Protective workwear and safety clothing are almost universally used today for people engaged in working in potentially hazardous working conditions.
It is believed that about 12% of all workplace injuries in the United Kingdom each year are caused by accidents in some way or other involving the feet.
Some of these accidents are caused by slipping, tripping or twisting the ankle, and can lead to injuries to almost any part of the body. Safety Shoes Workwear However, an estimated 15,000 injuries directly affect the feet. A huge percentage of these accidents could have been prevented had the worker worn properly fitting and appropriate safety footwear.
Possibly the most frequent foot accidents in the work place are caused by heavy objects being dropped on the feet. In places where this is likely to happen, the number one protection will most likely be steel toe caps in the work shoes or work boots.
For the protection of those delicate metatarsal bones of the feet that support the arches, there are metatarsal guards that can be worn on top of the feet, over the uppers of the footwear.
It is often recommended that cotton socks be worn with work footwear in order to prevent sweating and slipping, especially if synthetic materials are used for the boots or shoes. In uncomfortably hot conditions it may even be suggested for the worker to change socks during the work day.
In the United States of America, various grades of protective footwear are marked according to the accepted standards of safety by a series of coloured triangles and other symbols denoting each type.
The United Kingdom, along with most of Europe, has the HSE directives that give guidelines as to protective workwear and safety clothing.
When it comes to work shoes and work boots, this part of the world has a system of letters and groups of letters denoting each category. In Europe safety boots and safety shoes are normally graded into four types. They are:
Steel toe types of shoes and boots.
Electrical resistant shoes and boots.
Shoes and boots for hostile environments.
Shoes and boots offering other types of protection.
Some of these overlap, with several protective qualities put together.
The steel toe type of footwear is further divided into four categories, 'SB', 'S1', 'S2', and 'S3'. They all, including 'SB', offer protection to the extent of 200 joules of basic impact as well as protection against compression of up to 15,000 newtons.
The 'S1' classification has, in addition, antistatic properties as well as energy absorption of the seat region. The 'S2' type, additionally, gives protection against water absorption and water penetration. The 'S3' has all these qualities as well as an extra strong sole that prevents the penetration of sharp objects.
Electrical resistant shoes and boots come in two types, one type, 'O', offering protection against conductivity, and the other type, 'A', is anti-static.
Hostile environments usually involve extremes of either heat or cold. 'CL' offers insulation against cold, while 'HL' protects against heat.
Additional protective qualities of boots and shoes include: resistance of the outer sole to excessively hot surface temperatures of as much as 300 °C. This is labelled 'HRO'. Then there is extreme penetration resistance supplied by a steel mid-sole. This type of footwear is labelled 'P'. Type 'E' footwear offers shock absorption to the heels. Type 'WRU' has water resistant uppers.