Occupational footwear is not only an essential accessory for a worker’s health, but also a compulsory one. Not for nothing do they fall into the category of personal protective equipment (PPE).
In the past, the so-called safety shoes were only used for jobs that were considered tough and dangerous, such as those carried out in workshops, construction sites and foundries. Today, professional shoes are worn by countless professionals: from healthcare workers to laboratories, schools, cleaning companies and beauty centres.
Professional footwear has specific characteristics and peculiarities in response to the risks that can be encountered in the workplace and which, unfortunately, despite prior assessment and the adoption of all measures, cannot be eliminated.
This is why personal protective equipment exists, representing an additional level of protection against residual risks that cannot be eliminated.
But among the many offers available, how do you choose the most suitable professional shoes to protect yourself from the risks of your job? In this article, we will shed some light on the certifications for professional footwear, which serve to ensure their quality and suitability for use.
Certifications and safety standards
The safety standards to be respected in any workplace are defined by precise regulations, UNI EN ISO, which present very strict reference parameters and specifications, which, in order to obtain certification, are tested on the product by authorised third parties.
These super partes certifying bodies are responsible for recreating in the laboratory the environments and conditions suitable for testing and authenticating the levels of protection of the footwear which, if essential, must be marked on the sole. These are generally referred to as safety markings.
In addition to these essential requirements, there are additional requirements which are either mandatory or optional depending on the workplace.
European Safety Standards: EN ISO Certifications
But which bodies dictate safety standards?
There is more than one, but the most important organisation in the world for technical standards and safety at work is undoubtedly the International Organization for Standardization, commonly abbreviated to “ISO”.
The standards established by this organisation, based in Geneva, are referred to by organisations in 164 countries worldwide, which are required to adapt their quality management systems to these standards and to update them periodically in the event of any revisions to existing standards.
This means that when a product is ISO-certified, a high level of quality and safety is guaranteed that is the same for all ISO-certified products. Currently, the reference standards for work shoes are as follows:
– EN ISO 20344:2011 – this standard sets out the tests and test methods for footwear designed to be PPE, and must be complied with in conjunction with EN ISO 20346, EN ISO 20347 or EN ISO 20347 in relation to the specific risks against which they are tested
– EN ISO 20345:2011 – refers to safety shoes for general use, identified as “safety footwear”, and provides protection against mechanical risks, slip risks, thermal risks, as well as establishing the presence of a protective toe cap with a resistance of 200 joules (equal to the impact caused by a 20kg weight falling from a height of 1 metre)
– EN ISO 20346:2012 – footwear with this code is defined as “protective footwear”, and has a toecap with an impact resistance of up to 100 joules
– EN ISO 20347:2012 – which corresponds to the definition of ‘occupational footwear’ and does not include a toe-cap, but can be supplemented by additional protective functions as required.
According to these certifications, PPE footwear is required to have certain characteristics and to guarantee a certain performance. The requirements of a shoe can be identified in more detail by the presence of markings, represented as letters or symbols, each corresponding to a different type of performance, for example:
– A: antistatic footwear
– E: energy absorption in the heel area
– P: perforation resistance of the bottom of the shoe
– FO: sole resistance to hydrocarbons
– SRA, SRB or SRC: anti-slip performance of the sole, in different conditions of use
– CE mark: indicating compliance with European Community regulations on the products marketed.
Just to name a few.
Reposa product certifications
But let’s clarify further by taking as an example some of the top of the range Reposa sanitary clogs, going to see what are the corresponding standards and markings to which they refer.
– Standard: EN ISO 20345:2011; what does it mean? As we have seen, this certification corresponds to a type of work footwear with a toe cap. Reposa Safe is in fact a model classified as safety footwear, and therefore equipped with a toe cap with an impact resistance of up to 200 joules.
– Markings: SB, which means that the footwear has a toecap with resistance to 200 joules, respects the minimum height of the upper and has a hydrocarbon-resistant sole, CE (conforms to European standards), A (antistatic), E (absorbs energy in the heel area), and SRC (maximum anti-slip coefficient).
– Standard: EN ISO 20347:2012; here is an example of sanitary footwear made in different models but complying with the same standard: Reposa Max and Reposa Easy sanitary clogs are certified as work footwear, do not foresee the presence of a toe-cap and guarantee high levels of comfort suitable for working activities. The only difference is the presence, in the Max model, of the reversible backstrap, while the Easy model is completely open at the back.
– Markings: OB (work shoe), A (antistatic), E (absorbs energy in the heel area), SRC (maximum anti-slip performance) and CE (European conformity).
– Standard: EN ISO 20347:2011; Reposa Medical O, Work O and Nurse O are microfiber shoes designed for hospitals, pharmacies and the whole ho.re.ca. sector, which have all the characteristics of work shoes. The difference in this case is communicated by the markings.
– Markings: While Reposa Medical O is marked with E, A, ORO (hydrocarbon-resistant sole) and SRC, Nurse O and Work O are marked with O1 and SRC. It is precisely these differences that determine which of these apparently very similar work shoes is the most suitable choice.
– Standard: EN ISO 20345:2011, the toecap version of the previous models.
– Markings: The Work S and Nurse S models have S1 markings, which certifies in a single marking characteristics such as closed back, antistatic properties, hydrocarbon resistance and energy absorption capacity of the heel, and an SRC certified sole. The Medical S model has SB, A and SRC markings.
The performance of Reposa products derives not only from compliance with the above-mentioned standards, but also and above all from continuous research and innovation aimed at maximising all product qualities. The difference between complying with a standard and exceeding lies in the execution of production techniques, in the drive towards perfection and in the desire to always remain a point of reference in the market in which one operates: values shared by all the best producers of professional footwear, especially by those who guarantee the promotion and continuity of Made in Italy.