Steel Toe Boots
Sizing up safety footwear
Regular shoes and boots offer very little protection against workplace hazards, so if you work in an industrial setting, you need to invest in a durable pair of safety shoes. Even relatively minor foot injuries can impact your lifestyle and your ability to work – statistics show that a foot injury results in an average of seven missed days of work.
No matter which style you prefer, safety footwear should protect the whole foot, which means defending against impact from above as well as punctures from below. Although many shoes have thick soles and tough leather, conventional footwear is not designed to guard against falling objects. To keep your feet in good working order on a construction site, in a warehouse or in other industrial environments, you need proper safety shoes.
Steel toe boots are designed to withstand 200 joules of impact on the toe area, and many brands will come with anti-static and energy-absorption properties. Consider the nature of your work environment – do you work in particularly wet surroundings? Is high heat a hazard? You may want to consider steel toe safety boots that have added insulation or water resistance to keep your feet comfortable on the job.
Different industries require different types of protection. For instance, in any work environment that brings a high risk of electrical shock, protective footwear with soles and heels that dispel electricity is a must. For less severe electrical threats, such as electrical generators, static dissipative footwear should be sufficient. Most types of safety footwear designed for use on construction sites and in metal shops also include a thin steel plate built right into the sole to prevent sharp objects from puncturing the foot.
Safety Footwear Fit and Maintenance
Before you commit to a new pair of safety shoes, walk around in them to make sure that they fit well around your whole foot. Try them out with the socks or supports that you would normally wear on the job – you should have a bit of room at the toe and a snug fit around the ankle. If you're looking for something with more style, some popular shoe brands like Puma, Viberg and Rock Fall have expanded into the safety shoe market with fashionable yet protective footwear.
The American National Standards Institute lists the minimum requirements for each type of protective footwear, a specification known as ASTM F2413-05. Inspect the label for the proper code, and the sole for the proper tread, to ensure that the work boots can stand up to the hazards in your workplace. Certain symbols indicate their level of protection and the tasks that they can handle. For instance, a green triangle means the shoe has a Class 1 toe cap with a puncture-resistant sole, while a white square indicates electrical protection. Consult an Occupational Safety & Health Administration manual to determine which symbols to look for on your new pair of safety boots.