How to Select the Right Safety Footware

By Clive Astin, Gorilla Safety Footwear

When one considers hazardous working environments, construction, engineering, or even farming and mining are often the first ones that come to mind.  However, even the most seemingly benign working environment can pose real threats to workers.

Any workplace that poses the risk of slips, trip and falls and where objects can fall onto feet and penetrate midsoles needs to be considered.  Other risks might include risks of electricity, or burns, scalds and irritation.  It is the responsibility of employers to identify all potential workplace risks and to provide the relevant Personal Protective Equipment, or more precisely in this case, Safety Footwear.

Sourcing adequate safety footwear is not as simple as buying steel toecap boots though.  To begin with, all safety footwear needs to satisfy the minimum requirements of EN ISO 20345, meaning that items should feature an impenetrable sole, with toecap protection to a minimum of 200 joules force.  This protects a force similar to the impact of a 20kg  weight falling on to the toes from a height of 10.2 metres.

For working around electricity, consider metal-free, or composite footwear, which protects to the same levels, if not higher. There are antistatic, waterproof, chemical-proof and for heavy industrial working environments, metatarsal protection boots i.e. ones that ensure the delicate bones that span the top of the foot are not damaged.  In fact, metatarsal injuries are some of the most common foot injuries and ones that incapacitate workers considerably.

Starting with SB safety rating safety footwear that satisfies minimum requirements, safety ratings increase as follows: 

  • SB: Safety Basic, meaning basic requirements for safety footwear are met
  • S1: Basic requirements, plus antistatic and oil-resistance, with closed and energy-absorbing seat region
  • S2: As S1 plus waterproof exterior, water penetration prevention and energy absorption in heel
  • S3: As S2 but with penetration-resistant and cleated sole
  • S4: Basic requirements but also leak-proof, antistatic and with energy-absorbing seat region
  • S5: As S4 with penetration-resistant and cleated sole

Once you have satisfied your safety rating requirement, select safety footwear that comes with any of the following additional safety features:

  • A – Antistatic protection
  • C – Conductive
  • CI – Insulation against cold for 30 minutes at -20℃
  • CR – Cut-resistant
  • E – Energy-absorbing seat region
  • EH – Electrical hazard non-conductive
  • ESD – Electrostatic discharge meeting ESD CEI EN 61340-5-1 standards
  • FE – Tested using molten metal splashes
  • FO – Resistant to fuel oil
  • HI – Heat insulation for 30 minutes at 150℃
  • HRO – Heat-resistant outsole up to 300℃
  • M – Metatarsal protection
  • P – Midsole penetration resistance
  • Wg – Tested using molten metal splinters
  • WR – Whole footwear water-resistant
  • WRU – Water-resistant upper

Another specification that needs consideration is the slip-resistant rating of the sole. There are three ratings to choose from which include:

  • SRA: Tested on ceramic surface with soap
  • SRB: Tested on steel with glycerol
  • SRC: Both of the above

So if you’ve considered the risks facing your workforce and matched each risk with the above, you can rest-assured that the likelihood of injury to your workers will be controlled and significantly reduced.

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