Are you wearing your protective footwear the right way? Do you know why you need to wear steel toe boots at work? This blog covers the reasons you need to wear steel toes shoes, how to get the right fit, and how to maintain your steel toe shoes so they protect your feet in the workplace. I know a guy, and you may know a guy like him too. We’ll call him “Fred”. Fred works for a company that requires personal protective equipment (PPE). Fred’s company follows the OSHA guidelines and makes sure that all employees wear protective equipment for eyes, face, head and extremities, which include Fred’s feet. At orientation Fred was told that he had to wear PPE at all times while in the yard, and that meant Fred had to wear steel toe boots at work. Unfortunately, Fred, didn’t have steel toe boots when he started this job; he had shoes that looked like steel toe shoes. You see, Fred decided to save money and buy boots that looked like they had a reinforced toe, but they didn’t. So when Fred dropped a 2 pound hammer on his foot. Instead of telling someone at the front office he was hurt, he worked through the pain. Had Fred been wearing the boots with a reinforced, protective toe he was required to wear, his toes would have been safe. Don’t be like Fred, read on to learn how to protect your feet by wearing protective footwear.
What Are the Requirements to Wear Steel Toe Boots at Work?
(skip these next two sections if you want to skip the technical stuff ;-)
According to OSHA Personal Protective Equipment Subpart I 29 CFR 1910.132, when an employee is working in an area where there is danger of the following: rolling objects, falling objects, objects that can pierce the sole of foot protection, and/or electrical hazards from static-discharge, or electrical shock, the worker is required to wear protective footwear. Protective footwear is to be maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition and aid in protection if there is any physical contact with the foot during regular workplace operations. When handling heavy material, which could be dropped or where items may fall or roll onto the worker’s foot, safety shoes with compression protection should be worn. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) sets the minimum standard and testing procedures for all safety footwear with ASTM Standard F2413.
What is ASTM Standard F2413?
Safety footwear is found to be compliant with F2413 Standard Specification for Performance Requirements for Protective Safety Top cap Footwear, when it is impact and compression resistant. Additional compliance testing can be for conductive protection, electric shock protection, metatarsal protection, static dissipative protection, and puncture protection. All footwear that meets the ASTM requirements are marked (either by being stamped, stitched, with pressure sensitive label) on the outside or inside of the gusset, shaft, quarter lining or tongue. The mark is distinguished by a 4 line code surrounded by a rectangular border. Additionally, the toe cap must be marked with the manufacturer’s logo, trademark, or name, and the identification number and cap size should be clearly marked in a visible area. The four lines each designate a specific area of compliance as follows:
Line 1 – This line will have the ASTM F2413-XX designation with the year of the standard in the place of the Xs shown.
Line 2 –Line two will determine if the footwear is for Male (M) or for female (F) and what impact (1/75) and compression(C/75) resistance it complies with. The “I” stands for impact resistance and the 75 signifies that the shoe is resistant to 75 foot-pounds of force. The “C” stands for compression resistance, and the number 75, in this case, correlates to 2500 pounds of compression. These numbers mean that the footwear has been designed to withstand this compressive load before the toe-cap will start to crack or crush. Also on this line, if applicable, is the metatarsal designation (Mt) and the number 75 which denotes 75 foot-pounds of pressure. Metatarsal bones are the long bones on the top of a person’s foot.
Line 3 and 4 – These lines are used to denote additional features of protection for specific types of hazard such as electrical hazards, static electricity build up, and punctures.
It should be noted that any changes to the footwear with any aftermarket items, such as insoles, strap- on foot guards, etc., could result in making the ASTM standard invalid. If an employer can show, however, that the added safety features meet or exceed the requirement, then they can be used by an employee.
Seven Ps of Wearing Steel Toe Boots at Work
- Protects You from Falling & Flying Objects - you never know when something is going to hit your feet at work. Because a steel or composite toe covering can withstand up to 75 pounds of falling pressure from up to 3 yards, your feet will be well-protected from just about anything flying or falling at work.
- Protect You from Punctures or Cutting Hazards – stepping on a protruding object can puncture or cut the sole of your shoe, and dropping something sharp can cut your foot, too. Keep your feet save from punctures by wearing protective footwear with this designation.
- Protect You from Electrical Hazards – steel toe boots rated for electrical hazards will prevent a severe shock and will prevent the buildup of static. If you work in an area where there is standing water or where static can build up, then you want to make sure you have safety boots rated for electrical hazards.
- Prevent You from Slipping, Tripping or Falling – because it grips the ground, a good, lugged sole on will keep you from slipping, tripping and possibly falling. Falls are the most common on-the-job injury. Having the right safety shoes will decrease the likelihood that you become part of this statistic.
- Prevent You from Getting Fatigued – Comfortable and supportive work boots will make your feet happy and make for a better workday. Wearing a pair of comfortable, well-fitting protective boots will reduce fatigue, keep you safe, and keep you comfortable your entire workday.
- Protect You from Extreme Weather – whether it’s cold or hot, a sturdy, comfortable pair of workbooks can keep you protected from the most extreme temperatures. Not only that, with proper waterproofing, they will keep your feet dry, too.
- Probably mandatory – If your workplace requires that you were PPE as defined by OSHA and the US Department of Labor, then you should be wearing your PPE. Failure to do so could result in your being sent home for non-compliance or your losing your job. So don’t be like Fred, and wear your PPE.
Although it may be a pain, your PPE is your best friend in the workplace. Safety boots protect your feet from work hazards and keep you comfortable during a long day’s work. And, after all, don’t you deserve to be protected?
How to Find the Perfect Protective Steel Toe Boot Fit
Now you know why you need protective footwear, how do you pick the right one? A good work boot has an upper made of natural materials or a breathable man-made fabric. The lining is breathable, smooth and seam-free. The endcap is padded in such a way as to keep you from feeling the protection housed there. The heel fits snugly enough to keep your heel in place but wide enough to stabilize your foot. The sole is flexible, yet strong and absorbs shocks and cushions the foot when walking on hard surfaces. The sole material is slip resistant, and the fastenings are sturdy and built to last.
Contrary to popular belief, shoes are not supposed to be “broken in”. They should be comfortable and fit you in the length, width and depth at the first try. When you’re trying on your new footwear, remember the following:
- Everyone has one foot bigger than the other. Fit your largest foot.
- Stand up and walk around during fitting. You’ll be in your work boots all day. Walk around to determine how they feel both walking and standing.
- Make sure that the shoe fits the heel and the ball of your foot, not one or the other. No one likes blisters because a shoe doesn’t fit properly.
- Try on both shoes. You’ll be able to fit your larger foot, and check both shoes for defects in workmanship.
- Measure the heel against your work pants. Too short and you may trip over on your own pant legs.