A number of jobs require individuals to stand on their feet for the majority of the day which can put them at risk for developing chronic pain and injuries. A wide number of professionals/workers could be prone to these types of conditions including nurses, baristas, waiters, bartenders, retail staff, and construction workers.
When a worker depends on their ability to stand or walk for long durations of time, any ailment to their feet is a detriment to their ability perform. There have been numerous cases when workers have missed time at work or worse either quit or were fired due to an inability to work due to foot aches and pains.
Common Foot Ailments
Occupational safety and health (OHS) are an organization which is concerned with the health, safety, and welfare of individuals at the workplace. The goals of the organization are to promote a safe environment for workers; they also work to protect customers, family members, and other who may be affected by the workplace environment.
The OHS addresses the common ailments experienced by workers who have to stand for long periods of time:
Standing is a natural human posture and by itself poses no particular health hazard. However, working in a standing position for long periods of time and on a regular basis can cause sore feet, swelling of the legs, general muscular fatigue, lower back pain, stiffness in the neck and shoulders, all in a relatively short time. These are common complaints among salespeople, machine operators, assembly-line workers and many others whose jobs require prolonged standing.
Common ailments workers experience from working too long on their feet are the following:
- Waking up with foot pain in the morning
- Stress fractures (sudden and consistent pain which persists)
- Metatarsalgia (consistent or chronic pain without a diagnosed cause)
- Sesamoiditis (rapidly developing swelling and pain in the front of the foot)
- Corns/Calluses (dead skin which hardens and turns a yellowish tint)
- Ingrown toenails (nails which curl directly into the skin, possibly causing infection)
- Bunions (a number of deformities occurring which cause severe pain)
- Plantar fasciitis (pain in the front of the heel which is activated by inactivity, also called flat foot)
- Heel Bursitis (pain and swelling which worsens during the day, a warming sensation can also be present)
- Achilles tendinitis (tendons swell and stiffen during physical activity. Problems are frequent while running)
- Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome (burning sensations and numbness which is most commonly felt during the night)
- Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction (no arch in the foot often not accompanied by discomfort nor pain)
- High Arches (lower back pain and a higher probability of incurring lower body injuries)
Recent reports have estimated that approximately 120,000-foot injuries are suffered on the job every year, nearly a third of these injuries involve the toes. The following ailments and injuries are linked to repetitive use in the workplace:
- Ankle and Foot Arthritis
- Toe Deformities
- Pinched Nerves (between the toes)
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction
- Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
While scientific studies cannot ultimately determine if the injuries are completely related to the workplace, it’s obvious the rigors of work do play a significant role in the development of these conditions.
Standing For Long Period Causes Injuries In The Work Place
In 2005 hazards.org completed a lengthy survey in the United Kingdom which highlighted the significant problems workers were having from standing too long in the workplace. Some of the major findings are the following:
Individuals spending most of the day on their feet every working day are at greater risk of health problems including varicose veins, poor circulation and swelling in the feet and legs, foot problems, joint damage, heart and circulatory problems and pregnancy difficulties.
A Hazards survey of UK union health and safety officers found widespread problems from standing at work. Unions representing shopworkers, teachers, library staff, production line workers, bank workers, warehouse staff, museum workers, school supervisors, train drivers, printers, hospitality and casino workers and engineers all reported standing-related health problems experienced by their members.
More than 11 million UK workers, half the UK workforce, could be facing health risks caused by prolonged standing.
Workers in lower status jobs are far more likely to be required to stand for long periods. Workers in higher status jobs are much less likely to be required to stand for long periods without access to a chair.
Most jobs do not require standing – the proportion of workers standing most of the time is much lower in Sweden and many other countries. Simple job or workstation design can make it possible to reduce the requirement to stand.
Another concern for long periods of standing includes sweat buildup within footwear which can lead to an infection known as athlete’s foot. Athlete’s foot is the much common fungal skin infection and causes a large rash to grow on the skin. It grows well in shoes due to humidity, specifically between the toes.
The infection also spreads extremely easy, meaning those who come in contact with a surface contaminated with athlete’s foot will contract the infection. This puts co-workers and family members at risk of individuals who have the infection at risk.
How Foot Injuries Can Be Diminished In The Workplace
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety gives the following advice for improving workplace safety:
There is no workplace where a worker is immune to foot injury. However, the hazards differ according to the workplace and the types of tasks the worker does. The first step in developing a strategy to reduce foot problems is to identify the relevant hazards at the workplace. Such hazards should be assessed in each workplace, no matter how safe or how dangerous it may seem. Foot injuries then can be prevented by looking for measures through proper job design and/or workplace design, and identifying proper foot wear.
The advocacy group also stresses the need for workplaces to develop designs which accommodate their employees. Including having work stations which allow employees to change their body positions, having footrests which allow employees to shift the weight from a fatigued leg, and whenever possible allow workers to work sitting or standing.