Work environments in the US must meet OSHA-defined standards. Here is all you need to know about the OSHA standard for safety shoes.
Job site safety in the US includes rules for the kind of footwear to use, commonly called the OSHA standard for safety shoes. This article is a summary of OSHA safety shoes guidelines, the stated testing methods to ensure the shoes are compliant, and other important information about worker’s protective footwear. It will help you understand what OSHA approved shoes are, how to spot them, and a lot more.
What is the OSHA Standard for Safety Shoes?
OSHA stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration and refers to the organization that’s concerned with ensuring all workers in the US are adequately protected from workplace hazards. As such, the organization outlines a number of rules for the kind of safety shoes to wear in different work environments.
OSHA safety shoes requirements currently quote footwear standards created by ASTM International. This is an independent organization consisting of professionals and that tests safety shoes for various protection features.
Some years ago, (pre-2005), OSHA based its safety footwear standard on two organizations: ASTM and ANSI. Today, the organization only uses ASTM standards and certifies two types of documents for protective footwear: ASTM 2412 for data on various testing methods and results, and ASTM 2413 for protective footwear features.
OSHA Safety Shoes Definition
OSHA has safety shoes defined as a type of footwear that is designed with aim to protect the wearer against one or more potentially harmful substances and environments. The criteria for evaluating OSHA safety shoes, therefore, include the following aspects.
- Safety Shoe Performance
- Safety Shoe Testing
- Safety Shoe Labeling
OSHA Safety Shoes Performance
This refers to the physical characteristics that make a safety shoe to be considered adequately protective. The performance requirements for OSHA compliant safety shoes are: impact and compression resistance, metatarsal protection, resistance to static charge buildup, protection from electric shock, ability to safely conduct static electricity to the ground, and ability to resist puncturing by sharp objects.
OSHA Safety Shoes Testing
OSHA requires that safety shoes be tested for the recommended physical characteristics. The tests must be done at an independent and recognized laboratory, and the results issued in a document. OSHA safety shoes guidelines require workplace safety shoes to satisfy the following qualifications when tested (note that requirements are different for different work environments)
- Impact resistance from 30lbf, 50lbf, up to 75lbf for the highest rating.
- Compression resistance rated 30 through 50 to 75 indicating ability to resist objects that weigh from 1000, 1750, and up to 2500 pounds.
- Anti-puncture protection of up to 270lb minimum force.
- Metatarsal protection of up to 75lbf.
- Static dissipation by offering a resistance of 10, 35, and up to 100 kilo-ohms maximum depending on the required rating.
- EH (electrical hazard) protection against electrical shock.
Although a rare hazard at the workplace, OSHA approved footwear also includes protection against chainsaw cuts. Employers must ensure this if the workplace includes such risks.
OSHA Safety Shoes Labeling
A permanent marking is required in order to identify the product and certify that it meets OSHA safety shoes requirements. Markings must be indelible, visible, and on the inside or outside of the shoe tongue, quarter lining, gusset, etc. The label may be stamped on, stitched on, and various other ways that will make it lasting.
Also note that OSHA approved work shoes typically contain a rectangle on the label inside which are symbols for the ASTM standards that OSHA uses to certify safety shoes. These include C for compression resistance, I for impact resistance, Mt for metatarsal bone protection, EH for electrical hazard protection, and ESD for electrically conductive safety shoes.
Besides the symbols for OSHA compliant safety shoes, the label will often have its top or below section marked with the manufacturer’s logo, sometimes even the date when the shoe was manufactured. You will also find other important information regarding the shoe such as the material used to make it, size, and the country where the shoe was made.
How do I know if a Safety Shoe is OSHA Approved?
So, what do you do if faced with the problem of identifying footwear that passes the OSHA safety shoe policy? There are two ways to do so: read the label on the specific shoe or the manufacturer’s datasheet. The most obvious way is to check the label. There are usually a few symbols and numbers indicated, as explained earlier. Below is how to tell if the shoes are OSHA approved by reading the label.
OSHA Safety Shoes Markings
All safety shoes come with labels to provide information regarding the types of features included or the safety standard used. Here’s a sample of a label for safety footwear standard that’s based on the ASTM testing and guidelines or, in other words, OSHA approved footwear.
Let’s break down the meaning of each line.
- ASTM F2413-18 – The first line shows the specific standard that the OSHA approved footwear meets. As indicated earlier, OSHA shoes follow the ASTM standards. Every label, will, therefore, bear the ASTM mark followed by the particular standard used. The last two digits after the hyphen (18) indicate the year that the standard was updated.
- M /1/ C– the second line specifies the gender of the user (M to mean men and F female) this is followed by the ratings for impact and compression resistance. In the sample used here, the safety shoe is meant for men and comes with the ability to resist impact as well as compressional force.
- Mt EH– the third line contains any other specification that the OSHA approved shoe provides, such as puncture resistance, shock resistance, and so on. In our case, the shoe comes with the ability to protect the wearer against electrical hazards (EH) as well as offer metatarsal protection (Mt). This line will also contain Mt sign and the specific rating.
Note: Safety shoe labels before the 2018 ASTM update used to include values for impact, compression, and metatarsal protection levels and looked something like this: M I/75 C/75 Mt/75. Today, only the symbols I, C, and Mt are used. That did not alter anything, though, and the same OSHA safety toe requirements and metatarsal ratings still apply.
FAQS about OSHA Standard for Safety Shoes
As an employer or worker who has to abide by health and safety footwear regulations, you may still be having lingering questions about OSHA requirements. Read through this FAQS section for more answers to some of the most asked questions.
Q1. Does the OSHA standard for safety shoes apply to safety boots as well?
A. It does. OSHA approved boots must meet the specifications outlined in the ASTM guidelines which include a protective toe cap, resistance to penetration by sharp objects, ratings for electric hazard protection, and electrostatic dissipation, and requirement for metatarsal protection.
Q2. Are composite toe boots required by OSHA?
A. OSHA does not specify the material to use for the toe cap and, therefore, does not require composite boots. Instead, it defines the level of protection that the toe cap offers. As such, composite safety boots will usually pass the requirements, just as OSHA approved steel toe shoes will do.
Q3. How often is the OSHA standard for safety shoes updated?
A. OSHA updates its guidelines from time to time but not frequently. It’s upon every employer or worker to keep up with these updates and meet any new policies. That said, safety shoe manufacturers normally build their footwear based on the OSHA shoe requirements of that time. Many safety shoe companies also include the specific update met by the shoe on the label.
Q4. How does OSHA monitor and enforce compliance for safety shoes?
A. OSHA conducts inspections to determine compliance with footwear standards as part of its enforcement efforts, but those efforts do not generally target footwear manufacturers or retailers. The agency encourages employers and employees to work together to establish effective safety programs that include appropriate personal protective equipment such as safety shoes.
Q5. Do OSHA compliant safety shoes come in different styles and colors?
A. Yes, footwear that meets OSHA safety shoes requirements is also available in other designs or styles to suit your employees’ preferences. Some manufacturers offer special designs or custom shoes upon the request of clients and provide unique footwear that serves safety needs as well as style preferences.
Foot safety in the workplace is a crucial concern. As an employer or procurement manager in a company, it’s up to you to assess the types of hazards or risks at the workplace. This will help you select footwear that satisfies both OSHA guidelines for safety shoes and other specs. Wearers should also strive to understand the OSHA standard for safety shoes. That way, they can be sure that they’re always wearing safety shoes that meet law requirements as well as shoes that will adequately keep them safe when working.