Everything you think you know about safety boots may be wrong

Source: istockphoto.com

SafetyAtWorkBlog reader Tony wrote a long comment on safety footwear in response to a blog article from 2016. The comment deserves its own post, below.

Hi Kevin – arriving at this conversation incredibly late (though ‘better late than never’, as I believe someone once intoned), but there’s a decent reason I’m now invested in the conversation.

I recently spent an interesting hour or so with a sports podiatrist discussing, as you would suspect, footwear. More specifically, we talked about footwear to suite workers who spend the bulk of their time outdoors, working and walking on innumerable forms of uneven surfaces. And more specifically again, we discussed the degree(s) of ankle protection that, evidently, high-cut boots are able to provide.


One of the take-home messages I took was the (apparent) absence of data to support the continued promotion of ‘high-cut’ footwear, when it comes to trying to provide ankle protection.

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In 2015, the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) took legal action against the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and one of that union’s organisers, Pomare Auimatagi, over the organiser’s actions seemed to breach one of  John Holland’s personal protective equipment (PPE) policies. The CFMEU and Auimatagi were found guilty of breaching the Fair Work Act and fined over A$58,000 by the Federal Circuit Court on 9 March 2018.  The case raises a couple of occupational health and safety management issues.

According to

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Reliance on PPE impedes safety progress

There is an increasing call for the mandatory wearing of high-visibility clothing for motorcycle riders around the world.  The reason is to make motorcyclist more visible to car drivers and other road users.  This sounds logical and sensible and is, in some way, based on the prominence of high-visibility clothing in  the industrial sectors of manufacturing, construction and others.  But is this a matter of policy based on evidence or a broad application of logic or a “common sense”?

As the requirement for high visibility clothing has been in workplaces longer than on motorcyclists it is worth looking for evidence of the effectiveness of high visibility clothing in workplaces.  A brief survey of some of the research literature has been unsuccessful in locating much research into this issue. (We always welcome input from readers on this). Wikipedia traces high-visibility clothing back to Scottish railways in the early 1960s, where

“Train drivers operating in these areas were asked their opinion as to the effectiveness of the jackets.”

It would seem the choice of high visibility clothing has stemmed from assessing a workplace, determining the dominant colour of that workplace or environment and then examining the colour wheel (above) to choose a colour of the greatest contrast, thereby providing a high visibility.   Continue reading “Reliance on PPE impedes safety progress”

Where is the evidence for the safety benefits of high visibility clothing?

Recently a local council in Australia suggested that bicycle riders should be required to wear high visibility jackets.  Bicycle Victoria was not impressed:

Bicycle Victoria spokesman Garry Brennan slammed the idea.

“Unfortunately there is no evidence that so-called ‘high-visibility clothing’ is of any benefit to bike riders,” Mr Brennan said. “Whether the rider is dressed in bright fluoro or black, or is stark naked, matters little when drivers are not paying attention.  The good news is that as more bikes crowd the roads, most drivers are paying more attention.”

In another article Brennan said

“It’s redundant and potentially misleading,” Mr Brennan … said.  He said high-visibility clothing would give cyclists a false sense of security.  “All it does is make you feel more visible,” he said.”

High visibility clothing is an established element of personal protective clothing on construction sites and in the transport industry.  It was introduced as a way of increasing the visibility of workers where traffic on- and off-site interacts with pedestrians.  A UK article by BrightKidz summarises the logic on high visibility clothing but is there any evidence that bright clothing reduces serious contact between pedestrians and traffic? Continue reading “Where is the evidence for the safety benefits of high visibility clothing?”

Scottish quad bike safety

As the Northern Hemisphere enters its Summer, the use of quad bikes will increase and the UK’s Health & Safety Executive has indicated it will be policing the vehicles’ use.  In the press release on 3 June 2010, the HSE reveals that

“Each year an average of two people die and more than 1,000 are injured in quad bike or ATV incidents”

and that

“More than half of all quad bike riders have been thrown from their vehicle at some point…”

The HSE makes this second point in order to promote the use of helmets but one is justified in asking why 50% of users “have been thrown” off the bikes not just falling off.  Should not there be an investigation in the cause of the incidents, rather than a reinforcement of the need for personal protective equipment?

Kevin Jones

Professor Michael Quinlan on Jeff Shaw’s legacy

The Australian newspaper on 12 May 2010 published an article that is an example of the type of article on the passing of former New South Wales Attorney-General Jeff Shaw that SafetyAtWorkBlog expressed concerns over.  For most of the article Shaw’s alcoholism is the focus yet we should not judge a person only by their flaws but by their achievements.

Prof Quinlan

SafetyAtWorkBlog interviewed Professor Michael Quinlan who was closely involved in some of the law reform work that Jeff Shaw instigated in the 1990s when he was the Attorney-General.

Quinlan echoed the opinions of Professor Ron McCallum over Shaw’s commitment to industrial relations and OHS law reform but spoke of a different set of legislation  that Quinlan thinks was an important achievement of Shaw. Continue reading “Professor Michael Quinlan on Jeff Shaw’s legacy”

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