Many jobs are performed in environments where the level of danger is quite high (think of bricklayers, builders or anyone working in logistics and warehouses). In order to minimise the likelihood of accidents of any kind, the law stipulates that workers in the most hazardous sectors must comply with a series of safety measures, which also concern clothing. Including shoes, for example.
The choice of suitable footwear (that is both safe and comfortable) is essential for the worker to be able to carry out their tasks with dexterity and without worries, but to be able to identify the correct footwear, it is necessary to understand its essential characteristics, all of which are usually indicated by abbreviations (S1, S3 or S1P, for example).
So let's try to shed some light on how to choose safety shoes, first explaining what these are precisely and then what features to check in order to choose the best pair of shoes.
Safety shoes: what they are and which abbreviations are used
Safety shoes are considered "personal protective equipment" (abbreviated to PPE) and, as such, must comply with the terms of a specific European directive, EC 89/686. This directive, according to EN ISO 20345:2011, defines these shoes as those "footwear with specific features to protect the wearer from injury [...] with toecaps designed to provide protection against impact at an energy of 200J".
Categorised by the initial S (which stands for Safety) and according to no less than 6 different levels, where SB is the least safe level and S5 the safest overall, safety shoes can, in addition to toecap strength, also meet other requirements These include:
- resistance to hydrocarbons and oils (with the abbreviation FO)
- the capacity of the heel area to absorb energy (with the abbreviation E)
- anti-puncture soles (with the abbreviation P)
- antistatic soles (with the abbreviation A)
- the level of waterproofing (with abbreviation WRU)
- the slip resistance (with the abbreviation SR)
In this regard, it should also be remembered that the slip resistance requirement provides for three different levels with three abbreviations:
- SRA, if the shoe has slip resistance against ceramic soil, water and detergent
- SRB, if the shoe has slip resistance against steel floors and glycerine
- SRC, if the shoe has a slip resistance that includes both of the options described above
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How to choose safety shoes: features to check
As mentioned above, for accident prevention shoes to be considered safe, they must also meet specific requirements. To understand whether a shoe of this type is of good quality or not, it is necessary to check:
- the upper
- the inner lining
- the toe cap
- the anti-puncture layer
- the insole
- the sole
- the fitting
- the weight
- the safety category
The upper must be durable but also breathable, with high-frequency applications or expected heel support of an anti-scratch and anti-abrasion type. The same applies to the inner lining, which must also be breathable and equipped with a non-slip insert for the heel. An example of this is our new Young model, which not only protects the heel against slipping, but also greatly reduces the possibility of scratches, increasing the level of safety.
The toe cap then, as mentioned, must be able to withstand up to 200J by law; while the anti-puncture layer, which is only present in the safest categories (S1P, for example, or S3), must be flexible, lightweight and above all, resistant up to 1100N.
The insole, on the other hand, must be as comfortable as possible, preferably made of a Memory foam type fabric, which is antistatic and breathable. The sole is also fundamental, because it must have antistatic and anti-slip properties, but it must also be resistant to oils and hydrocarbons. Like our Cool, whose sole not only has an anti-slip class of the SRC type, but also increases the shoe's ability to absorb shocks around the heel area.
Another key feature to check is the fit. This must be wide and comfortable, since it will be keeping the feet company for many hours a day. Finally, we must also check the weight of the shoe and, of course, its safety category. The former, to be ideal, needs to be about half a kilogram; safety shoes that weigh more end up being annoying and cause ankle strain. The safety category, on the other hand, allows you to see at a glance which elements characterise a particular shoe rather than another. If the abbreviation is S1, for example, it will be easy to guess that that shoe has all the requirements of the S-category (such as the 200J toecap) but only protects against minor risks and is therefore only suitable for indoor use. The S3, on the other hand, protects during high-risk work and is water-resistant, making it suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.
Well, we have seen what essential characteristics a good pair of safety shoes must possess to be considered as such. If, in any case, there are any doubts or clarifications you wish to make, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our staff will be more than happy to answer any of your questions.