When you’re standing or sitting at work for long periods of time, there’s nothing worse than sore legs and feet. Every year, two million sick days are lost to lower limb disorders. Ergonomic injuries come at a high cost. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, $1 of every $3 spent on workers’ compensation comes from insufficient ergonomic protection. It’s clear that taking steps to prevent these injuries is well worth it.
Here are six ways to prevent foot-related ergonomic injuries in the workplace.
1. Anti-Fatigue Mats
Some workers stand in one position for long periods of time. To provide joint relief, place anti-fatigue mats on the floor. These mats are designed to reduce fatigue caused by standing on hard surfaces like cement floors. Anti-fatigue mats are commonly made of rubber, various PVC sponges, vinyl and carpet materials. They work to relieve pressure on a person’s feet, knees and back.
2. Cushioned Insoles
In some circumstances, matting can’t be placed in the work area. Sometimes workers are constantly moving from location to location and matting can’t cover every surface. In these situations, cushioned insoles absorb shock and provide relief to pressure points on the feet.
Cushioned insoles have additional benefits, including:
- Antifungal and antibacterial properties
- Ventilation holes
3. Supportive Chairs
Sitting in an uncomfortable chair can be painful and put stress on your spine. A supportive chair is rarely one-size-fits-all. Adjustable chairs are a necessity. Set the chair to a height that allows you to rest your feet flat on the floor. While seated, your feet shouldn’t dangle. Reduce lower-back strain by keeping feet solidly on the floor or on a footrest.
4. Comfortable Footwear
Shoes should enhance feet, not restrict them. Ergonomic shoes don’t change the shape of a foot. Choose a shoe that’s a bit roomy, leaving space for insoles or orthotics. Arch support is key to preventing injury. Proper arch support can prevent plantar fasciitis, a common cause of heel pain. Shoes should also be breathable to reduce perspiration and dampness on your feet. For employees spending a lot of time on their feet, wearing a low heel reduces the chance of injury. Wearing heels over two inches high causes stress and calf pain over time.
5. Teach Best Practices
Employees should be encouraged to think about how they work and stand. Don’t stand with feet side by side. Instead, stand with one foot in front of another. It’s also helpful to rest one foot on a small stool while standing. Motivate workers to take short walks throughout the day to reduce joint pain. Prolonged standing can cause blood to pool in feet and legs, so make walking a company-wide priority.
6. Adaptable Workspaces
For a truly worker-friendly environment, work benches and tables should be adjustable. Benches need to adjust to worker height and whatever task he or she is completing. A workspace should be spacious enough to allow movement. When workers are restricted to small spaces and limited movement, blood supply can be restricted and cause muscle pain in the legs and back.
Take Steps to Injury-Free Feet
Standing for hours can be uncomfortable and even cause serious health problems. Make workers feel more comfortable on the job to see fewer injuries, less time away from work, and increased worker productivity. By taking these steps and encouraging best practices, workers will find relief throughout the day.