Is it protective footwear or just work shoes?  It all depends.  On what?  Your hazard assessment.  As an employer, you must conduct a hazard assessment to determine the type of PPE required for your employees.  The hazard assessment should reveal what hazard exposures are present.  Is there a hazard of:

  • Falling or rolling objects
  • Punctures
  • Stubbing
  • Chemical or corrosive contact
  • Electrical shock
  • Burns
  • Slips and falls

OSHA standards relate to protective footwear in two sections:  1910.132 requires employers to conduct the hazard assessment; 1910.136(a) relates to the hazards above. This OSHA standard is a performance-based standard.  That means, as an employer, you should act prudently in determining if your employees are exposed to foot injuries and should be protected.  Other things for you to consider in your hazard assessment are:

Frequency of exposure to injury-How often is the employee exposed to the hazard?

Severity of potential injuries-How bad of an injury could occur?

Company’s accident experience with foot injuries-Are your insurance claims in line with the industry or above average?

Industry best practice-What do your competitors do?

Now you are at the point where you have to make a determination, protective footwear or just work shoes.  If you have determined your employees require protective footwear there is more to consider.  OSHA 1910.6 incorporates three consensus standards pertaining to footwear.  This means you can comply with any of these three.

Requirements of ANSI Z41-1999 and 1991

The ANSI Z41 standard describes the methods for testing and measuring the performance of protective footwear.  All footwear that meets ANSI requirements will be marked with the specific part of the standard with which it complies. The identification code must be clearly legible (printed, stamped, stitched, etc.) on one shoe of each pair of protective footwear. For example:

ANSI Z41 PT 99
F I/75 C/75
Mt/75 EH

Here is what this code designation means:

ANSI Z41 PT 99:

The first line identifies the ANSI standard. The letters PT signify the protective toe part of the standard. This is followed by the last two digits of the year of the standard that the footwear meets (1999).

F I/75 C/75:

The second line indicates the gender [M (Male) or F (Female)] for which the footwear is intended. It also shows the impact resistance (I), the impact resistance rating (75, 50 or 30 foot-pounds), the compression resistance (C) and the compression resistance rating (75, 50 or 30 which correlate to 2500 pounds, 1750 pounds, and 1000 pounds of compression respectively).

Mt, Cd, EH, PR & SD:

The third and fourth lines refer to any additional sections in the standard that are met. They are used to identify metatarsal (Mt) resistance and rating, conductive (Cd) properties, electrical hazard (EH), puncture resistance (PR) and static dissipative (SD) properties, if applicable. The fourth line is only used if more than three sections of ANSI Z41 apply.

Metatarsal footwear is made to help avoid or reduce the severity of injury to the metatarsal and toe areas.

Conductive (Cd) footwear is meant to protect the wearer in a situation where the buildup of static electricity on the body is dangerous.

Electrical hazard (EH) footwear is produced with non-conductive electrical shock resistant soles and heals.

The point of having protective footwear with puncture resistant (PR) soles is to reduce the chance of being injured due to sharp objects penetrating the bottom of the footwear.

Static dissipative (SD) footwear was created to reduce the accumulation of excess static electricity by conducting a body charge to ground it while keeping an adequately high level of resistance.

Requirements of ASTM F2412-2005

This standard divides safety shoes into two categories: impact resistant and compression resistant.  The standard is designed to protect the wearer from rolling or dropped objects These shoes are made using a metallic or non-metallic toe cap, integral to the shoe.

Protective Footwear Care

As with all PPE, safety footwear should be inspected prior to each use. Shoes should be checked for wear and tear at reasonable intervals. This includes looking for cracks or holes, separation of materials, broken buckles or laces. The soles of shoes should be checked for pieces of metal or other embedded items that could present electrical or tripping hazards. Everyone should follow the manufacturers’ recommendation for cleaning and maintenance of their protective footwear.

Peer Checks

A good way to periodically check shoes is when you conduct a tool box talk on protective footwear.  After reviewing the things to inspect, have employees pair up and inspect each other’s shoes.  It is a good way to identify any wear and tear and provides an opportunity to follow up at a future meeting.