Getting the most safety out of your Personal Protective Equipment means making sure every item will protect you from the specific kinds of dangers you may encounter in the workplace. When looking at safety shoes, there are certain factors you should take into consideration.
Things to Consider:
Impact and compression resistance: protective toe caps that are rated to withstand weight being dropped on them. Metatarsal guards protect the top of the foot, beyond just one’s toes.
Sole puncture protection: Essential for construction sites or environments where nails, spikes or other debris could pierce through the bottom of the shoe.
Electrical shock: Electrical Hazard (EH) footwear has non-conductive soles and heels designed to provide protection from accidental contact with electrical shock. These are appropriate for low-voltage / lower-risk environments, while dielectric insulation (DI) footwear and overshoes offer a higher level of electrical shock resistance.
Flame-resistance: Some footwear offers additional safety with flame-resistant (FR) rubber soles and vamps and Nomex / Kevlar uppers. FR shoelaces can also be purchased at select PPE retailers. Note that some footwear only use flame-resistant material on parts of the boot. For maximum protection, ensure there is an FR symbol featured on the footwear.
The American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) sets the standards for foot protection and all safety shoes should be inscribed with the level of protection provided. Here’s what that looks like:
M I/75 C/75
Mt/75 Cd EH SD
What this Translates To
The first line shows the ASTM standard – the example above meeting the requirements of ASTM F2413 re-issued in 2011. ASTM F1117 is a standard for low-danger environments when protective footwear is considered ‘supplementary protection.’ ASTM F2413-11 covers minimum requirements for safety footwear. CSA Z195 is similar to ASTM F2413 but has more stringent voltage requirements. ASTM F1116-03 and ASTM F1117-03 are the specifications for dielectric (DI) footwear.
The second line states if the shoe was designed for a Male (M) or Female (F), with the I representing impact resistance level (75 foot-pounds) and C representing compression resistance (75 which correlates to 2500 pounds of compression).
The third line displays the metatarsal (Mt) rating (once again 75 foot-pounds), conductive (Cd), electrical hazard (EH) and static dissipative (SD) properties, chainsaw cut resistance (CS), and dielectric insulation (DI). The presence of a symbol indicates the footwear meets the relevant ASTM standard. If a shoe offers more than four of these protections, they will be split onto a fourth line.
There are several kinds of safety shoes designed specifically for different occupations. Foundry boots, welding boots, drilling boots, and wildfire boots are tailored to their respective industry and provide optimal protection for their environments. For example, drilling boots are waterproof to provide extra protection from liquid and chemicals, while foundry boots are insulated to withstand extremely high heat and come with Velcro quick release fasteners in case of accidental molten metal splash.
There are a lot of choices when it comes to safety shoes, but unfortunately there is no single safest option when it comes to footwear. The best Personal Protective Equipment varies depending on the specific needs of your work environment. Therefore, it is essential to perform a careful assessment of the risks inherent to your job and make sure your footwear provides the required protection across that spectrum.
Complete your head-to-toe safety measurements with FR clothing options from Workrite Uniform.