Feet and legs are exposed to many potential hazards during farming and gardening chores. While typically not life threatening, potential injuries can be painful and lead to lost work time and long-term discomfort.
Workers who run the risk of foot and leg injuries should wear appropriate protection. Falling, rolling, crushing or penetration of objects and equipment can cause injuries. If a worker is exposed to any of these conditions or is in a situation where continuous exposure to abrasions (such as hot objects, corrosive or poisonous materials) can cause skin injury, protective gear should be worn on the legs and feet.
Here are some examples of when workers should wear appropriate foot or leg protection:
• When working with or around heavy objects such as rocks or logs, or an implement that could roll or fall on the worker’s feet.
• When working with or around sharp objects such as nails, spikes or thorns that could pierce the soles or other material of common street shoes.
• When working with equipment or material that could cause cuts, skin abrasion or damage such as chemicals, saws, branches and garden debris.
• When working on or around hot, wet or slippery surfaces.
Selecting Foot or Leg Protection
Safety footwear must meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) minimum compression and impact performance standards in ANSI Z41-1991 (American National Standard for Personal Protection-Protective Footwear) or provide equivalent protection. All ANSI approved footwear has a protective toe and offers impact and compression protection. The type and amount of protection is not always the same; different footwear protects in different ways. Check the product's labeling or consult the manufacturer to make sure the footwear will protect the user from the hazards they face. Foot and leg protection choices include the following:
• Long pants protect the legs during common farming and gardening tasks. They also protect against abrasions and cuts encountered when working with power tools and sharp objects. Pants should be made from heavyweight material that is capable of withstanding continued use without being compromised. Heavy cotton garments such as jeans and cargo pants will provide adequate protection.
• Protective chaps/pants protect the lower legs and thighs from accidental contact with a chain saw blade. Cut-retardant material is designed to clog the sprocket and stop a saw.
• Safety shoes/boots have impact-resistant toe boxes and puncture-resistant soles that protect the feet. The outside of the shoe/boot is typically made from an abrasion-resistant material such as leather or suede. For added protection, steel toe versions should be used to provide rated protection from falling objects. Approved steel toe boots will carry an (ASTM) F2413-05 rating on the product label.
Care of Foot and Leg Protection
As with all protective equipment, inspect safety footwear prior to each use. Check shoes, protective chaps and pants for wear and tear at reasonable intervals, which includes looking for cracks or holes, separation of materials, and broken buckles or laces. Check the soles of shoes for pieces of metal or other embedded items that could present puncture hazards. Always review and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning and maintenance.
• Personal Protective Equipment, OSHA 3151-12R
. Washington, DC: Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2003. osha.gov/Publications/osha3151.pdf
Reviewer: Kent McGuire, CFAES Safety and Health Coordinator, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering