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Non-slip footwear is standard safety equipment or personal protective equipment in many industries. Nearly all restaurant workers, hospital staff, and even those in service fields such as electricians must wear footwear that meets certain standards. So what happens if your footwear didn’t meet those standards on the day that you were hurt? Can you file for worker’s compensation?
The first question to address is whether the footwear had anything to do with the injury. For example, if you cut yourself at work then the footwear would have nothing to do with it. However, if you cut yourself because you slipped on a wet floor while walking with a knife and not wearing the required non-slip shoes, you might have some trouble ahead.
OSHA has clear standards on personal protective equipment, but many people forget that footwear qualifies as PPE. Many environments call for non-slip, non-skid, steel toe, or shock resistant footwear. OSHA has published many letters of employers requesting guidance on specialty footwear and who must provide it.
Employers may require specialty footwear whenever they identify consistent or continuous workplace hazards. When specific hazards are present, such as slippery floors, or electroshock risk, they may require specialty footwear among other personal protective equipment. As part of this, the employer must assess the workplace and determine which hazards are present and how selective footwear can mitigate the risk of those hazards. They must communicate the requirements of specialty footwear to their employees.
Although employers can require specialty footwear unless they require a specific design from a specific company they usually don't have to provide this equipment. As an employee, you are free to select the footwear choice that fits you best as long as it meets certain requirements.
This is similar to uniform requirements such as “black pants” or “a white shirt.” They aren't specific, and they give employees enough freedom to find the best value and quality materials for them. In those cases, the employers are not required to provide the uniform.
Typically in a worker's compensation case, you cannot claim that the employer not providing non-slip shoes resulted in your injury. However, the bigger issue is whether the employer knew that you did not have the appropriate personal protective equipment.
Although an employer may not be responsible for providing footwear, even specialty footwear as personal protective equipment, they have other responsibilities. OSHA outlines that when employees own personal protective equipment, their employers are responsible for ensuring that it is adequate, sanitary, and undergoes proper maintenance.
When it comes to footwear such as non-slip shoes, it is the employer's responsibility to determine if the footwear selection meets specific requirements. It is also their responsibility to determine whether you can or cannot work in footwear that doesn't meet requirements.
For example, if you showed up to your shift at a restaurant in street shoes you should have informed your employer that you did not have non-slip shoes that day. Or oh, you may have started work and forgotten to inform your employer, but the manager noticed and mentioned it. If that manager, in either situation, said that you could work the rest of your shift then they are responsible for any injury you experienced while in street shoes.
However, if the employer did not know, then it is your responsibility for not complying to dress code policy. When this happens it may become difficult or impossible to receive worker’s compensation. Some people struggle to show that they did inform their employer, or the other manager had acknowledged that they were not in the proper footwear. This is typically when people who slipped and fell at work need to involve a worker's compensation attorney.
Worker’s compensation is an insurance protection plan or policy that allows workers to access compensation in the event of an injury. However, many of these policy providers have strict rules that waive them of the requirement to provide payouts. The result is that many of those injured employees are left with medical bills and outstanding bills because of lost wages. Many employees don’t seek out the legal help needed because they fear retaliation.
At Young, Reverman, and Mazzei you can find support for all of your worker’s compensation needs. From getting a second medical opinion to fighting for the lost wages, you’ll get help all along the way.