The current standards for safety work boots are the ASTM 2413-18. OSHA updated these standards in 2018 to meet the evolving needs of the workforce and industries. OSHA Work Boot Requirements are Impact, Compression, and Puncture resistance. The requirement states additional requirements such as protection against electrical hazard (EH), Static dissipative properties (SD), etc.
Good safety boots make better workers. Outfitting the workforce with the right footwear reduces on-job injuries and trauma. These work boots protect the feet, ankles, and knees of the employee. This heightens morale, improves productivity, and cuts the loss of work hours. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) adopts and enforces federal regulations.
These regulations expect employers to provide protective footwear for the workforce in industrial settings. There are thousands of rules and regulations for workplace safety. This rule is stated in Section 29 – CFR 1910.136 concerning occupational foot protection.
According to this document, safety footwear is a part of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Protective Equipment (PPE) covers the entire body from head to toe. It is a commonly used term in the safety and health industry. The section on feet mentions the issues relevant to the workers in construction, service, and government fields.
Reasons behind OSHA Work Boot Requirements
Failing to comply with the OSHA requirements can cause sanctions, warnings, and fines. These consequences can be avoided by providing the employees with the safety footwear of offering partial or full reimbursement. OSHA does not force the companies to purchase safety footwear for their staff. but encourages them to get the protection before they begin work.
Consider the cost comparison, safety boots range from $80 – 250. The cost is similar to that of an injured worker’s hospital visit. OSHA fines a minimum of $2300 to $70000 depending upon the severity of an incident.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) which is a part of the U.S. Department of Labor, reports that injuries to the foot and lower extremities can take up to 6 days to heal. Approximately 120000 workers suffer from foot, toe, and ankle injuries. BLS cites a study that informs that 75% of these injuries occurred due to non-compliance with OSHA Work Boot Requirements.
What are the OSHA Work Boot Requirements?
The federal regulation enforced by OSHA clearly states in the 29 CFR 1910.136 (a), that – It is the employer’s responsibility to assess their worksite for hazards. They are to see that each employee uses safety footwear while working in the areas of apparent danger. The danger or hazard can cause foot injuries because of rolling, falling, or sole-piercing objects. The footwear will also protect from static discharge, electrical hazards, or shock.
The OSHA Work Boot Requirements offer protection while working with-
- Electrical hazards such as electric poles, high tension wires, live wires, conductors, etc.
- Poisonous or corrosive materials such as caustic chemicals such as potash, various acids, etc. They offer protection while working with insecticides, pesticides, salts, ores, etc.
- Static electricity could lead to explosion because of a static discharge that ignites volatile and flammable substances like kerosene, nylon, naphthalene, etc.
- Sharp objects that could puncture the foot on the work floor of a recycling plant, glass industry, or metalworks and welding plant.
- Heavy objects that may roll onto the foot on a freight and packaging facility, or while handling large drums full of chemicals or oil.
- Molten metals in refineries and foundries. The splashes can fall anywhere – toe, foot, ankle, or shin putting the worker out of commission for a long time.
- Hot or slippery surfaces like in the refineries, boiler rooms, oil rigs, canning and bottling plants, etc.
OSHA requirements suggest conducting a hazard assessment of the workplace. This assessment would determine the type of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) i.e., work boots; required for the working conditions prevailing in that workplace. A consultant or in-house safety personnel can conduct the assessment.
What do OSHA Work Boot Requirements mean?
Safety footwear should comply with the recommended ASTM Standards. Manufacturers complied with ASTM F2413-05, which was formerly known as the ANSI Z41-1999 (American National Standards Institute). ASTM F2413-05 recommended various test methods and performance specifications. Only after the footwear complies with the requirements for compression and impact resistance; can the additional requirements be built into the boot.
These standards are revised every 5 years to meet the evolving requirements of various industries. There have been revisions in the year 2017 and 18. The modifications were made in the Test Methods and Performance requirements for the Standard Specification of the footwear with the Safety toe. The ASTM F2413-17 and F2412-18 set forth the minimum performance requirements of safety footwear.
The tests proposed by the ASTM Standard measure the durability and protective strength. They measure the following parameters;
- Impact Resistance (I) – The boots were tested by dropping weights of 30, 50, and 75 pounds from a height of 18 inches. The results determined if the model was I/30, I/50, or I/75 approved. Of these boots, the ones marked with I/75 offered the maximum level of protection against impact.
- Compression Resistance (C) – The boots were subjected to the compressive force of 1000 pounds, 1750 pounds, and 2500 pounds. The ones that withstood the compression by 1000 pounds were designated C/30 rating. The boots that withstood the pressure of 1750 pounds were designated C/50 rating. And the ones that tolerated the pressure of 2500 pounds were designated C/75 rating. The boots marked with C/75 offer maximum protection against compression.
The OSHA Work Boot Requirements requires protective toe caps to be built into the boots. The manufacturers are required to build these toe caps into the boots. And the boots to be tested and designated with ratings by in-house quality control and testing at every step of the boot manufacturing process. The boots must meet the impact and compression resistance thresholds and be rated. These ratings decide which types of boots (by rating) are right for which jobs. There is a specific list of standards for different jobs.
For Example, a worker may be recommended to buy an ASTM-Certified product that also satisfies the OSHA Work Boot Requirements. One of the specified boots may be legibly marked with a rectangle enclosing the following information. What does this designation mean?
M I/75, C/75, Mt/75
Line 1 tells you that the boot is ASTM F2413-05 compliant i.e., it meets all the protective specifications mentioned under this standard.
Line 2 carries the information regarding the gender it is meant for and the ratings for impact and compression protection. M indicates the boot is for a male. The boot offers maximum protection against impact (I/75) and compression (C/75). It also offers maximum Metatarsal protection (Mt/75). This means of the wearer drops a weight of 75 pounds on his foot, there will be no injury.
Line 3 indicates slip resistance (SR)
Line 4 indicates chain-saw resistance (CR).
Different work boots carry various types of ratings. The abbreviations to these ratings are enlisted here –
- I/30, I/50, I/75 – Impact rating
- C/30, C/50, C/75 – Compression rating
- Mt/30, Mt/50, Mt/75 – Metatarsal rating
- CD – Conductive properties
- CR – Chainsaw resistant
- DI – Dielectric insulation properties
- EH – Electrical Hazard properties
- SD 100 – Static dissipative (1-100 megohms)
- SD 35 – Static dissipative (1-35 megohms)
- SD 10 – Static dissipative (1-10 megohms)
- PR – Puncture Resistant
- SR- Slip Resistant
- F – Footwear for a female
- M – Footwear for a male
The inspectors, health, and safety experts will recommend that the employees wear ASTM-approve boots. Add-on devices such as strap-on toe caps, ankle and metatarsal guards fit awkwardly over street footwear. The employees may also forget to put them on. This causes additional safety concerns. Thus OSHA Work Boot Requirements is to wear ASTM F2413-17 or 18 compliant boots at work.
Selecting the Right Boots
Meeting the OSHA Work Boot Requirements helps you find the right boots for your job. Each industry has its own set of specific hazards. For example, if you are a construction worker you will require impact, compression, and puncture-resistant boots. The soles of the boot should be heat resistant as the sun may heat the metal and concrete to a very high degree. This would make walking around the worksite an ordeal. If you are wiring the new building electrical wires and outlets will be everywhere. You will require boots that do not conduct electricity.
Boots that prevent the collection of static charges should not be worn with nylon, silk, or woolen socks. The Electrical Hazard (EH) boots prevent the passage of the current through the wearer’s body – using it as a conductor. They are designed for electricians and are a lifesaver while working with high tension wires. If you step on a live wire while wearing EH boots, you will be protected from 18000V at 60 Hz for a minute in dry conditions. There should not be a current leakage or flow over 1mA.
Likewise, if you are a contractor paving roads, heat-resistant boots will make it easy to negotiate hot roofs, paving, and metalwork industries. These boots will protect the feet from scalding and splashing molten metal. Foundry boots have safety toes that designed to prevent the hot metal from lodging in the eyelets and other parts.
The manufacturers and suppliers should recommend the right boots to offer maximum protection at the workplace. The more dangerous the job site, the narrower the range of challenges to design protective boots. For example, with firefighters, boots, and apparel are created just for them. Their safety standards are also regulated by NFPA standards besides OSHA. Thus as one size does not fit all – one set of safety measures does not fit all.
Recommendations to support OSHA Work Boot Requirements
It is prudent to check the work boots before every use. They should be checked for wear, tear, crack, broken seams, and buckles. These equipment-checks help determine if they meet the safety requirements. If they don’t, then they should be replaced. They should be checked for dirt, embedded pieces of metal or nails, and other debris.
If they are waterproof and used in bio-hazard industries, then they should be washed. These checks are a lifesaver and prevent the PPE from failing when they are required to perform. Not to say that the regular care instills confidence in the worker and prolongs the life of the work boots.
OSHA offers grants, guidance, partnership programs, training, and free consultations to employers who would like to meet OSHA requirements. They also offer voluntary protection programs to small employers. The employers are required to conduct a hazard assessment of their workplace to decide which ASTM standards apply to them.
This helps the businesses decide upon the type of OSHA Standards compliant work boots that are suitable for their workers. The fulfills OSHA’s mandate to meet the governmental obligation toward the citizens. This also protects the lives of the employees while enhancing workplace safety.
How do OSHA Work Boot Requirements benefit the employees?
Safety boots offer a vital layer of protection. As prevention is better than cure, employers should note that the cost of safety footwear is covered when an injury is prevented. An injury puts the worker out of commission for weeks. It may even cause permanent damage. Companies have to hand out thousands of dollars in worker compensation, not to mention suffer a loss of productivity. Meeting OSHA Work Boot Requirements are that precaution that prevents a lot of grief. A little investment in safety work boots brings so many benefits.
Do OSHA-Compliant work boots expire?
Work boots are subjected to daily wear and tear. They are also exposed to stress in a hazardous work environment. Despite regular cleaning and maintenance, they will wear. To keep up the recommended OSHA Work Boot Requirements, they should be replaced every 6 to 12 months.
What is the difference between Static Dissipating (SD) and Electrical Hazard (EH) boots?
The EH boots prevent the possibility of electrocution. SD boots ground the build-up of a static charge in a controlled manner. There are eliminating the possibility of a static shock or discharge.
Do ASTM F2413-18-compliant boots meet OSHA Work Boot Requirements?
In 2018, ASTM International introduced three updates for footwear standards. These updates covered the test methods for F2412 – foot protection, F2413 – protective (safety) toe cap footwear, and F2892 – non-safety or soft-toe protective footwear. These standards guide the test labs and companies to improve testing methods and performance data collection. All three updates are OSHA Work Boot Requirements.