Local research and development has produced a device that could drastically reduce foot injuries in the mining industry. Recently patented in South Africa, the Roxx metatarsal protector was launched at this year’s Electra Mining show.
Specialist footwear supplier to the personal protective equipment (PPE) industry Trader Vic is the sole distributor of the Egoli rubber safety gumboot, which will be fitted with this device.
During the 25 years spent in the PPE industry, Trader Vic MD Chris Williamson has developed a thorough understanding of the rugged working environment within which South African miners operate, the company reports. His expertise in this area helped him to produce a low- maintenance metatarsal shield that offers complete protection without hindering the movement of the foot.
The Roxx metatarsal guard was developed for workers whose occupations require them to wear safety gumboots that prevent their feet from being crushed by heavy objects. In particular, miners are susceptible to what is known in occupational health terms, as ‘rolling rock injuries’, besides others.
“While most protective footwear incorporates protective steel toecaps, the metatarsal bones, which run along the top of the foot from just after the ankle to the toes, are left unprotected,” Williamson says.
The metatarsal area of the foot is one of the most delicate and complex bone structures of the body and injuries to this area invariably result in high compensation claims, expensive treatment and rehabilitation costs, extended time off work and varying degrees of permanent crippling.
The company states that South African suppliers to the PPE industry have been perfecting designs of a protective device for the metatarsal area of the foot since 1999, when a colliery in Mpumalanga requested such a device.
It has been a long process, owing to the ergonomic and technical complications presented by this part of the foot under active working conditions. “Designing devices in the lab is one thing, but getting them to work for their lifespan in the rugged environment of underground mining is another. Further to these brutal conditions, mineworkers often operate in extreme ergonomic positions, such as kneeling, crawling, squatting, or on their haunches, which really stretch the guard’s ability to cope with engineering stresses.”
The Roxx metatarsal protector, which neatly saddles the area between the shin and the boot’s steel toecap, is a fixed component of the boot that cannot easily be removed, offering permanent built-in protection. It works by absorbing the impact of falling objects throughout its honeycomb structure, thereby distributing and diluting the impact as increasing energy brings more cells into play.
It is ergonomically designed to accommodate the curves of the foot and does not restrict the foot when the boot is flexed. Manufactured from a South African Bureau of Standards-approved polyvinyl chloride (PVC) compound, it retains the comfort features of its mother gumboot and adds only 200 g to its weight. As an oil derivative, PVC is naturally resistant to the oils and acids generally found underground.
The device is resistant to the elements, is fully waterproof and, having no moving parts that could wear out, will last for the life of the boot. It is designed in such a way that the pressure-absorbing cell structures are cleaned by the mechanical walking action of the wearer. It also protects the small toe, which is not covered by steel toecaps.
“The Roxx will be fitted to the only locally manufactured rubber gumboot in South Africa – the Egoli Rubber safety gumboot –which is made under licence by Bata Industrials, in South Africa. It is common knowledge that rubber is the most durable and puncture resistant compound that can be used for gumboots,” says Williamson.
“Further to its long wear life, the upgraded Egoli Rubber boot is extremely comfortable since being fitted with a moulded foot bed that can be replaced.”