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How to Choose Safety Toe Boots & Shoes

Boots
ASTM Safety Toe Boots & Shoes
There are many occupations that require
the use of safety toe boots & shoes. Choosing
the correct footwear for the job is extremely
important in order to provide the appropriate
protection. So, how does a worker or employer
select such protective footwear?
Background
The Basics

First, you should assess the work environment to determine any possible foot hazards and how you can protect against them. This assessment is important in a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) program because it helps you choose the right footwear for each job and hazard. Typical foot hazards to look for during your assessment are sharp objects from tools or raw materials; falling or rolling objects like boxes, materials, carts and equipment; wet, slippery surfaces from spills or bad weather; electrical shock; hot surfaces like paving or welding; and cold surfaces and environments such as snow, ice and refrigeration.
Protective Footwear Information

The protective footwear you choose must comply with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard F2413-05, formerly the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) Z41-1999. This standard covers minimum requirements for the design, performance, testing and classification of protective footwear. Footwear certified as meeting ASTM F2413-05 must first meet the requirements of Section 5.1 “Impact Resistant Footwear” and Section 5.2 “Compression Resistant Footwear”. Then the requirements of additional sections such as metatarsal protection, conductive protection, electric shock protection, static dissipative protection and protection against punctures can be met.  

Protective footwear can meet all of the requirements of the ASTM standard or specific elements of it, as long as it first meets the requirements for impact and compression resistance. All footwear manufactured to the ASTM specification must be marked with the specific portion of the standard with which it complies. One shoe of each pair must be clearly and legibly marked (stitched in, stamped on, pressure-sensitive label, etc.) on either the surface of the tongue, gusset, shaft, or quarter lining.
ASTM F2413-05 M I/75 C/75 Standard

The letters F2413 reference the performance requirement for foot protection. The additional digits following the standard designation indicate the year of the standard to which the protective footwear complies, for example: 05 refers to 2005.
M = Footwear designed for a male.
F = Footwear designed for a female.
I/75 = Impact rating of 75 (foot pounds)
C/75 = Compression rating of 75 (2500 lbs. of pressure)

As of March 2005, the ASTM F2413 standard superseded the ANSI Z41 standard. Manufacturers and distributors will implement a “running change” to their inventory from the ANSI Z41 labeled footwear. Because there is no change in the protocol, the ASTM F2413 standard does not require that the change from ANSI to ASTM labeled footwear occur in a specific time period.
FAQs

Q: What does the impact rating mean?
A: Safety toe boots are tested to meet one of two units of measurement for impact rating; 50 or 75 foot pounds. This test is performed by dropping a weight from a predetermined height at a designated speed. Thus, I/50 rated footwear will protect the toes from an impact of up to 50 foot pounds and I/75 rated footwear will protect the toes from an impact of up to 75 foot pounds.

Q: What does the compression rating mean?
A: Safety toe boots are tested to meet one of two units of measurement for compression rating; 50 = 1,750 pounds and 75 = 2,500 pounds. This test is performed by applying a load up to the designated number of pounds before the toe cap begins to crush or crack. Thus, C/50 rated footwear will protect the toes from compressive loads up to 1,750 pounds and C/75 rated footwear will protect the toes from compressive loads up to 2,500 pounds.

Q: Are add-on protective devices sufficient?
A: According to both ANSI and ASTM standards, protective toe caps must be an integral and permanent part of the footwear, so add-on devices do not meet those requirements. While those two standards exclude add-ons, however, it does not mean that such devices are not acceptable to OSHA. Those standards state that if the device has independent testing data to show that it provides protection equivalent to the ANSI requirement, then the add-on protective devices are acceptable to OSHA.

Q: What is a composite toe?
A: A composite toe is essentially the same as a steel toe, but it is non-metallic and non-magnetic. It is slightly lighter (mere grams) in weight than a steel toe cap, but meets the same ANSI/ASTM safety requirements as a steel toe.

Q: Which is better, a steel toe or a composite toe?
A: Both styles of safety toe caps offer the wearer a measure of protection because each meets ANSI/ASTM safety requirements. Steel toe boots tend to be slightly heavier (mere grams) than composite toe boots, but many people feel that a steel toe cap affords them more protection.

Q: What type of work is a composite toe boot best suited for?
A: Composite toe boots are better suited for those who must pass through metal detectors (nuclear workers, airport workers and security personnel) during the course of their work day.   
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