How often do you think about taking care of your feet? Though they enable us to navigate the world and carry us through our daily lives, feet tend to be one of the most ignored body parts when it comes to health and well-being. So, this April, for National Foot Health Awareness Month, give your feet the care and recognition they deserve — and encourage your employees to do the same.
According to the National Library of Medicine, more than 96,000 foot and ankle injuries resulted in lost workdays in 2018 alone. That same year, the average workers compensation claim for ankle injuries was $17,210 for medical costs with an additional $13,276 of indemnity. Workplace foot injuries were similarly expensive, averaging $15,762 in medical costs and $11,866 in indemnity.
The two major categories of work-related foot injuries come from punctures, crushing, sprains and lacerations, and those resulting from slips, trips and falls. These two categories, however, don’t account for the full and wide range of foot problems that can arise over the course of the workday, which cause other conditions like blisters, calluses, arthritis, severe aches, fallen arches, toe malformations and fungal infections.
For workers, these foot problems are often caused by long periods of standing, hard flooring and poorly fitted footwear, with common culprits being high heels, pointed shoes, lack of arch support and footwear that is too loose or too tight, as well as hot or humid work environments and strenuous work. Hard, unyielding floors like concrete are the least comfortable surfaces to work on and can have the impact of a hammer, pounding the heel at every step. Slippery floors are hazardous for slips and falls that can result in sprained ankles or broken foot bones.
How can foot safety be improved at my company?
While no worker is immune to a foot injury, the hazards differ according to the workplace and the types of tasks the worker does. The first step in developing a strategy to reduce foot problems is to identify the relevant hazards at the workplace and, from there, determining preventative measures for employees. These preventative measures can look like:
- rotating workers from one job to another to provide a mix of standing and seated tasks — or, at the least, a variety of body positions and motions — throughout the day. This more evenly distributes tasks that require standing or repetitive motions and shortens the time each individual spends on their feet.
- encouraging workers to rest to alleviate foot problems in cases where redesigning the job is impractical. Frequent short breaks are preferable to fewer long breaks and can make all the difference.
- creating an adjustable work surface to accommodate standing workers of varying heights. In practice, this might include building a platform to raise the shorter worker or a pedestal to raise the object for a taller worker, providing a seat to rest on or installing foot rails or footrests to enable workers to shift weight from one leg to the other, thus reducing stress on the lower legs and feet. Workstation designs should additionally provide the worker with enough room to change body position throughout the day.
- properly guarding machinery, separating equipment from pedestrian traffic and installing safety mirrors and warning signs to decrease the number of incidents that might result in cut, crushed or severed feet or toes.
- keeping a clean workspace to ensure walkways are free of loose nails and other sharp objects.
Following an injury, Mercy Motion can help
If a foot injury does occur in the workplace, Mercy Occupational Medicine is here to help, both immediately following the accident and during recovery with physical therapy services offered through Mercy Motion.
Physical therapists are movement experts and work to identify, diagnose, and treat movement problems — including those in the legs and feet. They can help people maintain or restore as much function as possible after an incident, ensuring employees return to work safely and with less risk of recurring injury.
Our physical therapists design treatment plans specific to each person’s needs, challenges, and goals, and can help reduce the symptoms of many chronic diseases and conditions that affect movement, while also keeping many movement problems from getting worse. Mercy Motion is available for patients by appointment at Mercy Urgent Care’s West Asheville location, 1201 Patton Avenue, on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
To learn more about Mercy Motion, schedule a physical therapy appointment, or discuss other ways Mercy Occupational Medicine can help your employees, contact Jon Medin at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 828.252.3443