17th May, 2022
You need to wear safety footwear in various workplaces, and sometimes, it might seem like a hassle. Why should you wear them? Safety boots protect you from a wide range of hazards that could hurt your feet. Let's look at the different ratings and codes for safety footwear and what they mean.
There are many hazards that safety boots (or safety footwear) can protect you against - these hazards include:
Safety boots can also increase comfort, providing ankle support and shock absorption to the wearer.
Not all safety footwear is the same or has the same safety ratings. You might find a variety of codes on your safety boots, including:
But various other letters might also be appended to the safety rating for extra features. For example:
Let's look at what some of these codes mean - and how they can protect your feet.
In other words, protective toecaps.
If you have ever stubbed your toe, you know how painful that can be. Dropping something heavy on your feet, or getting your foot trapped in a pinch point, would be more unbearable. It could result in broken toes or even loss of your toes.
Safety footwear certified to SB level protects you from falling objects (200-joule impact protection) and compression protection against crushing injuries.
A static shock is sometimes just a minor annoyance. But in some situations, it can be dangerous. The sparks caused by static shocks could start a fire or explosion in high-risk environments or damage sensitive electronic equipment.
You can get an electrostatic shock if you are electrically 'charged' and you touch something that is earthed, or if you're earthed and you touch something that is charged.
You can pick up a static charge through friction from something as simple as walking on a carpet. When you touch a conductor, like metal or another person, you (or they) get a static shock.
Anti-static safety shoes reduce the chance of electrostatic discharges. This type of conductive footwear prevents a build-up of static electrical charges in the human body by sending these charges to the ground.
Having wet feet at work is uncomfortable at best. In cold conditions, wet feet can damage your nerves and contribute to hypothermia or frostbite. Having wet skin all day can also create skin problems, like dermatitis. In warm weather, wet feet could lead to a fungal infection.
Boots with water resistance will help stop your feet from getting wet at work. This protection is useful if you work in wet environments, e.g. cleaning, washing, or working on wet ground, such as in groundwork.
Anti-penetration or penetration resistance (P) helps protect your feet from any nails, screws, glass or sharp objects you stand on. This protection is good for construction workers and carpenters where stray nails and broken materials are common.
A common problem in work environments is slips. Floors can become slippery during cleaning, in the rain, or following a spill. Having anti-slip floor surfaces and cleaning spills promptly should always be the priority. Wearing suitable footwear can help prevent slips too.
There are two levels of slip resistance.
Safety footwear with slip resistance rated to SRA level can then get tested to SRB. And if it passes both tests, it gets a new rating (SRC).
If you work in a chilly environment like a warehouse or outdoors in winter, your feet can get cold. Safety boots with cold insulation (CI) help keep your feet warm by keeping the cold out. The standard level of protection is up to -17°C, but some can go colder.
Heat insulation (HI) footwear can withstand high temperatures, often up to 150°C. This protection is useful in hot environments or if you might get exposed to hot substances as part of your job.
Safety footwear is also available with heat-resistant soles (HRO). Particularly useful if you need to walk on hot surfaces, like when laying tarmac surfaces. Or if you want your soles to last longer in the summer when outside surfaces can get very hot.
You can also find safety boots for specific thermal risks, which are necessary if you work in welding or foundry processes.
Safety boots certified for electrostatic discharge (ESD) offer extremely low electrical resistance. ESD boots and anti-static (A) but with even lower resistance. They prevent a strong, uncontrolled electrostatic charge, protecting sensitive equipment or components from electrostatic discharges.
Both electrostatic discharge (ESD) and anti-static (A) safety boots are conductive.
You can also get insulating safety footwear to protect against electrical hazards (EH).
This type of footwear is insulating to protect the wearer from electric shock due to accidental contact with live electric wires. EH footwear will specify the level of protection it offers, e.g. 1000V Class 0, so you can pick the right protection for the type of work.
This footwear is not suitable where anti-static properties are needed.
Like toe protection, but protecting the top of your foot, metatarsal protection (M) offers a bigger area of protection. If heavy items are likely to injure your feet, this extra guarding can help keep your foot in one piece.
Safety footwear with a cut-resistant upper protects the tops and sides of your feet from cuts. Useful if you regularly work with blades or other sharp objects that could penetrate the boot from the top or sides.
You can also find safety boots for different kinds of chemical hazards. These boots will be tested and certified for penetration, permeation and degradation from chemical exposure.
This protection could be a general resistance to fuel/oil (FO) and a range of industrial chemicals or against a specific high-risk chemical in your workplace.
PPE shouldn't be your only control measure, but it is your last line of defence against a hazard. Here are 50 reasons you should wear and use PPE.
This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.
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