Feet first into construction: 4 essentials of women's work boots
Construction, along with other industrial sectors, is undergoing a gender diversity workplace revolution — attracting women into a workforce that has been traditionally dominated by men. A protective footwear expert explains the four essentials of work boot selection, which will ensure women stepping onto Australia’s worksites put their best foot forward.
The diversity of the workforce and job functions in traditional blue-collar industries is evolving. Globally, companies of all sizes, including those in the construction, infrastructure and mining industries, are expanding both with new technologies and setting goals to have gender diversification and equality across their operations. With these changes and goals brings along new personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements.
Safety product manufacturers are growing their ranges to adapt to ensure products are fit for purpose and meet the workforce requirements. One important aspect of PPE is safety footwear and there are simple ways to ensure that work boots are fit for purpose for all team members. Here are some tips on selecting the right work boots, particularly for the growing number of women in traditional blue-collar industries such as construction.
1. Correct fit
A correct fit is the first step to ensuring work boots are fit for purpose. It is recommended that all work boots are correctly fitted by a safety specialist or retailer, and wearing the socks that’ll be worn every day, before purchase. If the product does not fit correctly, there is an increased risk of foot injury to the wearer, which in some cases can cause permanent damage.
2. Men’s vs women’s
The anatomy of the male and female foot is not the same. According to international research conducted by SATRA, the male foot on average is both longer and wider than a female foot. This should be a key consideration when purchasing work boots. Many ladies work boot ranges are simply a smaller men’s size, but it is important to select a brand that has specifically built its range to suit the anatomy of the female foot. Be sure to consult a local safety and PPE specialist, who will have a ladies range available for fitting and purchase.
3. Safety features
It is recommended to properly assess the work environment and choose the footwear that has the right features to suit the requirements of the worker. Key considerations in the selection of appropriate protective footwear include:
- Boot height: A lace-up boot with a minimum height covering the ankle can help reduce the risk of rolling the ankle, which can cause injuries and sprains.
- Lace-up vs zip: Zip boots are becoming more popular, providing an easy-on and easy-off option, particularly for those in residential construction. However, some sites don’t allow zip boots, so a lace-up only option may better suit.
- Leather: The popularity of nubuck and suede work boots is growing for both male and female tradies. It’s best to assess the work environment to ensure the right leather type is selected. Finished full grain leathers are easier to maintain and clean following a day on the worksite, for example.
- Toe caps: There are predominately two types of toe protection available: the traditional steel toe cap and composite non-metallic toe caps. A steel toe cap will perform better against penetration with a nail gun or cutting with a power saw, while composite toe caps are non-metallic and great for workers that need to move through security environments without any hassle.
- Penetration resistance: If protection is required from standing on sharp objects, then consideration should be made to purchase a work boot that incorporates a penetration resistant midsole. These can be a steel or composite base.
4. Australian standards
AS 2210.3 prescribes detailed testing of safety footwear. Safety products are tested for basic impact and compression requirements of toe caps and extend to many tests of the upper section and soling. Additional features can be added and subsequently tested for specific job requirements. In construction, this could include electrical properties or levels of water resistance. As part of the standard, it is required for the product to be labelled with the standards it has been tested against. For additional piece of mind, this label should also include a conformance mark to ensure compliance with the referenced standard.
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