When it comes to PPE, the obvious is often overlooked.
Sure, there’s a hard hat, safety goggles, high-visibility vest, gloves, and work boots, but how often are those work boots inspected for working order?
If you are part of Teamsters 419 working for Canada Crane, you receive an allowance for new work boots every six months. Other unions claim work boot allowances annually or based on the number of hours worked and this sometimes differs by contract with each employer.
However, paying attention to work boots is essential in terms of occupational health and safety. Statistics from the United States show that those who are on their feet every day face a higher risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and this accounts for around half of all work-related injuries.
Construction sites, of course, carry much higher risks than the average factory floor and so there is even more potential damage from improper footwear. Since the impact is not properly absorbed by the shoe, additional stress is placed on the ankles, knees, hips and back.
IBEW 353 Master Electrician Garry Janes says he replaces his own safety boots every six months, even if they come out of his own pocket.
“We had a unique deal where we could get new boots at a discount,” says the 40-year veteran of the trade. “But we don’t have it in our contract. I have to replace mine every six months because they died. Literally, the sole dies. I walk on concrete for 12 hours almost every day and it really hurts and I’m starting to feel it in my back.
There are also other issues with the boots over time. Soles wear out and can lose grip, leading to slips and falls. They can split, allowing water to leak in while the leather boot itself can also tear. As the leather wears, this means a less tight fit and this can also cause problems.
PPE has been a key part of the labor movement’s drive since day one to bring safety standards to workers, especially in construction.
John Colantonio, second-generation owner of Mr. Safety Shoes, says that historically there was always an allowance to buy safety shoes, but over the years it has become less common, mainly because the workforce work does not always work for the same employer.
Colantonio’s father, Frank, had been an organizer for the Carpenters Union in the 1960s and lived through the two legendary strikes that cemented the labor movement in Toronto.
He and his wife Nella started their shoe business in 1972, turning the family lady’s shoe store into a construction boot store named Safety Shoes and Equipment Centre.
Safety has always been a priority for Frank. The tradition continues even though the boots sold have evolved with modern designs and materials to add comfort with protection.
Merchants should also be aware of the hidden sting of some refunds.
“Whereas some construction union contracts contain clauses that pay the member for their safety shoes,” he says. “People should know when you get money to buy boots and there’s no evidence you bought boots, so it’s a taxable benefit. The allowance given, say $120, ends up being taxed, so it’s really only about $75 that the worker gets after tax.
The employer and participant should design a program where the participant gets 100% of the benefit tax-free, he advises.
He says it’s important to maintain form and comfort. “They track people who take 20,000 steps a day, that’s a lot.”
Boot design has changed over the years, he adds, now paying more attention to the soles.
“The old-school sole had a density with a material that didn’t offer much shock absorption,” he says. “Now there is a dual density outsole with a medium density sole which is quite durable and acts as a shock absorber for the spine and it also increases the longevity of the outsole.
“There are also new Vibram soles which are slip resistant on wet and icy surfaces,” he says. More and more employers are investing in this type of footwear for their workers because a single lost time injury from a bad slip and fall could have a very negative impact on both the employee and the worker. ‘business.
Jason Ottey, director of government relations and communications for Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 183, says the tools and boots clause has been part of contract language for so long. that he can’t even tell when it was first included.
“It’s a matter of bread and butter, of motherhood,” he says. “It never really comes up because it’s always there and the employers don’t care and of course we listen to what our members want.”