Choosing your safety shoes for work is an extremely important task, and you need to be safe in the knowledge that you have the right pair. There is a lot to take into consideration – protection level, additional protection features, aesthetic and comfort. You need to make sure that you know exactly what you are looking for, and we’ve put together a guide, so you don’t miss anything.
Why Do You Need Safety Boots?
A large percentage of workplace accidents involve foot injuries, and safety shoes must be provided when working in hazardous areas. When you are deciding which safety shoes to go for, you will need to complete a thorough risk assessment once all practical measures have already been put in place to reduce the risk of accidents on site. You need to make sure that the footwear you choose:
- Meets legal standards
- Is the correct type of footwear for your work environment
- Is being used correctly by the wearer
Common safety shoe features typically include:
- Anti-slip – for smooth and greasy industrial floors
- Anti-abrasion – this means the shoe has been built to resist wear caused by abrasion and scuffs such as kneeling down. This is normally in the form of a steel toe cap, which offers additional protection to the most vulnerable part of your foot.
- Anti-perforation – the soles may need to be quick thick and sturdy to avoid injuries when working in a workshop
- Anti-static – for workshops that have electrostatic discharges
- Fire retardant – typically used in welding industries
Once you have determined what types of protection are required, you then need to choose your shoe. You need to make sure that they are comfortable, especially if you are wearing them all day, and if you need them to be waterproof. Portwest safety boots are available in both fabric and leather options so you are warm and dry whatever the weather conditions.
Understanding Safety Footwear Legislation
As mentioned above, the first thing you need to remember when buying ladies safety trainers or Portwest boots is that they meet safety regulations.
All safety footwear must meet the minimum safety standard set out by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The current standard for workers in Europe (EN) is EN ISO 20345:2011 and was last updated in 2011 to make the regulations even stricter.
Under this standard, ALL men’s and ladies safety trainers and boots must have toe protection for a 200 joule impact (the amount the toe cap can absorb before breaking), as well as anti-slip soles and a closed back of the shoe. Any additional safety features of the footwear are represented by a combination of letters:
- Fo – hydrocarbon-resistant soles
- A – Anti-static footwear
- E – heel and sole energy absorption
- Wru – upper part of the shoe resistant to water penetrations
- Wr – water resistant
- P – perforation resistant soles
Then it can get really confusing!! These are then divided into classes based on the features and benefits:
SB - Safety basic, 200 joules Toe Protection, Oil Resistant outer sole. (Minimum Requirement)
SBP - As SB plus Mid-Sole for penetration resistance.
S1 - As SB plus Anti-Static properties and fully enclosed Energy Absorbing heel area.
S1P - As S1 plus Mid-Sole for penetration resistance.
S2 - As S1 plus resistance to Water Penetration and absorption.
S3 - As S2 plus Midsole for penetration resistance and cleated outsole
S4 - 200 joules Toe Protection. All rubber or polymer construction (waterproof). Anti-Static properties, Energy Absorbing heel area.
S5 - As S4 plus Midsole for penetration resistance and cleated outsole.
For example, the below would be classed as S1P so they have 200 joules toe protection, anti-slip soles, mid-sole protection for anti-perforation, anti-static properties and fully enclosed energy absorbing heel area. It can be confusing, but keep this list handy when you are looking for new boots to help you.
What Safety Shoes Do I Need For My Work?
Obviously, you will need to conduct your own risk assessment, but as a general guide these are the classes of shoes worn by different industries:
- Labs – some laboratories may require safety boots in order to prevent slips whilst at work. Many would need S1 or S2 boots in order to meet regulations.
- Construction sites – normally S1 or S1P would suffice, but each site is different so make sure you do a thorough risk assessment
- Indoor / outdoor work – for jobs such as construction or mining where you are working both indoors and outdoors, you would need S3 or S5 due to flooding risks.
- Agri-food industry – as this is normally done indoors, S1 or S1P shoes should suffice. However, there may be times when you need SRA or SRB, so it is important to check that you have the right classification.
- Automotive – These would need a shoe that covers a whole range of risks, including welding. A proper risk assessment must be made of the site before you choose your safety boots.
Tips And Tricks When Choosing Safety Boots
Once you have assessed the environment or site you will be working on for hazards, and you know what classification boots you need to go for, make sure you keep in mind the below tips when choosing new safety boots.
Go for a trusted brand – if you are spending all day on your feet in safety footwear, then you need to make sure that they will be comfortable. If you go for shoes based on price, there is a reason they are cheap. They may be okay for domestic use, but vigorous testing is done by big brands to make sure that you are comfortable as well as safe. Go for Rock Fall or Portwest safety boots to ensure that you are safe when working on site.
Choose boots with comfortable features – whilst you might think you need to go overboard with safety features, sometimes the lightweight option might be the best option for you, especially if you need to wear them for a prolonged period of time. As long as you have the correct level of protection for your environment, make sure that they are as comfortable as possible!
Don’t buy second hand – if you buy second hand safety boots, you don’t know how the previous owner has maintained them, or if they have already taken a beating whilst working on site! They may have already exceeded their safe limit, so always buy new shoes that are suited for you and your work environment.
Get the correct size – Generally, safety boots are sized a bit larger as manufacturers anticipate that thick socks will be worn with them. Bear this in mind when choosing your boots and avoid ordering a smaller size!
Make sure they are the right classification – the most important part of all, you need to make sure that you have the right classification of shoes to meet legislation. You need to take into account all hazards, including falling objects, sharp discarded objects, crush risk, shock absorbing properties, slippery surfaces, extreme temperatures and wet/ damp conditions. Ensure that you have an up to date and full risk assessment before making any purchase.