Every workplace has its hazards in various forms. The most effective way of protecting the employees is controlling these risks at their source. These controls are applied via work practices, administrative controls, and engineering. Workplace safety is an amalgamation of all these factors and the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Using safety boots is a part of this practice. When selecting work boots for your personnel, ensure they meet all the Federal safety standards i.e., Work Boot Safety Standards; prescribed for that job. Wearing these boots not only prevents injuries but also brings peace of mind and enhanced productivity. Manufacturers ensure that these boots meet and exceed all the safety standards.
Definition of Work Boot Safety Standards
For any work boot to be designated as safety footwear, it requires meeting the minimum standards recommended by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). In the United States, manufacturers and employees are required to follow the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) prescribed by the Department of Labor.
CFR Title 29 mentioned the personal protective equipment the employer should provide the workers. The OSHA 1910.132. expects the same and has mentioned the requirements for foot protection standards under 1910.136.
By 29 CFR 1910.136 says that while working in work areas where there may be even the smallest danger to the foot, personal protective gear is mandatory. The injury could result from a falling object or heavy objects rolling on to the foot. The safety footwear should safeguard from electrical hazards and protect the foot from piercing or cutting objects from underneath.
Appendix B mentions the occupations most likely to be exposed to such conditions. These safety work boots are mandatory for the workers to handle stocks, work with heavy machines, work with electricity, etc. Carpenters, mechanics, plumbers, packers, etc., are among the enlisted occupations.
To ensure that 29 CFR 1910.136 requirements are met, various standards proposed by ASTM International and ANSI are put in place. The ASTM Standard recommends testing methods for safety footwear. They also recommend the specifications these boots should meet during their performance tests.
Before the ASTM Standards were put in place, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) was observed. The current version of ASTM Standards has been applied to all safety footwear, as it is the most practical.
What Are The Work Boot Safety Standards Requirements?
- OSHA incorporates the Safety Standards proposed by ASTM International – an independent non-profit organization. Previously, OSHA the standards proposed by ANSI, but they were replaced by ASTM standards in 2005. The OSHA Standards cover 3 important aspects of safety footwear;
- Testing Standards – All safety boots should undergo standardized tests in independent labs. This ensures that they meet the required performance requirements.
- Performance Requirements – The performance specifications have been mentioned in the Standards. These physical performance parameters are compression resistance, impact resistance, protection against electrical hazards, etc. These boots are subjected to these conditions and their performance data is collected to be compared. It is also shared with the manufacturers and suppliers.
- Standard labeling – All the protective gear, including footwear, has labels or marks that indicate the protection offered by that gear. All employers must offer OSHA compliant safety boots to their workers.
Performance Requirements & Safety Standards
As each workplace is different, all safety boots do not require meeting all the standards. Each employer is required to assess the safety hazards at their workplace and decide – what PPE is required. They are expected to supply them to the workers. Here is a list of ASTM Standards recommended by OSHA;
Impact (I) – This standard covers the falling objects of varying weights from certain heights. These objects may fall on the foot, crushing or injuring it. These boots should withstand 75 foot-pounds of force exerted by a 50-pound weight dropped from the height of 18 inches. The boots that pass this test are marked with I/75.
Compression (C) – This standard covers the load of a rolling object that may crush the foot. It may be a vehicle or a barrel rolling over the foot. The boot is required to withstand a force of 2500 pounds on the toe to be marked C/75.
Metatarsal (Mt) – This standard ensures protection to the upper region of the foot. This region of the foot has the metatarsus bones. The boot is required to withstand a force of 75 foot-pounds to be marked Mt/75.
Conduction (Cd) Rating – This standard ensures that the boot can resist the build-up or dissipate the static charge in a controlled manner. The build-up of charge may spark to ignite explosive chemicals. The boot should have an electrical resistance between 0 to 500000 ohms.
Electrical Hazard (EH) – This standard ensures that the boot protects the personnel from electric shocks. Personnel working with electrical systems, live wires, etc are required to wear these boots. The boot should be able to withstand 18000V at 60Hz for a minute. There should not be a flow or leakage of a current excess of 1mA for 1 minute in dry conditions.
Puncture Resistant (PR) – This standard ensures that the worker’s feet are protected from objects that may puncture or cut the sole. These protective plates are embedded in the boot’s sole. They protect against nails, broken glass, etc. The boot should withstand a force of 270 pounds on the sole. If the protective device is made of metal, then it is passed through a corrosion test. The boot stands in a 5% salt solution for 24 hours. It should not develop cracks or leaks. Besides the penetration test, the boot is subjected to 1.5 million flexes. It should not wear or crack at the end of these tests.
Static Dissipative (SD) – This standard rates the boot’s ability to conduct the static electricity through the sole to the ground. According to the ASTM F2413-17 and ASTM F2413-18, there are three types of SD boots;
- SD 100 indicates Static dissipative (1-100 megohms)
- SD 35 denotes Static dissipative (1-35 megohms)
- SD 10 denotes Static dissipative (1-10 megohms)
Reading The Label On Footwear Meeting
The Work Boot Safety Standards
The protective footwear approved by OSHA carries a standard label. It is printed or embroidered legibly on one boot in the pair. Here is an example of the label;
M I/75 C/75 Mt75
Line 1 shows that the boot meets the performance requirements of a particular standard. Here, it is the ASTM F2413.
Line 2 shows that the footwear is for a male (M). And it offers protection against impact (I/75) and compression (C/75). The boot can also withstand 75 foot-pounds for force on the upper foot or metatarsus bones (Mt75).
Line 3 shows that the boot compliant with standards for Static Dissipation (SD) and Puncture/Penetration Resistance (PR).
What Are The Additional Non-Covered Work Boot Safety Standards?
OSHA regulations do not cover all dangers to the workers’ feet. Employers are expected to consider additional protection while selecting the PPE for their workforce.
Ankle Protection – Some employees may be required to climb ladders. Others may have to ride a quadricycle or motorcycle. While some may be expected to walk on uneven ground. Ankle protection offers adequate padding and mechanical support.
Slip Resistance – Some workers may have to walk on wet, oily, grimy, and slippery surfaces. These slip hazards can be avoided by using safety footwear that has slip- and chemical-resistant soles.
Chemical Permeability – Workers in agricultural, canning, chemical sectors may be exposed to corrosive and caustic chemicals in varying concentrations. Seamless impermeable boots are recommended for these workplaces. They prevent any kind of contact between these chemicals and the skins of these employees. They are washable and easy to maintain.
Biological Agents – Personnel in biological labs, poultry farms, pharmaceutical industries, etc may be exposed to biological agents. These agents may be fungi, bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc. They may be exposed to their toxins, secretions, allergens, etc. These safety boots for personnel are impermeable to these risks. They are also easy to disinfect.
How To Ensure That The Footwear Meets The Work Boot Safety Standards?
OSHA requires all Personal Protective Equipment – including safety boots to be tested at a Nationally Recognized Test Laboratory (NRTL). These labs ensure that the footwear meets the requirements by subjecting them to the prescribed Test Procedures mentioned in the Standards.
Manufacturers test their products in house to ensure they pass the Standardized tests. Only then are they sent to the NRTL. These labs carry the full selection of footwear testing facilities to ensure the product meets the OSHA standards.
The manufacturers are expected to continue meeting the OSHA requirements by implementing stringent quality control and inspection standards throughout the production process.
The NRTL also offers the full complement of quality control and inspection services. These services not only monitor the manufacturing process but also the shipping to ensure that the footwear remains OSHA compliant.
What are the current Work Boot Safety Standards?
The revision and update of Standards in Work Boot safety regulation in the most recent editions is applied by national consensus. The Standards require the PPE to be constructed under –
- ASTM F 2413-18 – Standard-Specification for the Performance-Requirements for Protective Toe-Cap Footwear
- ASTM F2412-18a – Standard Test-Methods for Foot-Protection
Under what working conditions should personnel use protective footwear?
Footwear meeting Work Boot Safety Standards should be used while working with;
- electrical hazards such as high tension grid lines, way-stations, etc.
- poisonous or corrosive materials such as fertilizer, pesticide, and other chemical industries.
- static electricity such as electroplating, petroleum, and related industries.
- heavy objects that could roll onto the foot, such as the shipping and packaging industry. Road construction personnel working with road rollers, workers handling barrels of oil, chemicals, and tar, etc.
- sharp objects that can impale the foot such as wires, girders, steel bars at a construction site. Landfills and recycling plants have many hazards such as broken glass, torn tin cans, jagged metal, etc.
- the molten metal that could splash onto the foot in foundries and forges.
- hot slippery surfaces on an oil rig, refinery, or bottling and canning industries.
OSHA regulations require the company to assess the working conditions for hazards. Based on this assessment, the employer is expected to provide PPE to the workers.
How often are the Work Boot Safety Standards reviewed and revised?
The requisite safety standards are developed by the ASTM. They are reviewed every five years by a committee of experts. These comprehensive updates cover the evolving needs of the industries and their consumers. The current standards for safety footwear were released in the year 2017.
Are the Work Boot Safety Standards proposed by ASTM F2412-18a and F2413-18 recognized by other countries?
Countries across the world have standards that are on par with the ASTM Standards of the USA.
Canada enforces the standards recommended by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group). CSA standard Z195 is similar to the ASTM standards. The testing standards may vary. The safety boots have distinct marks with shapes and colors that represent the safety criteria. For example; the Green triangle with the CSA symbol means puncture-resistant sole and Grade 1 Safety Toe. It is ideal for workers in heavy industries where such hazards are a daily concern.
Europe Standard for protective footwear is provided by the International Organization for Standardization. The current standard is the ISO 20345:2011 that replaced the ISO 20345:2004. For example, the Steel toe (SB) should withstand an impact of 200 joules and a compression of 15000 Newtons. The safety boot with the S1 code should withstand 200 joules. It should have a fully enclosed or covered heel with energy absorption properties. The boot should have antistatic properties and should be fuel resistant. Similarly, there are codes or marks such as S2, S3, HRO, P, SRA, etc.
Asia has safety boot standards by countries. The current standard in;
- IS 15298-I: 2011 test methods
- IS 15298-III Protective footwear
- IS 15298–II for safety footwear
- IS 15298-IV Occupational Footwear
Japan – JIS T8101
Singapore – SS 513-1:2005
China – GB 21148 and An1, An2, An3, An4, An5
Thailand – TIS 523-2011
Indonesia – SNI 0111:2009
Malaysia – SIRIM MA 1598:1998
Australia & New Zealand – AS/NZS 2210.3:2009