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Steel Company Puts A Foot Wrong When Issuing Protective Boots

Work boots and hard hat
30th September 2013

The importance of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) can never be underestimated in any workplace let alone within construction, engineering and other heavy industries. It is always disappointing to hear of employers who appear to cut corners or simply fail to heed advice which could have so easily have prevented a needless accident or a subsequent injury claim from happening. 

Between 2011 and 2012, there was a total of over 30,000 slips and trips in the workplace (including injuries requiring a work absence of over 3 days), accounting for an average of 40 per cent of all accidents and injuries to company employees. (RIDDOR - Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations).

Attention to special protection

A heavy industrial environment, such as a steel plant, should be the one type of workplace where attention to body protection is crucial, especially the wearing of special footwear when working near or around a molten steel making blast furnace. 

Unfortunately, this was not the case when a steel production company based in South Yorkshire changed the type of protective footwear issued to their workforce and failed to listen to their concerns. Work boots, previously manufactured with integrated protective guards, were replaced with separate guards, which needed to be clipped on and were soon recognised by the workers as a ‘tripping hazard’ because of their loose fit.

Severe burns

As a result, a 55 year old worker tripped up when a loose boot guard caused him to fall against the side of the blast furnace, which can reach temperatures of between 900°C  to 1300°C. The furnace worker suffered severe burns which, after more than a month away from work because of daily hospital visits, left him with visible scarring. 

Incredibly, the steel company refused to accept they were at fault for not providing safe protective equipment but were required to pay £ 3,000 in accident compensation – and did, in fact, later issue replacement protective foot guard boots. 

According to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, the equipment to be supplied must be: 

  • Properly assessed before use to make sure it is fit for purpose
  • Maintained and stored properly
  • Provided with instructions on safe and correct use. 

With regard to the feet and legs, HSE state that it is important that the appropriate footwear is selected for the risks identified.

Employers must accept that certain types of working environments are dangerous and protect their workforce appropriately.