for our customer is risk analysis for their working environment when researching and specifying PPE. That is the main criteria of PPE concept. Then they can determine the protection areas and levels. Finally they can ask the suppliers if the products best suited to them have the correct standard requirements.
So there it is, Health & Safety International’s first ever FORUM on footwear. It was interesting to see that all our respondents mentioned weight and comfort of footwear as important aspects for the future as well as a concern about price versus quality.
Look out for the next FORUM on Height Safety and Fall Arrest in the next issue, April.
For more information on Safety Footwear visit http://www.osedirectory.com/product.php?type=health&product_id=18
Published: 10th Jan 2008 in Health and Safety International
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