How The Foundation of Your Success Lies at the Health of Your Employee's Feet

As seen in OH&S June 2022

Man On Ladder
“ All companies know that their employees are the foundation of their success. ”

Hard-working, innovative, motivated, organized, happy and healthy employees are essential to a company thriving, growing and surpassing the competition.

Encouraging these employee qualities and satisfaction is simple - focus on the health of their feet, the foundation of their body.

Man Working Wearing Carhartt Shoes
The Painful Problem

From distribution, delivery, warehouse, light & heavy industrial, maintenance and more; many jobs and positions require all-day standing, some in one stationary position and others constantly moving. Various studies show possible detrimental effects to the body from 5 or more continuous hours on your feet.

The resulting pro-longed lower body muscle fatigue may raise the risk for long-term back pain and other Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs). Overuse and body weight pressure can lead to Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSIs), which account for 60% of work-related injuries, such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, arch and heel pain, metatarsalgia, shin splints and more.

Long durations of standing or sitting can lead to poor blood circulation that causes fatigue and cognitive symptoms, especially when other health issues are present such as diabetes and obesity. This reduced blood flow increases the chance of painful discomfort from a life-threatening blood clot, either deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or a pulmonary embolism (PE) as well as memory loss and difficulty concentrating.

Employees feeling fatigue and pain are less productive and aware. Pain causes them to move slower, get less done and can result in distraction errors and injuries. Employees who do not feel good can be agitated and offended easier, a bad influence on other workers, and call off work more often.

As a result, industrial companies evaluate their work environment stresses, conduct risk assessments and health screenings, and have adopted employee wellness programs hoping to counter the negative effects to boost morale and productivity.

Unfortunately, most wellness programs don't provide an adequate way to resolve the root issue which is full body pain and discomfort that results from the repetitive stress on feet. While many provide needed time for breaks and change of position and some supply anti-fatigue mats (which also prove to be stationary tripping hazards), the core solution to full body wellness is individual employee foot health.

An Innovative Solution

Subsidizing specialized foot products into an employee wellness program or safety program is an innovative solution to keeping workers safe, healthy and on the job.

Beyond the normal required safety toe, puncture plate or metatarsal guard that protects from accidental injuries; work boots can be specifically constructed with elements to also help relieve and prevent long-term ailments, such as a wider toe box to address diabetic feet or a shank for extra arch support to relieve fallen arches. Providing a proven way to ensure a proper fit is important as well to prevent constriction, pinching, slipping and to secure stability.

All feet are built different. Add in physical wear, tear and breakdown from excessive standing and we create a need for personal adjustment to re-establish natural body position and alignment. Custom orthotics built to relieve pressure, reposition foot tissue, tendons & muscles, and to realign feet, knees, hips & back will prevent issues, correct current ailments and relieve debilitating pain.

Compression socks help a body work more efficiently by increasing blood circulation and oxygenation to relieve stress off the heart and brain, preventing blood clots, reducing lactic acid build-up to lower fatigue and distraction errors, adding arch and heel support, and protecting sensitive tissue to help alleviate specific ailments.

Woman working wearing Carhartt
The Compound Effect

When the benefits of multiple products work together to produce an even greater result you have a compound effect.

For workers developing foot and body issues and experiencing pain and fatigue, the compounded relieving effect of wearing compression socks and custom orthotics in a properly fitting work boot could prove substantial.

For example, all 3 products can profess the benefit of reducing foot and body fatigue. Custom orthotics will do this by providing added cushion and comfort, making sure the body is properly aligned and working efficiently and by helping to reduce pain. Compression socks reduce fatigue by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain and decreasing lactic acid build-up. A good pair of boots will have quality materials in the midsole and outsole to absorb shock and take stress off feet, knees and back to reduce fatigue.

All 3 products work in different ways and yet all 3 have the same resulting benefit of reduced fatigue. And while the benefit of using just one is good, the result is even greater when using all 3 together.

Another example of the compound effect can be seen with a common specific ailment such as Plantar Fasciitis. A custom orthotic will help support and relieve the stretch of the fascia ligament while a compression sock will provide firm support in the arch and heel to protect the sensitive tissue and reduce inflammation. Two different products with two different benefits but both address the same ailment to provide a greater result.

Foot Health Benefits

Encouraging personal foot wellness products with proper fitting footwear to elevate on-the job safety empowers employees to improve their physical abilities. They have a way to relieve the stress on their body, feel stronger and healthier and do things longer without pain, on and off the job, giving them an overall better quality of life. This will enhance a company's perception of care with its employees as well as its commitment to safety thus improving its safety culture.

When a company invests in programs and products that don't just focus on the accidental injury but look beyond the minimum safety requirement to ways to ensure long-term full body health, employees perceive that management wants them to stick around a while and increases overall retention.

Since employees who do not feel good can get easily agitated and offended, the opposite it also true. Healthy employees are slower to anger, less likely to become frustrated, have greater patience, listen better, and retain greater information allowing them to be a more proficient, quality worker. As a positive example to other fellow workers, they improve company morale.

When employees are healthy and pain-free they have greater energy and are more productive throughout the entire workday. They don't have a need to call off work to rest or heal an overworked muscle or stressed back. A company will have less time off cases and overtime expense as well as lower incident rates and RSIs (repetitive stress injuries). Lower insurance claims along with showing a committed plan for greater employee health to a carrier will lower premiums.

By focusing on feet as the foundation of full body wellness a company can easily implement a comprehensive solution to improve worker wellness, productivity and performance while reducing risk and liability - all true measures of a successful business.

About the author
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Janelle Kinnaird

Janelle is the Director of Marketing for Lehigh CustomFit Managed Safety Footwear and Wellness Programs which is celebrating 100 years of providing innovative solutions.