Crocs clampdown sparks health-care debate
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, July 31, 2007 12:18PM EDT
The popularity of colourful rubberized foam clogs among health workers has sparked a heated debate across North America.
Health-care workers have been wearing footwear manufactured by Crocs because of their comfort for working long shifts. Hospital staff had long worn footwear resembling clogs, but unlike the most popular version of Crocs footwear these clogs had closed toes.
Despite the fact that the shoes have many holes in their most popular design, the shoes are popular with health care workers like Sarah Coughlin, an operating room attendant at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
"I like that you can clean and wash them down better than a sneaker," Coughlin told CTV's Canada AM. "I find people wear sneakers into the (operating room) and once you splash a little bit on them -- that's it -- they're thrown in the locker at the end of the day and no one really keeps up on the cleanliness of it."
However, health officials in Ontario have many apprehensions surrounding the popularity of the footwear among health care workers.
The Ontario Hospital Association expressed its concern over the popular footwear in a memo to over 100 hospitals.
The first concern of the OHA centred on the design of the shoes. The memo expressed concern about the holes in the top of the Crocs shoes which allow for ventilation. In a hospital setting, the OHA feels that the holes can potentially harbour the risk of infection if blood or bodily fluids come into contact with the skin.
The holes are also perceived to be big enough that sharp objects such as syringes could fall between the holes.
Another concern is that the shoes may act as "isolators," generating a static charge that could disrupt medical equipment.
Hospitals in Ontario have begun to respond to the memo with their own measures. A hospital in Ottawa has announced it will ban all staff from wearing the footwear as of September 1 and in a recent email to staff at Quinte Health Care Belleville General in Ontario, staff were asked to replace their Crocs with leather or athletic shoes.
However, the issue is not merely restricted to Ontario.
In Vancouver, some versions of Crocs are already banned in area hospitals because of concerns the open heel design does not meet safety requirements.
"There are all sorts of things they can be hit with inadvertently," Catherine Kidd of Vancouver Coastal Health, Worksafe and Wellness told CTV Winnipeg. "As well, as we have concerns around blood and body fluids and we don't want spills that happen to get all over an individual's ... foot."
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority in Manitoba is reviewing if Crocs threaten patient or staff safety.
"We are reviewing the literature and also going to be asking each of the sites if they have any instances where they feel that the shoes have posed a problem," said Heidi Graham of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
The president of the Manitoba Nurses' Union, Maureen Hancharyk, estimates that half of all nurses wear Crocs.
"They're lightweight, they're supportive and they're cheap," said Winnipeg nurse Wendy Brock.
And at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pa., the shoes were deemed as inappropriate footwear on Monday.
Mercy Hospital worker Kara Depasquale, feels the safety concerns around the footwear are overstated.
"I mean, I can get a needle stuck in my arm or my leg," Depasquale told the Associated Press. "I work 12-hour shifts, and I'm constantly on my feet."
Ontario hospital officials are recommending that if workers would like to wear clogs, they should wear the version of the shoe that does not have holes in the top.
Coughlin said she will attempt to purchase designs of the shoe without holes on the top, which she said are not as readily available in retail outlets as they are online.
Crocs may be responding to the swirling debate surrounding their footwear in the workplace.
The company will soon be issuing a "Specialist" model, which according to the product description on the Crocs website, will be 'designed to meet workplace standards with a closed heel and closed toe design.'
Crocs, based in Niwot, Colo., sells shoes in at least 80 countries around the world and last year reported net sales of US$224.3 million.
With files from The Associated Press and a report from CTV Winnipeg's Joe Olafson