When you think about workplace safety, footwear may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But finding the appropriate work boot can help you ensure your own safety and keep you on the job. Use this work boot guide to select the boots that are right for you.
Before making a decision, talk to your foreman, safety representative, or someone from human resources. Many jobs have mandatory safety requirements; in addition, every employer is required to conduct a hazard assessment to determine potential workplace risks. This includes your risk of foot injury. Some common hazards include:
- Broken bones. If you work around heavy machinery, you’re at risk of having a foot crushed, especially if you work in the construction industry.
- Cuts and punctures. Machinery can cause cuts, and if you work in an industry that uses nails or staples, puncture wounds are also a common risk.
- Electric shocks. Electricians and construction workers should consider a boot with a thick rubber sole to help prevent electric shocks.
Composite Toe Versus Steel Toe
When protecting your feet on the job, you may be required to have a boot with a steel or composite safety toe.
- Steel Toe. As the name implies, the toe is reinforced with a piece of steel. Steel is durable, but can be heavy and set off metal detectors.
- Composite Toe. This is composed of a blend of materials, such as Kevlar, plastics, and/or carbon fiber. Composite toe boots are lighter and tend to be warmer in cold weather than steel toe boots.
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) sets standards and testing procedures for safety footwear. Here are some common ratings and their meanings:
- Impact (I/50 or I/75) indicates how much impact a boot can stand, either 50 or 75 pounds. For example, footwear rated at I/50 will protect toes from an impact of up to 50 pounds.
- Compression (C/50 or C/75) measures the compression rating of a work boot. A C/50 footwear rating can withstand compressive loads of up to 1,750 pounds; a C/75 rated boot can withstand 2,500 pounds.
- Metatarsal (Mt/75) means the footwear is rated for metatarsal (toe) protection. Boots rated for this are tested by dropping a 50-pound weight from a height of 18 inches onto the metatarsal guard.
- Conductive (Cd) footwear protects the user from the risks that can arise from static electricity.
- Electrical Hazard (EH) boots have non-conductive, shock-resistant heels and soles.
- Static Dissipative (SD) footwear is meant to increase your resistance to electric shock; these are not built to handle the same electrical resistance as EH boots.
- Puncture-resistant (PR) footwear has a special puncture-resistant plate between the insole and outsole.
If you work in an industrial or ag job, chances are that you’re on your feet more than the average desk worker. Choose your boots accordingly! Talk to coworkers, and try before you buy. If you’re going to be on your feet for 10-hour days, comfort is key!
Guarding Against Risks
Whether you’re on the job site as a business owner or an employee, safety is key. Interested in assessing the risks at your workplace? Contact your local Farm Bureau agent. He or she can help you set up a program that can protect both your employees and your business.