Creating an electrically safe working environment is an employer’s best way of ensuring protection against electric shocks to their workers. However, in many cases, the removal of electricity sources is not a viable option. Therefore, the only way to control current flow through a worker’s body is to select and wear rated-EH PPE or Personal Protection Equipment. EH stands for Electrical Hazards.
A big part of this PPE is EH-rated boots.
EH boots or EH-rated boots are safety work boots that protect the wearers from electric shocks and the risk of electrocution.
In this guide, we will study everything you need to know about EH rated boots.
What are EH Rated Boots?
EH Rated boots are made from non-conductive materials that help reduce or eliminate the potential for the feet to be the point of entry for electricity.
If workers wear adequately rated EH boots, their foot contact with the earth or ground is eliminated. This protects them from shocks and electrocutions. (Note that electricity can still enter through other points on the body if the worker is not protected with PPE suit).
In short: EH rated boots prevent the completion of circuit to stop the electric current from passing through the wearer’s body.
EH rated boots come with an Electrical Hazard or EH Rating. This means that they have been extensively tested to meet ASTM or American Society for Testing and Materials standards. We will discuss this in detail, later in this guide.
Uses of EH Rated Boots
EH rated boots are compulsory in all those demanding work circumstances where there is a potential of electric shocks and exposures to open circuits.
When electric current flows through the body, the reaction of the worker’s body changes as the amount of current increases. Many times, it is impossible to remove the source of electricity. But even a small current of 3-milli Ampere reading is enough to wreak havoc and cause serious third-degree burns in the human body.
Workers in factories, engineers, welders, electricians, and people in the automotive, construction, labor utility departments, telecommunication field, or even the warehousing are often exposed to shock and electrocution. Even office workers and sales personnel in areas dealing with open circuits could be exposed to such hazards.
Most of us are aware of the dangers of electricity. However, it is an unseen hazard and we can never be 100% aware of exposed electric cables all the time. Often, in construction sites and in factories, cables can remain exposed but unseen posing great risk to people around.
Stepping accidentally over such open circuits is not uncommon and many accidents have resulted in loss of life. Therefore, safety of people working under these conditions should start from the ground up with Protective work boots having an EH rating.
EH rated boots with complete EH rated PPE can help prevent untoward accidents in all these areas.
What Sets EH Rated Boots Apart from Other Safety Work Boots?
EH rated boots work by preventing the completion of the electric circuit between the human body and the ground.
Unlike regular safety boots, they are tested and given an EH-rating by the ASTM – American Society for Testing and Materials. This means that they are capable of preventing the flow of electricity through them and insulate the wearer’s feet against electric currents and dangers posed by exposure to open electric circuits.
Compared to regular work boots, they tend to have thicker rubber soles that can ensure complete insulation from electric hazards. They may also come withslip-resistance to enable workers to prevent slipping on wet, slippery surfaces, or in areas with limited traction.
According to the OSHA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, EH-rated boots must protect against 18000V open circuits in dry circumstances. OSHA also recommends using EH rated boots with other PPE to prevent current from entering through other exposed areas of the body.
EH boots tend to lose their protectiveness over time and also when they get wet due to rain or sweat. The sole of the boots can also get worn out due to excess use. That is why, workplaces require workers to replace worn boots right away or at least test their effectiveness from time to time.
What Standards do EH-Rated Boots Meet?
Dielectric footwear or EH-rated boots must be constructed according to standards defined in the ASTM F2413.
Additionally, there are tests to determine their protective capacity defined in the ASTM F1116.
These national consensus standards provide assurance that the footwear meets expectations for protecting worker’s feet from physical and electrical shock hazards.
Dielectric or EH-rated boots also provide additional impedance to isolate worker from coming in contact with earth. For this, manufacturers test these boots to withstand predetermined voltage of between 14KV to 20KV.
In addition to EH rating, some boots are also tested to protect workers from crush and compression injuries, conductive and puncture protection, metatarsal bone protection, etc.
Footwear that conforms to the ASTM and OSHA standards and comes with EH-ratings should have special marking to indicate the same. Manufacturers add these certification labels, testing, and standards in a small rectangle with wordings of no more than four lines. EH-Boots that come with additional metatarsal protection also have the letter M embossed in a circle on the side of the boot.
Features to Look for in EH Rated Boots
Meet or exceed ASTM standards
The EH-rated boots should meet or exceed following standards:
- ASTM F2913 SATRA standards
- ASTM F1677-96 standard for outsoles for slip resistance
- ASTM 2412-11, ASTM 2413-11, and ASTM 2892-11 soles standards to ensure protection upon stepping on live wire, electrically energized conductors, parts, or apparatus.
- Crush resistance to meet or exceed ASTM F2892 standards
- EH underfoot protection for secondary source of protection in case of accidentally coming in contact with live circuit.
Look for boots that fit snugly but also be aware of pinching, hotspots, etc. Avoid loose boots.
Ensure adequate shaft height from arch to ankle or above ankle. This varies from user to user. Some men prefer athletic styling, others like taller boots. Workplaces also lay down rules and regulations about the style of boots allowed.
Safety toe/composite toe
The boots can have safety or composite toe construction too. This will protect the toe and metatarsal area from crush and compression injuries, hot liquids, etc.
Lightweight yet safe
When you have to wear the boots all day long, you would not want them to be heavy as they could cause fatigue. Ensure that the boots you select focus on lightweight-yet-sturdy work protection.
They should be designed for optimal user comfort on the job.
Traction and slip-resistance
Workers need to ensure snug fit and proper grip on utility poles. That is why, many work boots also come with traction-related and slip-resistance-related ASTM standards in addition to the EH-rating.
They should be marked as oil-resistant if they do not absorb oils and become slippery.
Ideally, the selected boots should also be water-resistant or waterproof if one has to work in water-logged conditions or wet and muddy environments. (It is very important to remember that EH protection diminishes greatly when the boots are wet due to the rain or sweat).
Built to last
EH-rated boots that are exposed to water, rough usage, and wear-and-tear could lose their rating. Hence, many workplaces demand re-testing of the EH rating. Workers need to check the tread and soles to make sure that they perform in the field. This is very important for making demanding work environment safer and more comfortable.
They should be made with rugged fiberglass, Kevlar and/or tough, non-conducting synthetic materials that also have aggressive tread patterns.
In short: the boots should also have features and materials that all have a purpose and provide long-lasting and reliable protection to the user.
How to know if a pair of boots or shoes are EH-rated?
A boot is EH-rated only if it meets or exceeds ASTM standards described above. The manufacturers will add these standards in the form of printed label inside the shoes. Only if this label is present does it mean that the boots are EH rated and can protect against electric hazards and open circuits.
What boots should electricians wear?
In addition to an EH-rating, electricians should wear work boots with superior tread for slip resistance. Their boots or shoes should also have puncture-resistant soles. If one has to work around heavy equipment, then they also need safety toe boots for preventing crushing impacts and injuries.
The footwear should be ANSI approved. ANSI stands for American Nationals Standards Institute. Ideally, the selected footwear should meet the ANSI Z41 protection standards. Alternatively, look for boots with the aforementioned ASTM standards.
Under what circumstances are EH-rated shoes not required?
Electrical hazard rated footwear is only designed to be resistant to electrical conductance. It can protect the user from electric shocks, open or potentially live circuits, and other electrical hazards. They should not be worn in non-hazardous/flammable locations where conductive footwear is required. They are also not suitable for environments where it is necessary for the static charge buildup from the wearer’s body to flow off into the conductive, grounded floor.
Key Takeaway Points on Eh-Rated Boots
Electrical Hazard rated footwear is designed to prevent the flow of electricity through the shoe in event of contact with live wire or open circuit or electrically energized conductor, parts, or capacitors.
They are necessary for utility and railroad workers, engineers, electricians, welders, and employees working near live or potentially live circuits.
High-quality EH-rated boots conform to ASTM/OSHA/ANSI standards.
It is very important to remember that EH-shoes can only be depended upon when they are dry and in good repair. Their protection is greatly diminished when wet due to rain or perspiration.