Take a Walk Through the New Footwear Safety Standards

Take a Walk Through the New Footwear Safety Standards

A guide to updated ASTM safety requirements for footwear.

When it comes to industrial footwear, the importance of worker safety can’t be underestimated. In fact, it can even be a life or death proposition. Companies that require workers to do their jobs in harsh and hazardous conditions—in environments ranging from oil rigs to manufacturing to transportation, construction and more—need to ensure their employees not only have footwear that protects them from injury, but also complies with the latest safety standards.

In 2018, one of the world’s largest international standards developing organizations, ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society of Testing and Materials), introduced three updated footwear standards to guide test laboratories and companies that use protective footwear with improved testing and performance data. These new standards specify performance requirements for protective (safety) toe cap footwear, standard test methods for foot protection, and standard performance requirements for soft-toe protective footwear.

These new standards will give companies that provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers the latest industry specifications to aid in the selection of safety footwear. The deadline for complying with these new standards is October 2019. This article will examine safety standards, how they have evolved over the years and what the new 2018 standards mean for safety professionals.

Deconstructing Safety Standards

Safety footwear protects workers’ feet in specific ways under very defined circumstances. Potential hazards can include falling or rolling objects such as heavy boxes in a warehouse, piercing objects that go through the sole of a shoe such as nails or knives, and electric shock from exposed electrical wires.

In addition, slips, trips and falls are among the most serious workplace hazards, as employees may encounter treacherously slick floors, wet surfaces or uneven terrain throughout their workday. These hazards can put employers in a difficult position, because the injuries they cause are among the most frequently reported—and most costly—injuries in many industries.

Safety standards provide a set of minimum requirements that PPE must pass during testing, and footwear must meet the standards 100 percent of the time. These safety standards vary by country, but all are intended to protect workers on the job. Although all safety footwear standards include key elements of protection, the testing methods, performance requirements and the certification process may have significant differences.

Most regulatory standards are reviewed by a committee of experts every five years to ensure they are still providing the best protection possible. As seen in the standard numerical designation, the current standard revision number appears by year at the end of the number. In other words, ASTM F2413-18 was published in 2018.

The Evolution of Footwear Safety Standards

The most widely recognized safety footwear standard in the U.S. today is ASTM F2413. The original predecessor to this specification, ANSI Z41, established footwear performance criteria to protect workers from common hazards. Its importance was recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Code of Federal Regulations.

The first version of the ASTM safety standard was published in 2005, revised in 2011 and recently revised again in 2018 as ASTM F2413-18. With each new year of revision to the standard, shoe manufacturers/providers are required to recertify existing styles within one year of the publishing date.

The ASTM F2413-18 standard contains basic requirements to assess footwear including:

  • Impact resistance for the toe area
  • Compression resistance for the toe area
  • Metatarsal protection for the metatarsal bones at the top of the foot
  • Conductive properties to reduce static electricity buildup and lower the possibility of ignition of explosives, volatile chemicals or fine particulates in the air
  • Electric hazard protection when accidentally stepping on live electric wires
  • Static dissipative properties to reduce hazards that result from a buildup of static charge where there is risk of accidental contact with live electrical circuits
  • Puncture resistance (to protect the bottom of the foot) from sharp penetrating objects

A Closer Look at the 2018 Footwear Standards

Protective Toe Cap Footwear. Although the basic standard remained the same from 2011 to now, there are three changes of significance worth noting in the 2018 version.

1. The original requirements for Static Dissipative properties stated the footwear shall have a lower limit of electrical resistance of 106 Ω (1 megohm) and have an upper limit of electrical resistance of 108 Ω (100 megohms). This footwear was labeled as SD. There are now three levels of SD protection listed in ASTM F2413-18.

  • Footwear having a lower limit of electrical resistance of 106 Ω (1 megohm) and an upper limit of electrical resistance of 108 Ω (100 megohms) may be labeled as SD100.
  • Footwear having a lower limit of electrical resistance of 106 Ω (1 megohm) and an upper limit of electrical resistance of 3.5 x 108 Ω (35 megohms) may be labeled as SD35.
  • Footwear having a lower limit of electrical resistance of 106 Ω (1 megohm) and an upper limit of electrical resistance of 1.0 x 107 Ω (10 megohms) may be labeled as SD10.

2. Labeling and identification of protective footwear with a protective toe cap is essential to identify the specific protections that the footwear provides and to ensure the required minimum performance criteria of ASTM F2413 are met.

  • Line 1 of label: ASTM F2413-18 (ASTM Standard No. - Year of issuance)
  • Line 2 of label: M/I/C (appropriate gender, M or F, and the Impact and Compression resistance)
  • Line 3 of label: Mt/EH/PR (additional protections)

3. Regardless of the year of issuance of F2413, a test report shall be issued by a Third-Party laboratory. The test report shall include performance requirements and safety hazard(s) the footwear and/ or puncture resistant devices have been tested for, the individual test results and a pass/fail statement.

In addition, ASTM F2413-18 now includes a requirement for a Certificate of Conformance (COC) to be issued by a Third-Party laboratory. The COC shall include but not be limited to:

  • Third party laboratory name, contact information and authorization signature(s)
  • Name of company the Certificate of Compliance (COC) is issued to
  • All manufacturers references (product category, style, model, SKU, etc.)
  • Certification issue date
  • Report number and issue date associated with the Certificate of Compliance (COC)
  • Statement that the manufacturers reference (product category style, model, SKU, etc.) meets the performance requirements of ASTM Specification F2413-18 as tested in accordance with ASTM Test Methods F2412-18a and list the safety hazard(s) tested

Test Methods for Foot Protection. The F2412-18a Standard Test Methods for Foot Protection now includes better defined test procedures and detailed diagrams.

Soft-Toe Protective Footwear. The F2892-18 Standard Specification for Performance Requirements for Soft Toe Protective Footwear (Non-Safety/Non-Protective Toe) now includes the same three levels of SD as described for F2413-18. A Certificate of Conformance will also accompany the Third-Party test report and the labeling will reflect the new 2018 standard revision.

Resulting Manufacturer Testing Processes

For manufacturers of protective safety footwear, it’s critical to have an established testing process to ensure all products meet the current standards and to stay on top of updated requirements. For example, trusted footwear manufacturers will have testing capabilities to routinely audit the continued safety performance of the footwear.

Impact on Professionals Charged with Occupational Health and Safety

ASTM protective footwear standards have an impact on a wide range of professionals charged with worker safety within their industries. Here are some key principles to keep in mind when partnering with a provider to select protective footwear for workers who encounter hazards on the job.

Follow the ASTM standard. Any safety footwear provider can claim its products are safe and offer the protective properties required for the task at hand, but it’s important to verify that they are ASTM-compliant. Make sure your provider has followed the current, most up-to-date testing and performance requirements and can provide a Certificate of Conformance.

Understand the details. Whether or not a specific shoe or boot will provide adequate, long-term protection depends on much more than one standard. It requires a deep understanding of what the job actually involves: the surfaces, contaminants and physical requirement of the role. Look for a provider with experience in developing purpose-built safety footwear worn in a variety of industries.

Share knowledge. Every work environment is unique. Ensuring safety depends on strong, open and transparent collaboration between the employer and the safety footwear provider. The footwear manufacturer should not only provide as much detail as possible about its products, but also seek to understand every nuance of the company’s work environment before making a recommendation.

Choose products from the workers’ point of view. There is nothing more important than ensuring their safety, protection and comfort on the job, regardless of the industry or conditions.

The Future of Safety Footwear

Safety standards will continue to evolve to meet the demanding needs of work environments and to keep workers safe. For example, there is currently an existing test method for slip resistance, F2913, and ASTM is now drafting a correlating slip specification standard. If companies want to label a product as slip resistant, they will have to meet specific criteria in the near future. Furthermore, expanding beyond the scope of safety to include performance attributes within ASTM standards is on the horizon, including recommended methods and guidelines for sole performance and water resistance.

Finally, anyone charged with responsibility for occupational health and safety will also benefit from working with an established, knowledgeable and experienced PPE provider who can help navigate the world of safety standards and offer the best possible protective footwear recommendations. It’s important to understand the key components of safety standards, the newest regulations and their impact.

 

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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OH&S Digital Edition

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