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A Guide To Safety Footwear

Safety footwear is one of the most common forms of PPE, as there are a huge range of potential workplace risks that involve falling debris, dropping hazardous items, and slipping.

The HSE sets out the minimum standards for safety footwear, and in particular how choosing adequate slip-resistant footwear can prevent slips, trips and falls in the workplace. It is vital that employees wear adequate footwear in order to comply with both company rules and the law.


Choosing the right footwear for each working environment is important, with safety and comfort being key factors in product selection. The correct choice can also help increase the lifespan of the footwear. A combination of the following features is often required:


  • - Impact resistant toecaps
  • - Pierce resistant midsoles 
  • - Waterproof or water-resistant uppers with a breathable lining
  • - Soles providing protection against chemicals, fuel, oils, heat or cold
  • - Slip-resistant soles
  • - Antistatic soles to dissipate static electricity
  • - Cushioned soles when standing for long time periods


Types of safety footwear

There’s a large market for safety footwear due to the prevalence of workplace foot related injuries, so there are plenty of options in terms of styles, functionality, and brands. The top categories are:
  • Safety Trainers – The range of trainers range from lightweight to steel toe cap and anti-slip suitable for a range of safety applications.
  • Anti-Slip Footwear – Anti-slip footwear provides an additional level of safety for many industry applications and are approved to the relevant European standards including EN345 / EN ISO 20345.


Types of safety footwear soles

In addition to the different styles and brands of safety footwear that are available, there is a wide range of sole units that have their own strengths and weaknesses making them suitable for different environments.
  • - Direct injection moulding – dual density lightweight inner density of polyurethane and outer density of nitrile rubber. Lightweight and flexible.
  • - Goodyear welted – sole is stitched to the upper. Strong construction, but heavier than dual density. Suits dry conditions.
  • - Cemented soles – Sole units are cemented to the upper using a strong glue compound.
  • - PVC Nitrile - 120°C resistant soles oil and solvent resistant
  • - Airwair/cushioned soles - 120°C resistant soles oil and solvent resistant
  • - Rubber Nitrile - 300°C resistant soles oil and solvent resistant
  • - Polyurethane sole units - For general purpose and for use against resistance to oil and solvents.


Employer Requirements

Throughout industries where PPE is required to facilitate normal working or where employees may be at risk to their health and safety, employers must provide it free of charge and ensure it is fit for purpose. Training should also be provided, ensuring employees are aware of the need to wear PPE appropriately and any maintenance or repairs should be provided by the employer. Safety footwear should always be suitable for the user's size and fit and all products purchased should carry the CE mark in accordance with the Personal Protection Equipment Regulations 2002.


European Standards And Regulations For Safety Protection Footwear

Safety features of footwear are carried out in accordance with European test standards written into EN ISO 20344:2004 (A1:2007). The tests carried out on safety footwear are classified below as:
  • SRA – Tested on ceramic tile wetted with a dilute soap solution
  • SRB – A smooth surface test on steel coated with glycerol
  • SRC – Tested under both of the above conditions


There are several other European standards that refer specifically to safety footwear, constructing a set of guidelines that employers in hazardous workplaces should adhere to.
  • EN ISO 20345:2004 (A1:2007) - for safety footwear
  • EN ISO 20346:2004 (A1:2007) - for protective footwear
  • EN ISO 20347:2004 (A1:2007) - for occupational footwear
  • EN 345 - Safety footwear standards
  • EN ISO 20345-1 - Safety footwear standard - New or recently certified styles
  • EN 61340-5-1 - Electrostatic discharge protection



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