In the protective toe footwear industry, there are several delivery models to choose from. The most common are utilizing a local store, web ordering, and shoemobile.

Selecting the Right Delivery Model and Service

At a local store, you have the ability to shop as you would at any other store, get fitted for your correct shoe size, try them on, and make a purchase.

When implementing a protective toe footwear program, there are a few of questions that you will need to ask yourself:

1. What do my employees need to keep them safe on the job, and how do I determine that?

2. What contribution do I provide to my employees to make the purchase of safety toe footwear affordable?

3. How do I actually purchase protective toe footwear for my employees?

A protective toe footwear program may seem like a daunting task. However, it is easier than most think, and once you have a program in place, you should have peace of mind knowing your employees are safe on the job.

Assessing Your Protective Footwear Needs
Once you have determined that your employees should be wearing some level of protective toe footwear, you can engage a safety specialist from a reputable footwear distributor to complete a hazard assessment of the environmental conditions in which your employees are working. During this assessment, the safety specialist will review all of the work areas, noting potential hazards. Hazards should be assessed by each specific job function, because one job may require a different type of protection (or additional protection) that another job may not require.

Typically, there is not one facility-wide safety requirement. Often there are many different levels of protection needed throughout a plant.

After a complete review of your workplace hazards, the safety specialist will be able to let you know what type of protective footwear would be suggested for each job function.

Subsidy and Payroll Deduction
A major component of a protective toe footwear program is the determination of your subsidy (a monetary value provided to your employees for purchase of their protective footwear) and whether you are going to offer your employees payroll deduction.

When determining your subsidy level, you should take into consideration several factors. What level of protection did your safety specialist suggest for the different work functions in your facility? If the specialist advised you that your only concern should be the potential of something falling on an employee's foot, then offering a lower subsidy level may be all that's needed. However, if your specialist determined that you need some additional attributes (safety functions), such as static dissipative, waterproof, or metatarsal protection, you may want to consider a higher subsidy level. The more attributes required to keep your employees safe and productive will increase your footwear cost.

You also need to determine whether you want to offer payroll deduction to your employees. Offering payroll deduction is viewed as a benefit to your employees, and they will see it that way, as well. Whether you offer a higher subsidy covering most of the cost of the footwear or a lower subsidy, payroll deduction should be a priority if you are looking to build a strong footwear program driving compliance and employee welfare. If employees have the ability to use payroll deduction, they will be more likely to choose footwear based on their needs versus making a decision based on price alone.

Delivery Models
In the protective toe footwear industry, there are several delivery models to choose from. The most common are utilizing a local store, web ordering, and shoemobile.

Determining what is best for your company should be discussed with either a local or national protective footwear distributor. Many factors could come into play that may limit or expand what is available to you. A couple of things to discuss with your protective toe footwear distributor would be the number of employees who are required to wear protective toe footwear, the location of your facility, your subsidy level, payroll deduction, and most importantly, your protective toe footwear requirements by job function.

Local Stores
The use of a local store that sells protective toe footwear can be very beneficial. At a local store, you have the ability to shop as you would at any other store, get fitted for your correct shoe size, try them on, and make a purchase. The style offering provided by the local store can vary. Some carry a full line of protective toe footwear, and others may have just a couple of styles, knowing the industrial businesses around the area. One thing to keep in mind is that if you, as the employer, don't have a direct relationship with the local store, the employees will need to let the store know of their particular footwear requirements. Another thing to consider is that you will be sending your employees off company property for their footwear needs during working hours or asking employees to go on their personal time.

Web Ordering
If all you want is to have a quick one-stop shop for your protective toe footwear needs, using web ordering is a great option. Depending on your distributor’s technical capabilities, web ordering also can be used to drive compliance with your footwear program.

Some distributors have the ability to load the requirements of your program into their system. Then, when your employee logs on to order shoes, the website will recognize the parameters of your program, manage the subsidy, and provide an offering of styles that meet the requirements of your protective toe footwear program. One slight downfall with online programs is that the employees don’t have the ability to get fitted or try on the footwear prior to purchase. This could lead to a higher-than-normal return rate, but the convenience of online ordering may outweigh the returns issue.

Shoemobile Service
Many consider shoemobile service to be the best option available. It can incorporate the best features of both a local store and web ordering.

First and foremost, using a shoemobile provides the convenience of having a protective toe footwear store come to you. Styles and selection on a shoemobile can range from 55 to 100 styles, and they can stock anywhere from 900 to 2,000 pairs ready for purchase. The shoemobile also offers fitting services to ensure your employees are purchasing the correct size. Being fitted and able to try on the footwear prior to purchase is a huge benefit. Driving program compliance is another function of the shoemobile.

In most cases, a shoemobile provider can preload things such as the employee roster, program requirements, and subsidy levels. When your shoemobile service provider can preload this information, it provides speed of transaction, reliability of information, and compliance with your safety program initiatives.

Staying Safe on the Job
The manufacturer, distributor, and employer all have the same collective goal, and that is providing protective toe footwear to the end user, the employee . . . to help keep him or her safe on the job.

As the employer, it is your responsibility to select proper footwear for your employees and the best delivery model that supports your plant safety program.

This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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