OSHA standards require protective footwear for workers at risk of injury from impacts, punctures or electrical hazards on the job site. OSHA-approved shoes must be certified impact and compression resistant by the American Society for Testing and Materials standards.
Protective footwear is required for employees at risk of injury from:
Employers have a responsibility to conduct hazard assessments for the job site and determine the necessary PPE. Where warehouses may require steel toe boots to protect from rolling forklifts, electricians require a composite boot that will not conduct electricity. Less hazardous workplaces like kitchens may require puncture-resistant shoes or toe caps to protect from falling knives or hot pans.
Employers must communicate their PPE selection and standards to workers. Some industries, like construction, also have specific standards of safety requirements.
Protective footwear requirements are common in:
OSHA requirements for protective footwear reference the guidelines set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). To meet OSHA standards, protective shoes should comply ASTM standards for protective shoe performance and testing methods.
The most current safety shoe standards are ASTM 2413-18 and ASTM 2412-18a. Under ASTM 2412-18, , toe caps must be built into safety shoes. ASTM 2412-18a sets forth testing standards for impact and compression resistance.
Workers can still wear overshoes, but overshoes do not count as protective equipment. Protective footwear includes steel toe, alloy toe or composite toe shoes and boots.
Work boots must pass impact and compression resistance standards to be ASTM-certified. They may also be tested for puncture resistance, metatarsal protection, static dissipation, electrical hazard resistance or conductive protection.
Protective standards marked on a shoe will include:
• ASTM 2413-11 or ASTM 2413-18
The number denotes the standard and the year. ASTM 2413-11 signifies that the shoe is compliant with the 2011 update to the rule. ASTM 2413-18 marks a shoe compliant with the 2018 update.
OSHA standards require slip-resistant and puncture-resistant footwear for construction workers. Safety boots on construction sites also need considerable impact and shear protection to shield workers from falling objects or heavy equipment.
Steel-toed boots are most commonly used to meet all OSHA safety boot requirements. Standards also require hearing, eye and face, hand and head protection, according to OSHA’s list of PPE requirements for construction sites.
Many composite toe boots meet OSHA and ASTM safety requirements. They are made of non-metallic fibers like Kevlar® and do not conduct electricity. Composite boots are preferred by engineers, electricians and some independent contractors.
Composite toe boots do not offer the same protection from impact as steel-toed boots.
Alloy toe boots are made of materials like aluminum and titanium, which makes them lighter weight than steel toe boots. The metal plates are thinner, leaving more room in the toe of the boot. Steel toe boots have the advantages of lower costs and greater strength.
Thicker steel plates are heavier to wear and may cut into an employee’s foot, but steel toe boots also provide stronger impact protection and sheer resistance. Employers should determine the level of risk at their work site and decide whether alloy or steel is best suited for their work hazards and employee comfort.
NOTE: Neither alloy toe nor steel toe boots should be used on jobs with electrical hazards. The metal toes conduct electricity. Electricians should use electrical hazard protection work boots.
Since 2008, employers have been required to pay for employee protective equipment used to comply with OSHA standards. Examples include certain safety shoes, glasses and goggles, respirators and chemical-resistant gloves, among other PPE. Employers may purchase equipment on behalf of their employees or reimburse employee purchases.
Employers are not obligated to pay for certain PPE, such as standard work boots, everyday clothing, voluntary dust masks or rain gear. Employers are also not obligated to pay for non-specialty safety footwear and non-specialty prescription safety eyewear, provided that the employees are allowed to wear their gear off the work site.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “1910.136 - Foot protection.”
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “1910.132 - General requirements.”
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