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Footwear Requirements in the Occupational Health and Safety Act

  • Issued: January 2018
  • Content last reviewed: January 2018

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.

Background

The issue of employers requiring workers to wear footwear with an elevated heel (i.e., high heels) in the workplace has been raised by and about workers in a number of types of workplaces, such as restaurants (including taverns, bars and nightclubs), retail establishments, hotels, motels and offices.

Hazard summary

Walking in footwear with an elevated heel (i.e., high heels) has been shown to significantly reduce ankle muscle movement as well as balance control. High heels have also been shown to result in musculoskeletal injury, particularly ankle and foot sprains and strains. Wearing footwear in the workplace that is appropriate for the work being performed will help to prevent injuries from slipping and falling on walking surfaces.

Requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act

Effective November 27, 2017, an amendment was made to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). Section 25.1 of the OHSA prevents employers from requiring a worker to wear footwear with an elevated heel unless it is required for the worker to perform his or her work safely.

There is an exception for employers of workers who work as performers in the entertainment and advertising industry as defined in Subsection 25.1(3) of the OHSA, as wearing footwear with an elevated heel may be a valid job requirement for some of these workers.

The amendment to the OHSA does not affect any personal protective equipment requirements regarding footwear in the regulations made under the OHSA. Employers should consult the footwear provisions in the regulations made under the OHSA regarding requirements that apply to their workplace.

Recommended precautions and control measures

In workplaces where regulations under the OHSA require “foot protection appropriate in the circumstances” or “suitable footwear”, employers should conduct a risk assessment to determine the foot protection appropriate in the circumstances or suitable footwear to protect the worker. The following factors may be considered by employers when conducting this risk assessment:

  • slipping;
  • tripping;
  • uneven terrain;
  • abrasion;
  • ankle protection and foot support;
  • potential for musculoskeletal injury;
  • crushing potential;
  • temperature extremes;
  • corrosive substances;
  • puncture hazards;
  • electrical shock; and,
  • other potential or known hazards.

Employers retain the right to establish, based on the workplace environment and work performed, health and safety policies that address safe, appropriate footwear in the workplace subject to the existing personal protective equipment requirements regarding footwear/foot protection in the regulations made under the OHSA.

Section 25.1 of the OHSA is not intended to prevent workers from choosing to wear footwear with an elevated heel at work, subject to the requirements in regulations made under the OHSA and the health and safety policies established by their employer.

Reference

Working in a Standing Position – Basic Information, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

For more information, contact the Ministry of Labour Health & Safety Contact Centre toll free at 1-877-202-0008.

Disclaimer: This web resource has been prepared to assist the workplace parties in understanding some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the regulations. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.

It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the legislation. This web resource does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.

While this web resource will also be available to Ministry of Labour inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This web resource does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.