The right footwear is an integral part of any set of safety clothing. As there is such a range of hazards that can affect the feet, keeping them protected is of high importance in many types of work. However, it's not a simple case of choosing any safety shoes – they need to be the right ones for your workplace.
Since safety footwear varies in the precise type of protection each pair provides, the key to choosing wisely is to think about the risks in your job and get footwear that guards against them. Here are the things to think about, and what to look for in your shoes or boots.
Being on your feet a lot
Although not a hazard as such, standing for long periods can cause pain in your feet, so your footwear should protect against it.
If your job involves a lot of standing or walking, choose footwear that has a soft, supportive insole. Shoes with extra support at the arch can make standing a lot more comfortable.
Sharp, piercing hazards
Wherever your work involves sharp materials on the ground like glass or spikes, you need to ensure they can't pierce through your soles. Look for footwear that's certified as having puncture-resistant soles. They're often rated differently depending on the type of hazards, but it's best to go for one that's more effective if you're in doubt.
Look for added protection at the sides if the sharp hazards are not just underfoot.
Risk of slipping
If your work involves the use of chemicals, oils or if there's sometimes grease or other liquids on the ground, you could slip.
It's important that your safety footwear has excellent grip to prevent accidents and keep you on your feet.
Danger of falling objects
Heavy falling objects, whether it's warehouse stock, building materials or anything else, can break your toes if they fall on your feet.
A reinforced, steel toe is one of the more common safety features in work boots and shoes, but remember to choose a pair that are strong enough to withstand whatever particular risks you face.
When you're working with electrical appliances, particularly in manufacturing or repairs, you're putting yourself at risk of dangerous shocks. Sometimes, these can be caused by stepping on a source of electricity.
The main thing you should look for in your footwear is electrical insulation, which is usually in the form of rubber soles. Any metal parts inside the shoe — protective toecaps, for example — should be enclosed in insulating material for extra protection.