Canadian Occupational Safety

February/March 2018

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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18 Canadian Occupational Safety | O n March 19, 1999, a night cook in Manitoba applied for workers' com- pensation for his plantar fasciitis. In his application describ- ing his last shift, he said the soles of his feet "gave out" and they were swollen and inflamed with extreme soreness and tenderness. The pain extended from the heel to the ball of both feet. The worker said his condition arose out of his employ- ment as he was required to walk and stand on a particularly hard surface for extended periods of time. He had been working as a chef for more than 15 years and not once did he ever have similar problems with his feet. In the nine months that he worked for this employer, he went through three pairs of expensive footwear. A workers' compensation board adjudicator originally denied the claim and that decision was upheld by the review office. However, a worker advisor appealed the deci- sion and the appeal commission determined the claimant's plantar fasciitis arose out of and in the course of his employment, and the claim was accepted. Plantar fasciitis is a fairly common injury that health and safety manag- ers need to be aware of. One way they can help prevent this painful diagnosis is by ensuring that safety footwear not only checks all the safety requirements, but is comfort- able and supportive, too. "We see a ton of plantar fasciitis," says Brad Sonnema, president of the Canadian Podiatric Medical Asso- ciation in Edmonton. "Safety boots are very protective; they have a lot of qualities for protection, but they are not always supportive. If you look at the inside, they tend of be quite flat… So you're on your feet all day and you need that little extra support for whatever reason but you don't have it, then the plantar facia will start to take up a lot of stress." According to the Canadian Podi- atric Medical Association, there are many other common foot ailments that can occur or be made worse from unsupportive or ill-fitting footwear: • Bunions — an enlargement at the base of the big toe caused by a mis- alignment of the joint. It may be swollen, tender and painful. • Blisters — painful, f luid-filled lesions often caused by friction and pressure from ill-fitting shoes, stiff shoes, wrinkled socks against the skin, excessive moisture or foot deformities. • Corns and calluses — a build up of the skin that forms at the points of pressure or over bony prominences. Calluses form on the bottom and sides of the foot while corns form on the top of the foot and between the toes. • Hammertoes — a contraction deformity, resulting in bony promi- nences on the toes. • Ingrown nails — a painful condition caused by the nail growing into the surrounding skin, leading to inflammation and possible infec- tion of the toe. • Neuromas — often referred to as a pinched nerve, swollen nerve or nerve tumour, this painful condi- tion is a benign growth of nerve tissue frequently found between the third and fourth toes (also known as Morton's Neuroma), however, it can also occur between the second and third toes. It may result in pain, burning, tingling or numbness between the toes and in the ball of the foot. Aside from being painful or uncom- fortable, these foot issues can cause a distraction, which is a safety concern, says Brian Cassidy, director of envi- ronment, workplace safety and health at Purolator in Mississauga, Ont. "If our mind is distracted toward a blister or pinching or ill fitting foot- wear, if we are thinking about our footwear, then we are not thinking about mind on task," he says. "When we have the proper footwear on our feet that fit right and are doing their job, we don't think about them at all." It's important to note that the effects of poor footwear extend beyond the feet. "Workers who walk or stand for long periods of time during the work- day, without the proper footwear, foot support, shock absorption, they are susceptible to pain and muscu- loskeletal disorders that can really have lasting effects on the body," says Kevan Orvitz, owner and founder of MegaComfort, an ergonomic anti- fatigue insole company in Toronto. Workers may face an increased risk of inflammation and muscle fatigue as well as ankle, knee, back, hip and neck pain. These injuries can not only result in workers' compen- sation claims, they can also cause an increase in absenteeism and a decrease in productivity. "The feet really are the foundation of the whole body. It's like a building: If the foundation is weak, the entire structure of the entire building is weak as well," says Orvitz. SIZE AND FIT As children, our feet were measured regularly with a metal Brannock Device that we stepped on at the shoe store, but not many of us do this as adults — something we ought to reconsider. "It's amazing how many people don't wear the right size shoes," says Michael Hampton, marketing manager at Mister Safety Shoes in Toronto. "They think they do and they think they know what their size is but they don't actually." Improper fit is a "recipe for pain and disaster," says Sonnema, so it's of the utmost importance that work- ers get the right safety boot for them. First, workers need to be properly evaluated so they know exactly what size they need. A lot of people have feet that are slightly different sizes, so Comfortable safety footwear can keep workers focused and prevent long-term pain By Amanda Silliker

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