We go behind the scenes with Simon Ash, UK Sales Manager of leading safety footwear manufacturer HAIX, to find out what goes into the design and development of safety footwear and the testing that ensures they meet the high standards that wearers have come to expect.
Q. What do you consider the most important elements in safety footwear?
Without doubt, the most important factors in choosing safety footwear has to be quality and compliance. The first questions that consumers should ask are – what are the risks I’m facing at work, does the boot or shoe fully comply with the standards to meet those risks and is it going to keep me safe?
After that, it’s all about the extra elements wearers are looking for; comfort, reliability and style. It’s widely-acknowledged that with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), user appeal and acceptance is the key to reducing accidents in the workplace.
Q. What facilities to you have in-house for quality testing and development?
We have our own in-house quality assurance programme with the facilities to carry out a number of tests focussing on overall comfort, performance and production quality.
Our safety boots and shoes undergo a series of over 100 material and quality assurance tests, replicating the day-to-day wear challenges of our customers, who spend most of their time on their feet. For example, Martindale abrasion tests are carried out on upper lining and sole materials in wet and dry conditions. This is coupled with tear-resistance tensile testing to simulate the demands of the working environment, ensuring boots don’t fall apart.
Q. What other quality criteria do you try to meet?
Although laboratory testing and development is a foundation of any high-quality product, it’s our commitment to wearer trials that takes things a step further. We equip users with boots for months at a time to use during their day-to-day routine activities and user feedback is taken on board, and design changes are made as necessary to better support the wearer’s needs.
Q. Slips and Trips are still the most common cause of injury in the workplace, how do you address this in the design of your footwear?
As safety footwear design advances in areas like musculoskeletal support and smarter, lighter and stronger materials, so too is it advancing in combatting the risks of slips, trips and falls. Safety boot sole units are often made from a combination of materials such as Rubber and Polyurethane (PU) that enhance not only durability but also grip, providing stability and reducing chances of slipping, even on surfaces covered in oil or petrol.
Q. Is it difficult to meet safety needs and produce a boot or shoe that looks good?
Wearer acceptance is critical to keeping people safe from the hazards they may face at work, so although it is a given that we ensure our footwear meets all the correct standards, style and comfort are top of the list in terms of overall boot design. Our product designers are given free rein to use their imagination on new designs, and with our rigorous testing and wear trials we are confident that our designs are some of the most innovative in the market and really meet the needs of today’s wearers.
Q. What trends do you see in the market over the next few years?
We are beginning to see how advances in technology, materials, manufacturing techniques and consideration for the individual needs of the wearer are coming together to produce the next generation of work boots that address long-running concerns around conventional safety footwear.