Last week I was invited to the Headquarters of ESKOM our Electricity Supply Commission, to talk about footwear selection and the effects of high heels, amongst other things!
From the outset it was clear that ESKOM is very concerned about safety – we were briefed on where and how to get out of the venue should there be a ‘problem’ – before the talks began.
It seems that the greatest cause of occupational injuries at Eskom HQ is Slips, Trips & Falls, nothing to do with electricity at all! So they decided to do something about the problem by discussing it. There were two scientists from the National Institute for Occupational Health also presenting and they showed some of the scary activities that employees do in incorrect footwear. Like climbing ladders, wearing high heeled shoes on slippery floors, or wet floors.
Even with the current fashion for lower heeled shoes amongst women, there was a slipping incident at ESKOM recently.
Flooring was identified as a major cause of slips at work, but also there is the choice of inappropriate footwear as I pointed out previously. Amongst other causes are uneven floors, poor lighting.
Having a spare pair of shoes at work is one solution, so that when you have to go to meetings or interact with clients you can put on your more fashionable ones.
However, perhaps the most basic concept is to be aware of your surroundings. For example, how many of us have fallen on our backsides at sometime in our lives, when at the poolside? In other words look where you are going!
Responsibility for foot health safety rests with employee and employer.
The Health & Safety legislation is designed to protect everybody. Including the forklift driver who says he must wear tekkies instead of safety shoes, because the safety shoes hurt. Fine, but remember that if you get hurt, there is no compensation.
However, I do blame employers who budget for only the cheapest safety footwear, when being distracted by uncomfortable footwear could lead to an accident at work. There is a real need to look to buy the best safety footwear the company can afford. It’s people’s health after all.
On the other hand, the beautiful corporate HQ with imported tiled floors, may actually be an accident waiting to happen.
Paying attention to where you are walking and what you are doing is another important measure in preventing slips, trips & falls. What do I mean? The dreaded cellphone! Walking & talking can be just as dangerous as driving and talking.
We had a good discussion about high heels!
On my way through the campus I noticed a beautiful young woman tip-toeing along past a wet floor [it was well-marked by the cleaning staff with warning boards] on what I guess were 7cm high heels. Her strides were very short and she wobbled along to keep from slipping on the tiled floor.
As I’ve pointed out before, a high heel shortens your stride and reduces your ability to walk normally. Add to this a shiny floor and there is an accident waiting to happen.
In the ESKOM HQ and many others I’m sure, the floors are spotlessly clean and shiny. Usually tiled and very smooth. This means that there is little grip between the sole of your shoe and the floor. An ideal situation for a slip, trip or fall.
Foot Health and Safety at work is everyones business and responsiblity.
At the end of last week, a 60-something lady was brought to me complaining of a very painful ankle, three weeks after she tripped and fell whilst walking in the Bush.
She was uncertain which way her ankle had bent when she fell, but said there was a lot of swelling and bruising, which was only now starting to go down. Whilst in the Bush she had managed only basic First Aid with a bandage, to keep the swelling down so that she could get her foot into her trainers, but walking was extremely painful.
During my examination I isolated a point of severe pain over the tip of the lateral malleolus. [That’s the bit of your fibula that sticks out on the outside of your ankle joint]. The area was also swollen and hot to touch. Moving the ankle caused pain and the lady walked with a stiff-legged limp. The provisional diagnosis was to eliminate a fracture as the ankle joint is very stable and usually the injury in these situations is of severe ligament damage. However, because of the local symptoms I was thinking fracture. The obvious thing to do was send for X-ray.
The X-ray report confirmed a fracture of the tip of the fibula bone, only slightly displaced, fortunately. However, perhaps more importantly, the radiologist reported the appearance of ‘low bone density’ and therefore the possibility of osteoporosis.
The lady is now wearing a “Moonboot” below knee walker – with some difficulty – and was referred to her GP for investigation into the low bone density, which is now underway.
Now I know this isn’t really podiatry, but when questioned further, before I referred her, the lady revealed that she had never had a mammogram or bone density test. These tests are as important for older women as the prostrate examination is for men.
So if you have a fall or trip, don’t just put it down to a sprained ankle and put up with pain; monitor the pain, bruising and swelling. Also, ladies, don’t wait for the next time you need an X-ray to check your bone density.
Remember: podiatrists don’t just treat feet, we treat people.