Assessing the risks 

Before selecting safety footwear for your workers you should refer to a recent risk assessment of the workplace, or carry one out if it doesn’t already exist. The results of this assessment will indicate which hazards you will need to protect the feet against, hence allowing you to choose the most suitable safety shoes or safety boots. Hazards that may arise as part of your risk assessment may include:

  • Wet conditions
  • Electrostatic build-up
  • Slipping, cuts and punctures
  • Falling objects
  • Metal and chemical splash
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Outdoor or indoor use

It’s also a good idea to ask the workers what they think the hazards are, as they may notice things that are not obvious to you. The 2017/18 HSE slips and trips statistics show that slips, trips and falls on the same level account for 31% of all non-fatal injuries at work. Footwear plays a crucial role in protecting workers from potentially dangerous surfaces. HSE have created a handy checklist on identifying slip and trip hazards in the workplace to help with this. It is always important to check the slip resistance ratings of footwear before you make your purchase. 

 

EN ISO 20345 safety ratings explained

Once tested and certified, EN ISO 20345 footwear products are stamped with the CE mark and will carry a simple 2 or 3 letter code, which defines the basic safety features for that particular product. For products tested to 200 joules impact resistance, this will begin with S and for products tested for 100 joules toe caps (EN ISO 20346), it will begin with P. Additional properties may be indicated by further codes or pictograms. See below a table outlining the features that each rating under EN ISO 20345 holds:



 Safety footwear made from leather and other materials (not rubber/polymeric)All-rubber or all-polymeric (waterproof wellingtons)
RatingSBSBPS1S1PS2S3SBS4S5
200 joules toe cap
 
Closed seat region (fully enclosed heel)
 
   
Energy absorption at seat area
 
   
Antistatic properties
 
   
Water penetration & absorption resistance
 
       
Penetration resistant midsole
 
     
Cleated outsole       





EN ISO 20345 slip resistance ratings explained

SRA: Tested on ceramic tile with sodium lauryl sulphate (a diluted soap solution)

SRB: Tested on steel with glycerol

SRC: Tested under SRA and SRB conditions

 

EN ISO 20345 additional ratings explained

  • C - Conductive
  • A - Antistatic
  • I - Insulation against electricity
  • HI - Insulation against heat
  • CI - Insulation against cold
  • E - Energy absorbing seat region
  • AN - Ankle protection
  • HRO - Heat resistant outsole
  • WR - Water resistant
  • WRU - Water resistant upper
  • M - Metatarsal protection
  • CR - Cut resistant upper

 

What features does your safety footwear need?

Toe protection (SB)

We all know that toes are a very vulnerable part of the body, especially at work where there are a number of hazards that could lead to a foot injury. In this standard toe protection must be able to withstand a 200 joule impact. Different types of toe protection include steel toe caps or lighter alternatives such as a composite or aluminium toecap. 

Antistatic protection (A, S1, S1P, S2, S3)

Clothing and climate factors can cause a build up of static charge of electricity in the body and some materials used in the construction of safety footwear can over-insulate the body, causing the charge to be held. When a worker touches something conductive, the charge can rush from the body quickly, causing a spark and a small uncomfortable shock. Anti-static footwear significantly reduces this effect. 

Midsole penetration protection (SBP, S1P, S3, S5)

Sharp objects can be a significant hazard at work. Midsole protection can guard against nails and other sharp protrusions, which could otherwise lead to disastrous consequences. In order to meet the requirements of EN ISO 20345, footwear midsoles must be able to resist a penetration force of 1100N. Midsole protection can be provided in one of two methods: stainless steel or aluminium insert in the sole, or a Kevlar insole. 

Energy absorption (E, S1, S1P, S2, S3)

This refers to energy absorption in the heel region. 

Water resistance (WR, WRU, S2, S3)

Footwear may be classified as water resistant in general (WR) or they may just have a water resistant upper (WRU). 

Heat resistance (HRO)The outsole must be able to resist 300°C for 60 seconds. 

Insulation against cold and heat (CI, HI)

For resistance against cold, EN ISO 20345 footwear is tested for 30 minutes at 1-20°C and for resistance against heat they are tested for 30 minutes at 150°C. 

Comfort!

No matter how effective it is at protecting against the risks, if footwear is causing your workers harm they aren’t going to wear them. Make sure you ensure the right fit straight away (there should be no need for ‘breaking in’) and increase comfort with insole inserts and good quality work socks. It’s a good idea to allow workers to try products first to see if they are comfortable and suitable for their task and work environment, after all they are the ones that will have to wear them all day! 

Maintaining compliance

All safety footwear must be properly looked after and stored when not in use in a dry, clean cupboard. They should be examined before and after use to ensure they’re in good working order, which should be carried out by trained staff members. Employers can ask employees to clean their own safety footwear but it should be stipulated in the person’s contract of employment. If you do require workers to clean their own shoes, you would need to provide clear cleaning instructions to avoid any confusion. An effective safety footwear maintenance system should include:

  • Checking for faults, damage, dirt, wear and tear
  • Testing to ensure they’re performing as intended
  • Cleaning regularly to avoid build-up of dirt (referring to manufacturer’s instructions)
  • If there is damage, repair where possible
  • Where they are damaged beyond repair they will no longer comply with the standard and should be replace