Take a Load of Your Feet: Tips and Tricks to Limit Foot Injuries
How much time do you spend standing on cold, hard concrete every day? You probably know that standing on concrete isn’t good for the hooves of your cows. But what you may not know is that standing on cold, hard concrete can cause back, hip, and knee problems for you as well. And any time that you spend off your feet recovering from an injury can put a strain on your business.
By changing a few things in your daily routine, you can take the strain and stress off your knees and back. For example, putting a little padding under your feet can make a world of difference to your overall health by protecting your joints and muscles from chronic injuries.
The Hazards of Foot Injuries
It’s time to consider the padding you put under your feet as a form of personal protective equipment. According to the Health and Safety Executive, 31% of all non-fatal workplace injuries in 2017-18 involved slips, trips, and falls on the same level1. Almost a third of all workplace injuries occurred because workers lost their balance and tripped. Consider that sprains and strains, which were the next highest non-fatal workplace injuries in that same report from the HSE, accounted for only 19% of the total injuries of workers.
Most would consider a slip or a fall to be a minor injury, something that you get up from, dust yourself off, and get right back to work, but the HSE found that 45% of slips, trips, and falls lead to over seven days off of work2. As a producer, you know that your time is best spent taking care of your animals, not nursing injuries.
But by changing out that old pair of Wellingtons and by putting some anti-slip foam mats in the parlour pit, you’ll make a positive change to protect your health.
The Health Effects of Inadequate Cushioning
Standing on concrete all day can lead to chronic injuries. If you don’t have adequate cushioning for your feet, you may be vulnerable to knee, hip, and foot injuries. In a brilliant article in Cow Management Magazine, physiotherapist Clare Woodward explains, “Standing and walking on concrete for long periods—and jumping off tractors and down from the collecting yard and into the parlour pit—particularly in ill-fitting or unsupportive footwear, will, at the very least, result in excessive pronation of the foot.”3.
Pronation occurs when your ankle and arch tip inwards, and it’s a normal way that your body absorbs the shock of falls or stumbling. Although pronation is necessary to achieve a normal walking gait, the issue becomes when pronation becomes excessive, and this can lead to painful conditions in your foot and ankles like bunions, corns, and plantar fasciitis (a tightening of the ligament located directly beneath the skin at the bottom of your feet).
Another enormous factor in the comfort of your feet is the temperature. During the cool temperatures of winter, if you don’t have boots to dampen the chill, your joints will stiffen up. This is where foam mats really help because you’ll have an extra level of insulation between your feet and the ice cold concrete floor.
Tips for Adequate Cushioning
Every time that you jump down onto concrete without proper foot support, you risk injury. Physical jobs, like those in the agricultural business, are labour intensive, requiring you to exert yourself to accomplish your goals. Here are some ways that you can help prevent hip, knee, and foot injuries through the use of proper cushioning.
Changing out an old pair of boots can make an immediate difference by providing proper foot support. “It’s a false economy to balk at the price of a decent pair of Wellingtons. The cost of physiotherapy, or even surgery and time off, will far exceed the cost of even the most expensive boots. So invest in your feet – look after yourself.”4.
Keep these tips in mind as you search for work boots:
- Make sure your work boots fit—Most workers experience discomfort from ill-fitting work boots. The most common cause of discomfort comes from workers not wearing the correct size. When you’re trying on boots to find the right size, you shouldn’t be able to feel the toe cap when wearing steel-toe boots. Also, there should be enough room to wiggle your toes.
- Safety footwear should fit the work you’re doing—In the bitter days of winter, when cleaning out a parlour pit, you’re going to need insulated boots which will help keep the icy chill out. Alternatively, you might need a different pair of work boots during the summer because insulated boots get quite toasty.
- Take time to maintain your work boots—In the same way that you perform checks of of your equipment to ensure proper function, you should daily check your PPE like gloves and boots. Check your boots over before you head out for the day. Look to see if the sole of the boot is wearing out, and check for tears in the boots. Boots with steel toes tend to give out at the steel toe, tearing along the bottom and separating to form a mouth-like opening in your boot. There are ways to mend your boots, but once it is no longer fit for farm work, get rid of them and buy proper boots.
Parlour Pit Mats to Cushion Concrete
Another major form of PPE is to cover your parlour pit with foam mats to provide cushioning and insulate against the cold concrete floors. Most farmers stumble across parlour pit mats when researching protective flooring for their animals. High-traction, antifatigue flooring can increase the comfort of large animals, like cows and horses. They become more confident as they’re able to step without slipping, and this leads to more comfort activities like grooming and resting. And, in the same way that your animals feel more comfortable, you’ll also experience the benefits of high-traction, anti-fatigue foam mats.
At Stable Mats Ireland, we have a wide selection of parlour pit mats. The 20mm Parlour Pit Mats are a customer favourite. Made from EVA foam, an extremely versatile and durable substance, these mats are water resistant, soft, and flexible. EVA is a highly durable material with a rubber-like flexibility. It’s ubiquity is due to it’s effectiveness and durability, and is commonly referred to as “foam rubber” even though it doesn’t contain any rubber.
Our parlour pit mats also boast anti-bacterial properties and are incredibly easy to clean. Because of the closed-cell properties of EVA foam, it can also be easily cleaned and disinfected, and this allows it to be used in barns. Water is unable to permeate the non-porous foam. Just a simple spray with a pressure washer and you can clean the slurry, bacteria, urine, and chemicals from the top of these mats.
If you’re looking for extra thick mats to add more cushion underneath your feet, purchase the 40mm Parlour Pit Mats which are available in three colour combinations: red/black, red/blue, and grey/black.
EVA foam mats have an incredibly long life span, offer at least a decade of use for those who purchase the mats. Certain cleaning solutions, like peracetic acid, can limit the lifespan of foam mats, but even with regular exposure to chemicals, these mats still hold up well. They offer an elasticity, so that after several years of use, when you jump down into the parlour pit, you’ll notice that they continue to offer the same shock-absorption properties as the first day you bought them.
Pairing a good pair of Wellington boots with EVA foam mats could make all the difference in creating a safe, comfortable work space for you and your employees. Boots and mats can prevent against the most common form of workplace accidents: slips and falls. Mats also add a level of insulation which prevents the cold from the concrete floors from seeping through your boots, keeping you warmer in the midst of the coldest winter days. By investing in parlour pit mats, you’ll be investing in your own health and safety, and providing a much more comfortable work place.
Author: David Van Kooten
1.https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causinj/kinds-of-accident.pdf, pg. 4
2.https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causinj/kinds-of-accident.pdf, pg. 5
3.Rachael Porter, “Put a spring in your step,” Cowmanagement, OCTOBER 2019, pgs. 48-49.
4..Rachael Porter, “Put a spring in your step,” Cowmanagement, OCTOBER 2019, pgs. 48-49.