Choosing the correct safety shoes is essential. However, with a wide range of choice available, and a variety of safety features to choose from, it can be a difficult task. After all, picking ordinary shoes for yourself can be a minefield in itself.
When deciding which work shoes are going to be best for you, you must first take into consideration the nature of the job and the risks present. How often will they be worn, and for how long? And is there a dress code, or any other special requirements for the wearer?
But you should also decide whether you want safety shoes or work boots. Although a decision partly based on preference, boots give ankle and lower-shin protection, and are often recommended for those operating heavy machinery.
The footwear required also varies according to the industry you’re working in. When on construction sites, you’re vulnerable to a huge number of potential accidents. This ranges from upturned nails to dropping heavy objects on your toes.
Engineers and electricians will want shoes and boots which are anti-static and offer electric shock protection.
Safety Features of Work Shoes
All safety footwear must conform to standard EN 20345. As an absolute minimum, they must feature a toecap which provides at least 200 joules of energy impact. Identified by the SB, they’ll have a steel or more commonly a composite toecap.
However, in total there are six possible ratings that safety shoes can meet. Make a decision, perhaps after a risk assessment, on which features you require of your shoes and then look out for these when making a purchasing decision.
SB – Safety basic – toe protection
S1 – Antistatic, oil-resistant & energy absorption
S2 – Prevents water penetration
S3 – Midsole penetration resistance
S4 – Leak-proof
S5 – Leak-proof with midsole penetration resistance
And when looking for shoes which offer slip resistance, they should meet EN 13787, and provide extra grip to reduce accidents and injuries. And again, the codes to look out for are:
SRA – tested on wet ceramic tiles lubricated with a soap solution
SRB – tested on smooth steel lubricated with glycerol
SRC – tested under both of the above categories
What Do These Mean In The Real World?
For example, energy absorption means the heel unit prevents short- and long-term injuries like back pain, joint disorders and heel bone fractures. These are often caused by impact loads associated with running, jumping, and even walking.
Midsole penetration is another important feature. Featuring a steel or composite midsole, it prevents upward-facing sharp objects, such as a nail, piercing through the shoe and going into the foot.
And of course, waterproof footwear is absolutely vital for those who are working in the great outdoors. With the unpredictable British weather, the last thing you want is to spend all day working with soaking wet feet.
Finding The Perfect Fit
The most important aspect of choosing the correct safety shoes is to find ones which fit and are comfortable to wear. Otherwise, they’re likely to not be worn where they won’t be able to protect your feet.
So it’s important to ensure everyone has their feet correctly measured before making a purchasing decision. And if someone makes a serious complaint regarding their comfort, then take action rather than brushing it off.
If you’re an employer, it’s your responsibility to provide suitable protective footwear when the job at hand presents a real hazard.
But it’s also worth remembering that boots which provide ultimate protection are going to be heavier than ordinary shoes which offer less protection.
Of course, work shoes and boots are suitable for a wide range of environments and activities. They’ll protect you even in domestic environments, whether you’re gardening or strolling through the woods.