We generally think of foot and ankle injuries as resulting from sports such as hiking, running or rock-climbing. But the workplace is a source of many injuries such as sprains, strains and fractures to the foot and ankle. Statistics show, by body part, feet are fifth in terms of compensation costs for workplace injuries.
In other words, a lot of people experience foot and ankle injuries in the workplace. There are over 120,000 foot-related injuries in the workplace every year in the U.S. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 60,000 of these lead to lost work days.
Causes of foot and ankle injuries are numerous. Podiatrists know the primary factors contributing to these injuries, including:
- stepping wrong on uneven ground
- slips and falls, for example on a slippery or wet floor
- impacts from falling objects
- long periods of standing
- fatigue caused by extended periods of walking
- poor or uneven flooring
- poor or inappropriate footwear.
Other factors that contribute to foot and ankle injuries, wherever they occur, are increased weight, bone diseases and aging. As the U.S. population ages, we can expect more foot injuries, including in the workplace.
Types of foot and ankle injuries in the workplace
Four out of five foot injuries in the workplace are the result of an object weighing less than 30 lb. hitting the foot. Although you might imagine falling objects being more common at a construction site than other locations, places such as warehouses, grocery stores and even offices are common sites of injuries. There are three broad categories for work-related foot injuries:
- falling or rolling objects that cause cuts, punctures, sprains and crushed feet or toes
- slips and falls leading to sprains, strains and fractures
- chronic problems such as flat feet, bunions, corns and calluses caused by extended periods of standing.
Prevention is better than a cure
Workers and employers can do a lot to avoid foot injuries and all other types in the workplace. Most of these are common sense, but some might surprise you. The first point is that shoes or other footwear must fit right and feel comfortable. Although this seems a no-brainer, there are many people who wear uncomfortable shoes because they’re fashionable. High heels are notorious for causing pain and long-term injury to feet, legs and backs. Where wet floors are common—including in restaurants and catering facilities—non-slip soles are essential to help prevent falls.
Workers who are outdoors in winter must have insulated footwear that is also waterproof or at least water-resistant. Wet feet are the cause of many foot injuries. In industrial worksites, workers should wear shoes or boots that provide the appropriate protection, such as puncture resistance and steel toes. Where chemicals or solvents are used, footwear should have synthetic stitching or compound materials that protect the wearer from harmful materials. Where electrical currents and high voltage are risks, shoes should have electrical hazard (EH) protection.
Workplaces can take a step forward in foot injury prevention by putting up signs where a floor is wet and by rotating employees regularly through jobs that require standing for extended periods. When designing a new or refurbished workplace consider cork, wood or rubber, where appropriate. These materials are more flexible than concrete and thus kinder to feet.
What can you do in your workplace?
In your workplace, you can watch for foot hazards such as bumps in the carpet, uneven or worn spots on tile floors, cracks in concrete and wet floors. Also look out for tripping hazards. These include objects out of place, wires or extension cords across halls or walkways, open drawers or spilled liquids. Call them out and fix them, if possible. A podiatrist in Park City can help fix foot and ankle injuries, but you can help avoid them in recreation and at work with some simple steps. Contact Heiden Orthopedics today for more information.