Shoes Leading To Work Accident Claims

Clothes maketh the claim – could comfy shoes could mean fewer accidents at work?

Extraordinary data released by The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists (SCP), in conjunction with the UK based Claims Helpline has stated that the number of personal injury claims filed against employers as a result of slips, trips or falls may decline as a result of the passing of a new motion stating that women should be allowed to wear comfortable shoes at work. The thinking behind the announcement is grounded in common sense, despite the headline grabbing statement and the inevitable debate that will follow. The claim, introduced by the SCP, is perhaps not one that immediately springs to mind, but behind the seemingly frivolous nature of the statement lies some serious issues.

Safety footwear is a regulation for those working in high risk areas such as building sites or in other areas of construction and engineering. But the number of enquiries regarding slips, trips or falls at work where the claimant has been wearing high heels has, in the past, caused some debate. Employers could be justified in arguing that fashion should not dictate safety issues in the workplace, and that the choice to wear high heels is down to the individual. But the truth is that in high-powered business environments and busy offices, personal appearance has a great deal of importance not just for the individual, but for the overall image of the company. What the SCP is saying is that women should be allowed the choice to wear more comfortable shoes that, while still suitable for a smart, business environment, will not constitute a safety hazard. Wearing high heels regularly can lead to a number of injuries and the result of a trip of fall whilst wearing high heels can be much more severe, particularly injuries to joints such as ankles, knees and hips.

The belief from the SCP is that the pressure on women to dress in a certain way in an office environment is putting them at greater risk of these kinds of accidents at work. They believe that reducing this pressure by allowing women to choose more comfortable footwear will also reduce the number of claims brought against companies for injuries suffered as a result of trips, slips or falls.

It does seem to be a somewhat insignificant argument compared to other health and safety issues, but anything that can reduce the risks of injuries to employees has to be considered as part of the required duty of care of any employer. A slippery surface or even just a bump in the carpet is enough to catch a heel and can very easily lead to a fall. While it can be argued that personal appearance is exactly that – personal – there is no doubt that in high flying offices, how female staff dress is an important consideration. Whilst most women are perfectly comfortable wearing heels, the damage to joints and bones caused by trips or falls whilst wearing heels has been well documented over the years. Perhaps a more relaxed attitude towards female footwear in offices could lead to a reduction in the number of slips and falls at work and consequently a reduction in the number of claims brought against employers for those accidents.

The debate is bound to continue. But in the meantime it’s another aspect of health and safety that companies with female staff should consider. After all, clothes may maketh the man, but there’s no reason why they should also lead to an excess number of personal injury work accident claims as well.

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