THE CONTEGO GUIDE TO SAFETY FOOTWEAR
Feet are vulnerable to a range of risks in the workplace. They must be protected against risks relating to cuts and punctures, falling objects, slipping, metal and chemical splash, electrostatic build up and wet environments.
The failure to provide safety boots or the appropriate type of boots can lead to serious injuries or skin conditions, and have severe legal and reputational consequences for employers. Therefore, it is essential that your employees are provided with the right safety footwear.
There is a wide range of safety boots available for a variety of applications. The use of these boots is governed by a number of industry safety standards. This guide provides an explanation of these standards and the performance you can expect from the footwear tested to these standards. It also explains the codes used to convey this data.
Overall, this guide is designed to allow you to make an informed decision about the safety shoes and boots you need to provide for your employees for the tasks that they undertake.
THE ROLE OF RISK ASSESSMENTS IN SELECTING THE RIGHT SAFETY FOOTWEAR
When you are purchasing safety boots and shoes for your workforce, it is recommended that you refer to a recent risk assessment of the workplace environments in which your employees are working. If a risk assessment does not exist, one should be carried out.
Taking this step provides a clear understanding of the hazards that you need the safety footwear that you choose to protect against. This will allow you to select the appropriate safety shoes and boots and will ensure that you comply with all the relevant health and safety rules and other industry regulations
Workplace hazards relating to safety footwear include:
- Cuts and punctures
- Falling objects
- Metal and chemical splash
- Electrostatic build up
- Wet environments
KEY INDUSTRY STANDARDS RELATING TO SAFETY BOOTS
EN ISO 20345:2022 – THE BASIC SAFETY FOOTWEAR STANDARD
EN ISO 20345:2022 is the basic standard for safety boots and all safety boots must conform to this standard. It includes a range of protective categories, relating to impact and compression protection, resistance to slipping, water repellency, resistance to cold, resistance to heat and metatarsal protection. Each category has a unique code and safety footwear can carry more than one code.
BASIC SAFETY FOOTWEAR RATINGS AND CODES
EN ISO 20345:2022 categories that cover impact and compression protection relate to safety footwear that features a steel toe cap. These safety boots offer impact protection of up to 200 joules and compression protection of up to 15,000 newtons or 1,530 kilogrammes.
These categories are:
SAFETY BOOTS THAT OFFER RESISTANCE TO SLIPPING
A high percentage of workplace accidents are the result of slips. Therefore, there are separate safety standards that rate the slip resistance of safety footwear.
Slip resistance on ceramic tile floors that have had detergent applied to them is a basic requirement for all safety shoes and boots, and therefore, no special marking is displayed with regard to this feature.
The slip resistance standards are:
HOW SAFETY FOOTWEAR IS TESTED FOR SLIP RESISTANCE
With regard to slip resistance testing, safety footwear is tested based on the toe in the following position, with the shoe facing backwards and inclined by 7°.
This test is not applicable for safety footwear designed for special purposes (e.g. footwear containing nails, metal studs and for use in sandy and mandy environments). This type of footwear is marked with the Ø symbol.
Under the standards of EN ISO 20345:2021 manufacturers are required to state the slip resistance of the footwear in two different scenarios as shown below.
The requirements for Coefficient of Friction (CoF) for safety footwear are:
ADDITIONAL SAFETY FOOTWEAR CATEGORIES
As well as the basic safety footwear standards and slip resistance ratings, there are a number of additional safety boot classifications. Safety footwear can carry these codes in addition to the standard classifications.
With regard to metallic perforation, safety footwear inserts must comply with EN ISO 22568-3:2019. Safety shoes and boots certified to this standard have passed a perforation test, carried out at maximum load, that uses a conical truncated nail with a diameter of 4.5mm. The average value of the force required to perforate the outsole is 1,100 newtons or above.
Regarding non-metallic perforation, safety footwear inserts must comply with EN ISO 22568-4:2021. There are two types of non-metallic perforation test:
- PL: a pass-fail test with a penetration force of 1,100 newtons using a conical truncated nail with a diameter of 4.5mm (a pass is only given when no perforation and no separation of the layers occurs).
- PS: a test using a conical truncated nail with a diameter of 3.0mm. The average value of the force required to perforate the outsole must be 1,100 newtons or above and each single value must be 950 newtons or above.
The safety footwear is marked PS or PL according to the test method used. Therefore, you will find safety boots and shoes marked S1PL, S1PS, S3L, S3S, S5L, S5S, S7L and S7S.
The metatarsal bones are the five long bones that run along the top of your foot, connecting your toes and your ankle. A sudden blow, such as a hard or heavy object being dropped onto your foot, can result in a break or acute (sudden) fracture in one of the metatarsal bones. In working environments where heavy and hard objects are present or being handled, these bones should be protected against compression injuries by wearing safety boots that feature metatarsal guards, also known as Met or Meta Guards.
There are two types of metatarsal guards:
- External metatarsal guards – these wrap around the outside of the boot and be worn or removed depending on what risks are present
- Internal metatarsal guards – these are integrated to the inside of the boot and are therefore present at all times
The following applies with regard to upper breathability in safety footwear:
- If there is a non-permeable material on the upper, it must not cover an area greater than 25% of the upper.
- If the non-breathable parts cover the upper for a maximum area equal to 10%, the requirements of the breathable parts relating to water vapour permeability and the water vapour coefficient remain unchanged.
- If the non-breathable parts cover an area between 10% and 25% of the upper, the water vapour permeability requirement for breathable parts becomes ≥2.0 mg/(cm2h). The water vapour coefficient requirement (15 mg/cm2) remains unchanged.
- The area does not include the following parts: toe cap, counter, lacing system, collar and the parts in contact with the sole.
ASTM F2413-18 – PROTECTION AGAINST ELECTRICAL HAZARD
Safety boots and shoes that meet the requirements of this standard protect wearers against electric shock injury. They feature non-conductive, electrical-shock resistant soles and heels.
These safety boots are commonly referred to as electrical hazard or EH rated and usually form part of a larger personal protective equipment kit along with gloves and grounding equipment.
This type of safety boot is designed for working environments that involve close proximity to live electric sources and where there is a risk of electric shock.
Safety boots that meet the requirements of ASTM F2413-18 must not be used for protection against electrostatic discharge.
EN 61340-4-3:2018 – PROTECTION AGAINST ELECTROSTATIC DISCHARGE
Safety boots and shoes that meet the requirements of this standard are commonly referred to as electrostatic discharge or ESD rated footwear. They are suitable for working environments in which wearers are in close proximity to sensitive electrical equipment and to sensitive materials such as explosives.
Safety boots that meet the requirements of EN 61340-4-3:2018 must not be used for protection against electrical hazard.
EN ISO 20349:2017 – PROTECTION AGAINST THERMAL RISKS AND MOLTEN METAL SPLASH
Safety boots and shoes that meet the requirements of this standard protect against extreme heat and contact with molten metal. This safety footwear is suitable for heavy engineering working environments, such as foundries and welding sites.
There are three categories of this type of safety boot:
BS EN 17249:2013 – FOOTWEAR PROVIDING PROTECTION AGAINST CHAINSAW CUTTING
Safety boots and shoes that meet the requirements of this standard protect against chainsaw cutting. They feature layers of chainsaw protective fabric in addition to steel toe caps and offer protection against accidental slips and cuts and flying debris.
There are three types of chainsaw safety boots available:
Footwear providing protection against chainsaw cutting is suitable for rugged and abrasive working environments, including forestry and landscaping sites. Notably, it is common practice to equip workers with chainsaw safety boots that offer the highest level of protection regardless of chainsaw speed.
WHY FIT AND COMFORT ARE IMPORTANT IN SAFETY FOOTWEAR
It is critical that safety shoes and boots fit well and are comfortable to wear. Uncomfortable and ill-fitting safety shoes and boots can have a negative impact on employee performance, increase trip and slip risks and can cause footwear to wear out quicker than it should.
In order to ensure that employees have the right size of safety footwear and that it is comfortable to wear, they should do the following:
Employees should put on the safety shoes or boots without lacing them up and, with their feet resting against the toe caps, they should be able to place one finger, or at the most two fingers, between their heels and the backs of the shoes or boots. Any more than that and a smaller size should be selected. The act of lacing up the safety shoes or boots should pull the feet away from the toe caps, ensuring a good, comfortable fit. Extra-wide safety footwear should be made available to employees who require it.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE APPROPRIATE FOOTWEAR FOR YOUR EMPLOYEES
The information contained in this safety footwear guide is designed to help you choose the right safety boots when placing an order for your workforce.
Different tasks require different boots and shoes and it is important that your employees are provided with the appropriate personal protective equipment. You should always base your choice of safety footwear on the most severe hazard that your employees will face.
By using this information and taking these steps, you will ensure that your company is fully compliant with all the relevant industry standards and that your employees can do their jobs safely, efficiently and to the highest standard.
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