Lori Hyllengren, Contributor
When it comes to industrial footwear, worker safety is of the utmost importance. Companies that require their employees to work in harsh and hazardous conditions—in environments ranging from oil rigs to factories to construction—need to ensure employees have footwear that protects from injury and complies with the latest safety standards.
In 2018, one of the world’s largest international standards developing organizations, ASTM International, introduced three updated footwear standards to guide test laboratories and companies that use protective footwear. The new standards, which went into effect October 2019, specify performance requirements for protective (safety) toe cap footwear, standard test methods for foot protection and performance requirements for soft-toe protective footwear.
Deconstructing Safety Standards
Due to the wide range of potential hazards, including falling or rolling objects (such as heavy boxes in a warehouse); piercing objects that go through the sole of a shoe; electric shock from exposed wires; and more commonplace accidents, like slips, trips and falls, safety footwear protects workers’ feet in specific ways under very defined circumstances.
Safety standards, such as those created by ASTM International, provide a set of minimum requirements that PPE must pass during testing—all intended to protect workers on the job. Safety footwear standards must be met 100% of the time, though the testing methods, performance requirements and certification processes used in such standards may vary by country.
Most regulatory standards are reviewed by a committee of experts every five years to ensure they are still providing the best protection possible. As seen in the standard numerical designation, the current standard revision number appears by year at the end of the number. In other words, ASTM F2413-18 was published in 2018.
The Evolution of Footwear Safety Standards
The first version of the ASTM F2413 safety standard, now the most widely recognized safety footwear standard in the U.S., was published in 2005. It was then revised in 2011 and again in 2018. With each new year of revision to the standard, shoe manufacturers/providers are required to recertify existing styles within one year of the publishing date.
The ASTM F2413-18 standard contains basic requirements to assess footwear including:
- Impact (I) resistance for the toe area
- Compression (C) resistance for the toe area
- Metatarsal (Mt) protection for the metatarsal bones at the top of the foot
- Conductive (Cd) properties to reduce static electricity buildup and lower the possibility of ignition of explosives, volatile chemicals or fine particulates in the air
- Electric hazard (EH) protection when accidentally stepping on live electric wires
- Static dissipative (SD 10, 35 or 100) properties, allowing for three levels of protection, to reduce hazards that result from a buildup of static charge where there is risk of accidental contact with live electrical circuits
- Puncture resistance (PR) to protect the bottom of the foot from sharp penetrating objects
A Closer Look at the 2018 Footwear Standards
- The original requirements for Static Dissipative properties required footwear to have a lower limit of electrical resistance of 106 Ω (1 megohm) and an upper limit of 108 Ω (100 megohms). This footwear was labeled as SD. There are now three levels of SD protection listed in ASTM F2413-18.
- Footwear having a lower limit of electrical resistance of 106 Ω (1 megohm) and an upper limit of 108 Ω (100 megohms) may be labeled as SD100
- Footwear having a lower limit of electrical resistance of 106 Ω (1 megohm) and an upper limit of 3.5 x 107 Ω (35 megohms) may be labeled as SD35
- Footwear having a lower limit of electrical resistance of 106 Ω (1 megohm) and an upper limit of 1.0 x 107 Ω (10 megohms) may be labeled as SD10
- Proper labeling of footwear with a protective toe cap is required to help identify the specific protections the footwear provides and ensure the required minimum performance criteria of ASTM F2413-18 are met.
- Line 1 of label: ASTM F2413-18 (ASTM Standard No.-Year of issuance)
- Line 2 of label: M/I/C (appropriate gender, M or F, and the Impact and Compression resistance)
- Line 3 of label: Mt/EH/PR (additional protections)
- Regardless of the year of issuance of F2413, a test report shall be issued by a third-party laboratory. The test report shall include performance requirements and safety hazard(s) the footwear and/or puncture resistant devices have been tested for, the individual test results and a pass/fail statement.
In addition, ASTM F2413-18 now includes a requirement for a Certificate of Conformance (COC) to be issued by a third-party laboratory. The COC shall include but not be limited to:
- Third party laboratory name, contact information and authorization signature(s)
- Name of company the Certificate of Compliance (COC) is issued to
- All manufacturer’s references (product category, style, model, SKU, etc.)
- Certification issue date
- Report number and issue date associated with the Certificate of Compliance (COC)
- Statement that the manufacturer’s reference (product category style, model, SKU, etc.) meets the performance requirements of ASTM Specification F2413-18 as tested in accordance with ASTM Test Methods F2412-18a and list the safety hazard(s) tested
Test Methods for Foot Protection: The F2412-18a Standard Test Methods for Foot Protection now includes better defined test procedures and detailed diagrams.
Soft-Toe Protective Footwear: The F2892-18 Standard Specification for Performance Requirements for Soft-Toe Protective Footwear (Non-Safety/Non-Protective Toe) now includes the same three levels of SD as described for F2413-18. A Certificate of Conformance will also accompany the third-party test report and the labeling will reflect the new 2018 standard revision.
Impact on Professionals Charged with Occupational Health & Safety
ASTM protective footwear standards have an impact on a wide range of professionals charged with worker safety within their industries. Here are some key principles to keep in mind when partnering with a provider to select protective footwear:
Follow the ASTM standard. Any safety footwear provider can claim its products are safe and offer the protective properties required for the task at hand, but it’s important to verify that they are ASTM-compliant. Make sure your provider has followed the current, most up-to-date testing and performance requirements and can provide a Certificate of Conformance.
Understand the details. Whether or not a specific shoe or boot will provide adequate, long-term protection depends on much more than one standard. It requires a deep understanding of what the job actually involves: the surfaces, contaminants and physical requirement of the role. Look for a provider with experience in developing purpose-built safety footwear worn in a variety of industries.
Share knowledge. Ensuring safety depends on strong, open and transparent collaboration between the employer and the safety footwear provider. The footwear manufacturer should not only provide as much detail as possible about its products, but also seek to understand every nuance of the company’s work environment before making a recommendation.
Choose products from the workers’ point of view. There is nothing more important than ensuring their safety, protection and comfort on the job, regardless of the industry or conditions. WMHS
About the author
Lori Hyllengren is the Laboratory Manager for Red Wing Shoe Company and S.B. Foot Tanning Company. She represents Red Wing on the ASTM D31 Leather Committee, Department of Defense Footwear Committee, ASTM Safety Footwear Committee F13.30 and CSA Protective Footwear Committee Z195, where test methods and specifications are developed for the U.S. and Canada.
1 ASTM Standardization News, “Revised Footwear Standards to Improve Testing and Performance Data, https://www.astm.org/standardization-news/?q=update/revised-footwear-standards-improve-testing-and-performance-data