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How To Select The Right OSHA-Approved Safety Footwear

August 24th, 2023

Having the proper foot protection is a critical part of any safety program. Safety footwear helps safeguard workers against foot injuries from impacts, compression, punctures, electrical hazards, and chemical exposures. Work accidents involving the feet account for a high percentage of disabling workplace injuries every year.

That’s why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has stringent standards and requirements for protective footwear in work environments with foot hazards present. Employers must ensure any safety footwear used meets OSHA compliance and provides adequate protection against the risks involved.

Understanding OSHA Standards for Safety Footwear

OSHA has set mandatory occupational foot protection standards under 29 CFR 1910.136 to reduce foot injuries from common workplace hazards. These requirements apply to general industry along with construction and shipyard workers.

The standards state that safety footwear must comply with ASTM International (formerly American Society for Testing and Materials) performance standards as certified by independent testing. This ensures the footwear meets the minimum requirements for different types of protection.

OSHA also requires that workers wear safety footwear in work environments where there is “danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, or objects piercing the sole.” Employers must conduct a hazard assessment to determine if footwear requirements apply.

Factors to Consider When Selecting Safety Footwear

While all OSHA-approved footwear meets the minimum requirements, you should evaluate multiple factors specific to your workplace when selecting the right safety shoes or boots. The key considerations include:

Comfort and Fit–Comfort should be a top priority, as poorly fitted footwear can cause trips, blisters, soreness, and fatigue over long periods.

Durability and Quality–The footwear must withstand the wear and tear of the work environment. Check the upper material, sole quality, and construction method for durability. High-quality leather or PVC uppers last longer than fabric. Goodyear welted soles are more durable than cemented.

Slip Resistance–Verify the slip resistance rating on the sole. The oil and slip resistant sole must provide good traction for varied flooring like concrete, steel, tile, wood, etc. Look for SRC (Slip Resistance Certified) marked soles.

Electrical Hazard Protection–Electrical hazard (EH) footwear should be rated for the voltage exposure in the workplace. Higher EH ratings up to 18,000 volts provide more protection from electrocution.

Toe Protection–Look for steel or composite toe caps with adequate space for toe movement. Composite toes are non-conductive while steel toes should have insulation to prevent contact. The toe cap must meet the ASTM / CE impact test standards.

Chemical Resistance–For chemical spill hazards, footwear must have chemical-resistant soles and uppers that are impermeable. Different materials have varying resistance to oils, acids, caustic chemicals, etc.

Beyond basic OSHA requirements, also assess needs like metatarsal protection, heat/cold insulation, cushioning requirements, traction, ankle support and flexibility.

Safeguarding employees against occupational foot injuries requires selecting appropriate OSHA-certified safety footwear matched to workplace hazards. Analyze the risks involved, features needed, and the type of protection necessary. Durability, comfort, and a snug ergonomic fit are also essential.

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