Some Boots Aren’t Made For Workin’: Outdoor workers complain of cold, wet feet, blisters and chillblains

Safety footwear is not often something associated with the HR team, however if your staff includes employees who work outdoors, it’s possible that their safety footwear could impact on their motivation, wellbeing and their ability to do their job effectively – and in some cases even lead to foot infections and complications which could create absence from work.


Ahead of this winter’s ‘BIG FREEZE’ predication, research carried out by safety footwear provider DR. Martens reveals how the majority of outdoor workers suffer with cold, wet feet every winter, with many staff complaining of blisters and even chilblains.

The survey spoke to UK staff who work outdoors in order to identify the core issues they faced during the winter months. Key findings revealed:

  • Over half (51%) of outdoor workers are unhappy with their boots
  • 65% of outdoor workers suffer with cold feet
  • Other complaints included wet feet (40%), smelly feet (25%), blisters (21%) and chilblains (16%)
  • Comfort and price are the top considerations for people buying outdoor workwear (73% and 40% retrospectively)
  • 58% of outdoor workers purchase their boots from conventional high-street stores or online retailers

So are employers failing to provide staff with adequate footwear to do the job?  It seems not, as the research also revealed that three quarters of outdoor workers purchase their own boots, and less than half of employers contribute to outdoor workers’ footwear.  It seems, therefore, that employees are not making good decisions about the best footwear for the job.

However, of the employers that do contribute towards the cost of footwear, employers provide a significant contribution – 68% of them cover more than half of the cost.  So what can employers do to help their staff make good workwear choices that will enable them to remain comfortable and dry?

Jon Marchant, Global Category Manager at Airwair International Ltd – Dr. Martens, says:

“In our experience,  the problem comes from a lack of information. If outdoor workers are focusing on comfort and price, they run the risk of overlooking features that are critical to outdoor working, such as water resistance and warmth. It’s important that anyone working in extreme weather conditions is investing in the right product and buying from a supplier that can guarantee adequate protection and comfort.”

“Employers can help their staff by ensuring their employees are fully informed of features required within their footwear. Employer contributions certainly go a long way to ensuring outdoor workers are purchasing the right boots, but if this isn’t possible, businesses should still make their own recommendations to ensure staff are given the right direction.”

Dr. Martens’ recommend that employers guide their staff towards fully waterproof footwear with additional features such as antistatic properties, composite safety toe cap and Smartmask® puncture resistant midsole.  It’s also essential that footwear for industrial workers meets EN and ISO safety standards.

It’s also important to make sure employees are advised on any tax relief they may be able to claim for their footwear, for example, while staff cannot claim tax relief for the initial purchase of safety boots, they can claim tax relief on repairing or replacing them, which may help if cost is an issue.

Anecdotally, Cinderella is quoted as saying “one shoe can change your life.”  It seems that for the UK’s outdoor workers, shoes suitable for the winter are long overdue.

Author: Editor

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