When it comes to safety in the workplace, it is important to get it right. However, with safety clothing and footwear, there are so many options out there that it can sometimes be difficult to establish the best option for your occupation or personal needs. This is where we come in. Here at MI Supplies, we’re talking all things safety footwear, taking you through the different types available so you can ensure you’re fully equipped for the job at hand.
Safety footwear is a vital part of personal protective equipment, helping to not only prevent foot injuries but also bodily injuries from falls or trips.
Safety footwear, like other forms of PPE, should be used as additional protection when all other reasonable measures have been taken. This means, for example, if you work in an environment with the risk of trips or falls, you shouldn’t rely solely on safety shoes with grip for protection - you should first attempt to tackle the hazard itself.
With safety footwear you should consider every aspect of the job at hand and the type of protection that is needed. With many occupations, it may be that you need to take into account several factors, from slip protection and toe protection to comfort and durability. Consider the area which presents the largest threat, and prioritise that when evaluating the safety factors of your footwear.
If you are working on a building site, for example, you will be spending a lot of time outdoors. You should opt for safety boots to reflect this; they should be waterproof and durable with a solid protective sole. Alternatively, if you’re working in healthcare, you will require a lightweight, comfortable and washable shoe with a good level of slip protection.
Hazards you should consider when selecting safety footwear include:
- Extreme temperatures
- Static electricity/shocks
- Punctures from sharp objects
- Impact from trips or falling objects
- Slips and falls
- Chemical splash
Depending on your job and the level and type of protection you require, there are a whole host of options available. Here are some of the most common types of safety footwear:
A safety boot is the most common type of safety footwear and is particularly ideal if you’re looking for footwear with more support to the ankle. Durable, strong and made from heavy-duty materials, a pair of safety boots are a great option for those working outdoors in the elements. Safety boots often incorporate a number of additional safety elements, including penetration-resistant mid-soles and protective toe-caps, making them ideal for workers handling heavy machinery and/or equipment.
A safety shoe, like a safety boot, offers many additional safety features. However, with safety shoes, composite options are also available. This is a metal free safety shoe, offering a more lightweight option in less hazardous situations.
Slip-resistant safety shoes feature additional grip on the sole of the shoe, which helps to prevent slips. Opt for a lightweight pair for industries such as healthcare or catering where you may encounter spills, or look for a heavy-duty pair of slip-resistant safety shoes if you’re working outdoors in potentially rainy or wet conditions.
Another popular feature of safety shoes and boots is a steel insole. This steel anti-penetration insert offers underfoot protection, keeping the wearer safe from sharp objects while helping to prevent joint problems by keeping the foot stabilised during use. This protection is often available in smarter shoes style, ideal for executives visiting warehouses or working sites.
Electrical hazards are not only extremely dangerous but reasonably common, and can be drastically reduced through the use of antistatic footwear. These specialist electrical safety shoes are created with materials designed to withstand electric shocks, keeping you protected throughout the working day.
Safety trainers offer a comfortable, practical solution with a much more casual aesthetic. Athletic and stylish, many are available with reinforced toe caps and water-resistant designs, offering the perfect combination of comfort and safety for long-term jobs.
If you’re working in wet conditions, a pair of wellington boots are a must for keeping you warm, dry and protected on the job. With safety and non-safety options available, you can adapt your pair to suit the job at hand. For construction, forestry or gardening, opt for wellies with a steel midsole, or explore classic waterproof men’s wellington boots for agriculture or fishing.
A rigger is a special type of safety boot, offering protection against the elements alongside additional safety features. Rigger boots with cold insulation are often required for freezer wear footwear, while oil-resistant boots are perfect for those working on rigs.
The correct health and safety is vital in the workplace, with The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 stating that the employer is required to provide a safe working environment for employees. As well as this, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to carry out sufficient risk assessments on the health and safety standards in the workplace. If risks are highlighted, they should be removed or reduced through employee PPE.
Health and safety footwear is covered by UK workwear regulations, specifically the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992. These regulations state that if a risk cannot be adequately controlled by other means, PPE (personal protective equipment) should be used.
These regulations require that PPE is:
- properly assessed before use to make sure it is fit for purpose
- maintained and stored properly
- provided with instructions on how to use it safely
- used correctly by employees.
For more information, take a look at the HSE PPE at work guide.