CBJ: Canadian Companies Partner with Mister Safety Shoes To Facilitate Workplace Foot Safety

Published in Canadian Business Journal

Canadian Companies Partner with Mister Safety Shoes To Facilitate Workplace Foot Safety 

In 1950, a man witnessed an unnecessary workplace death that changed his mission in life. Frank Colantonio’s epiphany led to the birth of Mister Safety Shoes Inc. and, ultimately, a new way of managing workplace safety.

Today, many companies in Canada — who share Frank’s vision for a safer workplace — turn to Mister Safety Shoes to streamline their workplace safety programs. These are companies who care about worker safety, but find footwear safety programs time consuming and unnecessarily complex. Thousands rely on the expertise of Mister Safety Shoes’ Managed Safety Footwear Programs.

Mister Safety Shoes was recently featured in the Canadian Business Journal.
Mister Safety Shoes was recently featured in the Canadian Business Journal.


Mike Miller used Mister Safety Shoes for ten years while at Campbell Soup Company and two other companies to help manage foot safety programs. “When we compared different providers we had worked with, Mister Safety Shoes stood out for customer service. They really went the extra mile to partner with the organization. They’re not just a provider, but a partner. I also found, over the years, that they could fix any issue.”

Mister Safety Shoes brings over forty years of expertise in workplace safety shoes to thousands of Canadian clients. “We help them to eliminate obstacles to compliance with foot safety guidelines, regardless of company size,” according to John Colantonio Managing Director of Mister Safety Shoes. “It’s about two things — making workers as safe as can be, and making it easy for companies to manage their safety program.”

Mister Safety Shoes facilitates workplace foot safety through an innovative blend of streamlined internet tools with multiple distribution models. The company combines a fleet of mobile shoe stores—shoemobiles that come to the workers—together with retail and online stores, all systemized through a streamlined internet portal for the managers of workplace safety and purchasers.

Solving the Time Problem

“The problem they solved for me was time,” said Declan Friel, another manager who worked with Mister Safety Shoes. As Risk Manager at Colour by Deluxe Laboratories, he used Mister Safety Shoes for eight years. He valued “the convenience factor. We had over 300 employees who needed safety shoes. It’s a mandatory requirement—and it’s a challenge. Having Mister Safety Shoes visit our plant once a month—enabling our workers to choose their own shoes—was important to me. They took care of the administration. They had the list of employees who were eligible. There were times when people needed help with their shoes and they were always very accommodating.” Mr. Friel highlighted reliability and dependability as the main reason for their loyalty.

The time problem is also solved for workers. Mr. Colantonio of Mister Safety Shoes explained: “Workers know they need safety shoes in certain workplaces, but who has time to shop? Managers, and owners know they have to safeguard employee safety, but managing a program for foot safety is time-consuming. That means it costs money in wasted time. Or worse, reduced safety in the workplace.”

Mr. Friel cited “convenience—and trying to get the administration function away from myself,” as reasons for using Mister Safety Shoes. “The last thing you want to do in a company of 300 people is to maintain a database and hand out vouchers. Mister Safety Shoes takes that away from you. They manage it for you.”

Mister Safety Shoes was one of the first to field a fleet of fully-stocked mobile stores, according to Managing Director John Colantonio. For those who prefer to visit a store, or shop online, the company stocks among the largest selections of approved safety shoes in all styles and for all workplaces.

A Fit for All Sizes—of Company

Mister Safety Shoes programs fit with all sizes of companies—from a few workers, to thousands. This is achieved by customizing solutions to the specific client needs, facilitating easy compliance and administration of workplace safety, and providing convenient distribution direct to workers.

The program they provided made it easy for the company to manage,” said Mike Miller. “The online system made it very easy for us to know who has purchased, without needing to use a paper system. Their account managers follow up. They always followed through with what they promised. I found their staff very professional, from their president to their mobile drivers.”

Mister Safety Shoes goes beyond simplification of the program management and compliance. The programs are customized to the needs of the company, making them suitable for any company size. Corporate clients work with a dedicated account manager supported by an team that ensures simplicity, suitability, quality of service and integrity of the program. The web-based purchase tracking system provides clients with easy reconciliation and reporting.

If the shoe fits — that’s not enough

Customization and simplification are also important to employees; they want shoes that fit and suit them in style, performance and comfort. The shoemobiles always have at least 100 styles and at least 1200 pairs of shoes. The retail stores have thousands of shoes.

“Fit and comfort are expected of us,” explained Paul Alfieri, Marketing Manager of Mister Safety Shoes. “Where we excel is in expertise. The experts who man our trucks and the people in our stores know workplace footwear—but also workplace safety. They care as much about slip resistance, ergonomics, durability and protection, as they do about shoe features.”

Mr. Alfieri pointed out that workers really don’t want to take time out of their weekend or evening to shop in big box stores or chain stores, where selection is limited to the most common makes and styles of work shoe. “Ultimately, selection means comfort. We try to make it easy for workers to get the right shoe, so they aren’t soaking their feet in bath salts when they get home.” The wider selection — and expert knowledge — found in Mister Safety Shoes mobile, retail and online stores makes it unlikely a worker will end up in an uncomfortable shoe. “You’re on your feet all day, you need comfort too, not just safety.”

The comfort of shoes is not only facilitated by selection and fit, but also through important foot support products such as Personal Anti Fatigue Mat Insoles, and other insoles. The experts at Mister Safety Shoes are trained to recommend the right insole or support solutions.

The Right Shoe for the Right Environment

The working environment plays a crucial role when it comes to selecting the ideal type of footwear—and the recommendations made by Mister Safety Shoes’ experts. The wrong shoe in the wrong environment can be unsafe and often reduces productivity. With more than three dozen brands covering most conceivable safety needs—for even the most unique environments—Mister Safety Shoes makes sure workers have the right shoe for the right environment.

“Some customers require footwear that’s static-dissipative — footwear that minimizes static electricity between the sole and the ground,” said Mr. Colantonio. “Some workers need to pass through metal detectors, shoes that offer the needed protection but with no metallic components. There are many examples of unique workplace footwear you can’t just find anywhere. We make sure workers understand their unique needs — and can find a solution for them.”

Convenience on the Move

The bright red and white Mister Safety Shoes mobile store trucks — known as “shoemobiles” — are a familiar sight in Ontario, always on the move from company to company. The state-of-the-art shoemobiles are built on the comfort and convenience model of Mister Safety Shoes. They provide a bright, comfortable and spacious environment that gives customers the feeling they are visiting a cozy brick-and-mortar retail store.

Customer Mike Miller described them as “very clean, very well stocked and very well organized — and flexible. In one of my companies I had them come once a week, and in others they came once a month.”

With more than 100 styles of safety footwear and over 1200 pairs of shoes in stock, a worker is likely to find the right style, comfort and function of work shoe in stock. In the rare instance where a mobile store doesn’t have the perfect work shoe, the worker can visit one of the many retail stores.

“We open retail locations for additional support to these clients, but also to give the opportunity for smaller companies or individuals to benefit from our in-store expertise,” explained Colantonio.

In the retail and online stores, Mister Safety Shoes also provide safety accessories such as hardhats, safety glasses, and earmuff hearing protection. They also carry lines of high-performance apparel including high-visibility jackets and pants for summer and winter, and durable work pants, shirts and vests, and warm winter gear.

The Work Shoe Specialist

“One of the advantages of specializing for forty years in safety shoes is business synergies. We have built a network of clients and suppliers who work together to improve programs,” said Mr. Colantonio.

An advantage of specialization is that everyone — clients, suppliers, business owners, workers, program managers, and Mister Safety Shoes own expert teams — collaborate to continuously improve. The exchange of information is constant, and — as the industry specialists — Mister Safety is quick to act on feedback.

“We are solicited quite often by the suppliers for feedback because we are right in front of the customer and we know their issues and needs,” says Mr. Alfieri. “The customers have the information our suppliers need to develop new products. This is a very active process to us, discussing issues users may have in particular work situations. Because we understand how these shoes are made, we are able to provide thorough feedback right to the manufacturers’ product development team—which in turn benefit our clients.”

The History of a Specialist—the Listening Ear

With the listening ear of a specialist, always ready to adapt and improve — together with unparalleled expertise in work safety shoe— it is, perhaps, no surprise that Mister Safety Shoes has thrived for more than 40 years.

The history of Mister Safety Shoes dates back to the 1950s, when Frank Colantonio immigrated to Canada. Living the challenging life of an immigrant, Colantonio worked at dangerous construction sites.

When Frank Colantonio witnessed a preventable death of a fellow-worker, it became a defining moment in Frank’s life — and, ultimately, the inspiration for Mister Safety Shoes. It began with the realization that workplace safety is about prevention and proper training, which comes from advocacy and education. Frank Colantonio became a grassroots organizer for the Carpenters’ Union and became an advocate for workers. In addition to inspiring union activities, he worked for the Italian Immigrant Aid Society and as a safety instructor with the Construction Safety Association.

Meanwhile, Colantonio’s wife Nella opened a neighbourhood shoe. With Frank’s experience and contacts running deep in various trade industries, the husband and wife team refocused the store on safety footwear and equipment.

In 1972, their specialty store became known as Safety Shoes and Equipment Centre, later rebranded as Mister Safety Shoes in 1978. Frank Colantonio’s dream of a safer work environment led to Mister Safety Shoes mission — to become the experts in safety shoes.

Today, Frank’s vision is pervasive. The bright red and white Mister Safety Shoes mobile stores whiz by on highways servicing, several thousand clients. With the online shop and 12 retail stores — locations across the Greater Toronto Area, as well as Kitchener, Guelph, Oshawa, Sarnia, Ingersoll, and Guelph, and Edmonton — Frank’s vision of a safe work place through prevention and proper training remains the inspiration of the experts at Mister Safety Shoes.

CCOHS Guide to Safety Footwear

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) suggest companies to set up a complete foot safety protection program including selection, fit testing, training, maintenance and inspection. CCOHS recognizes eight distinctive types of safety footwear, marked by colour-coded symbols:

  • Green triangle: for any industrial or heavy work environment, including construction, where sharp objects (such as nails) are present.
  • Yellow triangle: light industrial work environments that need both puncture and toe protection.
  • White rectangle with orange Greek letter “omega”: footwear with soles that provide electric shock resistance for industrial environments where accidental contact with live electrical conductors can occur.
  • Yellow rectangle and green letters “SD” accompanied by grounding symbol: industrial environments where a static discharge can be a hazard for workers or equipment.
  • Red rectangle with black letter “C” and grounding symbol:  environments where low-power electrical charges can be a hazard for workers or equipment.
  • White label with green fir tree: forestry workers and those who work with or around hand-held chainsaws and other cutting tools.
  • Blue rectangle: industrial work that does not require puncture protection.
  • Grey rectangle: institutional and non-industrial work that does not require puncture protection.