Many hazardous environments and jobs require employees to wear safety boots or shoes. The footwear is meant to protect typically the toes from either be struck by a hard object or having a heavy object land on them. There are different categories that are listed for safety footwear by CSA and there are as many styles of these as there are for regular footwear. Being able to select the right footwear for the job is important, so this week we will look at what the different markings and criteria are.
The CSA standard for safety footwear is CSA Z195-14. There are ten CSA Footwear Markings for work shoes to cover the level of protection that may be need. The most commonly sold marking is the green triangle with a white R. This is indicates the shoe or boot offers protection from sole puncture and has a grade 1 protective toe cap. To be honest, this is the one I see most often when I look for work boots. It is meant for heavy industrial sites. On many grade 1 work boots, there will be a white label with an orange Ω symbol which indicates that the footwear is electric shock resistant.
There are other grades if you don’t work in a heavy industrial setting. A yellow triangle is a boot with grade 2 toe caps and puncture protection. If you don’t need puncture protection, a blue square represents grade 1 toecap and a grey square grade 2. If you work with chainsaws, a white label with a green fir tree is footwear that is specially designed for chainsaw protection.
If there was one marking I would like to buy for myself, it is the dark grey square with an M on it. This is the symbol for metatarsal protection. The metatarsal bones are located on the top of the foot, just before the toes. Usually anytime I drop something on my foot, it is on the metatarsal portion.
When choosing the safety footwear for your job, take a look at the hazards that exist. If you need to wear the highest rated footwear, i.e. green triangle, then do so. Next, determine the floor conditions. Slip resistant footwear may be required. Oil can cause boots to break down, so check the soles of the footwear to see if they are oil resistant.
The next question is boots or shoes. Most jobsites will require boots to be worn, since they provide support and protection for your ankles. The only job I can think of where they would not necessary is the fire alarm technicians I worked with because when they were doing inspections in non-industrial setting (i.e. most commercial properties such as malls and institutions like schools or hospitals), the boots would be more of a hindrance to the job since their weight causes fatigue.
Next you need to decide what material you need for the toe. Steel toes are the traditional one used, but now alloys and non-metallic toes are available. Both alloys and non-metallic are lighter than steel, which results in a reduction of fatigue. Non-metallic toes are not electrically conductive and also offer resistance to heat and cold.
There are many different styles of work boots and shoes. From the traditional lace up to cowboy style and hikers for boots, to oxford style and basketball sneakers for shoes, this can be a personal preference. Make sure the footwear you buy is right for the job. If you climb ladders, a boot with a heel is good. Ironworker boots have a different style sole than other work boots to make walking on steel girders safer. Welders’ boots have a flap of leather over the laces to protect them from sparks. Finally, make sure the footwear you select is comfortable to prevent fatigue and blisters.
Looking after any pair of shoes or boots is important. You spend your money on something you should expect it to last a reasonable amount of time. Check you footwear periodically to make sure the steel toes or shanks are not exposed. If the toe is worn down so you can see the steel or other material, you need to throw the boot away. Check laces and insoles for wear and replace. A good pair of insoles can cost about thirty dollars, and in some cases may be more comfortable than the insole that came with the boot. Check the soles to make sure they are not worn down. Worn down soles can affect the grip the footwear has and increases the likelihood of a slip.
Work boots are meant to look like they are used. They are usually covered in mud, oil, paint and other substances that can damage the leather. It may be necessary to put a protective spray or coating on them to also protect them from the weather and salt used in winter. While we are talking about winter, when coming in from outside, double check that there is no snow or ice on the heel of the boot which may cause you to slip and fall.
Safety footwear is a basic part of the PPE workers must wear and the only one, typically, that they can pick themselves. By following company guidelines about what they are required to wear, such as requiring the boots to be lace up and be at least 6” high to protect the ankle, workers can select what they need for their job. Companies should review their work boot policy with their workers to be sure they can plan to stay safe.