Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) comes in many forms with nearly limitless options. It can include gloves, safety glasses, shoes/boots, earplugs, hard hats, and other related equipment. Employers are required by OSHA to assess their workplace job hazards to determine if PPE is needed, and if so, provide the appropriate equipment to protect employees from such hazards. Employers can assess job hazards and subsequent PPE needs using tools such as the OSHA hazard assessment tool linked here.
For now, let’s narrow it down and talk about the importance of selecting the correct protective footwear for your employees.
Let’s take a look at how OSHA explains the need for protective footwear in the regulations. In reading OSHA 29 CFR 1910.136(a), it states: “Each affected employee shall wear protective footwear when working in areas where there is a danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, or objects piercing the sole, and where such employee’s feet are exposed to electrical hazards.” There is additional information in Appendix B to Subpart I that identifies a number of jobs that may need protective footwear, including “shipping and receiving clerks, stock clerks, carpenters, electricians, machinists, mechanics and repairers, plumbers, assemblers, drywall installers and lathers, packers, wrappers, craters, punch and stamping press operators, sawyers, welders, laborers, freight handlers, gardeners and grounds keepers, timber cutting and logging workers, stock handlers and warehouse laborers.” This list is certainly not exhaustive, as it is the employer’s workplace hazard assessment that should ultimately lead them to the selection of appropriate PPE, including footwear.
Once the employer has determined protective footwear is needed in the workplace, they should ensure they purchase a model/style that will help best reduce the hazards at hand. All protective footwear must conform to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard F2413. This standard covers footwear constructed and manufactured such that the protective toe cap is an integral and permanent part of the footwear. The standard evaluates seven performance metrics, including:
- Compression Resistance
- Impact Resistance
- Conductive Protection
- Metatarsal Protection
- Static Dissipative Properties
- Puncture Resistance
- Electric Hazard Resistance
Impact and Compression resistance requirements must first be met by ASTM certified protective footwear, and then all or some of the remaining metrics can be met. The impact requirement for most all protective safety toe footwear needs is this: when subjected to 75 ft-lbs of force (a 50 pound weight dropping on the toe from approximately 18 inches), the toe area must maintain a minimum interior height clearance of 0.5 inches for men’s footwear and 0.468 inches for women’s footwear (an I/75 rating). The requirement for compression states that when subjected to a 2500-pound compression force on the toe, these same clearances will be maintained (a C/75 rating).
Each pair of protective footwear must be labeled with a label indicating it meets the performance requirements of that ASTM standard. For example, ASTM “F2413-18” means they meet the performance standards of ASTM F2413 issued in 2018. A second line indicates the gender for which the footwear is intended (M/F). That line would also indicate that impact resistance (I) and compression resistance (C) is provided.
There could be a third or fourth line indicating additional protective measures including Conductive properties (Cd), Metatarsal protection (Mt), Electrical hazard resistance (EH), Static dissipative properties (SD) and Puncture resistance (PR). Many shoe manufacturers/vendors also have easy to understand guides to help with the selection of proper protective footwear.
Here is an example of a label on protective footwear for men (M) that provides impact resistance (I), compression resistance (C), and electrical hazard resistance (EH):
Finally, once you have selected the appropriate footwear, it is important to provide documented training to your employees to help them understand the following:
- What PPE is required?
- When it is necessary to wear PPE?
- How to properly put on, take off, adjust and wear the PPE
- What limitations your PPE might have.
- Proper care, maintenance, how long it should last, and how to dispose of PPE once it is no longer useful for protection.
A similar process should be used whether you are selecting protective footwear or other items such as goggles, face shields, hard hats, gloves, etc. As always, understanding the hazards your employees face will go a long ways in helping ensure you provide PPE that is effective and safe.
If you have any questions, reach out to your MMA team to learn more.