Protective Footwear: Understanding Safety Regulations

protective footwear

Protective footwear plays a vital role in ensuring workplace safety across diverse industries. From construction sites to manufacturing facilities, understanding the significance of proper foot protection is paramount. Complying with safety standards is essential to minimize the risk of foot-related accidents and injuries. Not only does protective footwear shield against hazards such as falling objects, punctures, and electrical shocks, but it also provides stability, support, and comfort for those who spend long hours on their feet.

Understanding Protective Footwear Regulations

There are several key standards that govern the requirements for protective footwear:

OSHA Foot Protection Standard CFR 1910.136

OSHA protective footwear requirements fall under the PPE requirements for general industry. According to 1910.136, “The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses protective footwear when working in areas where there is a danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, or objects piercing the sole, or when the use of protective footwear will protect the affected employee from an electrical hazard, such as a static-discharge or electric-shock hazard, that remains after the employer takes other necessary protective measures.”

The organization references other standards for guidelines regarding safety shoes, namely ASTM Standard Test Methods for Foot Protection (F-2412-2005), ASTM Standard Specification for Performance Requirements for Protective Footwear (F-2413-2005), and American National Standard for Personal Protection -- Protective Footwear (ANSI Z41).


The American National Standards Institute developed the ANSI Z41 standard, which establishes criteria for protective footwear. It covers various aspects such as impact resistance, compression resistance, and electrical hazards, ensuring that protective footwear meets specific performance requirements. However, the ANSI Z41 standard was withdrawn on March 1, 2005 and was replaced by ASTM standards.

ASTM F2412-18a

This ASTM F2412-18a standard, published by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), provides test methods for evaluating the performance of foot protection. It includes tests for impact resistance, metatarsal protection, electrical hazard resistance, and more, ensuring that protective footwear is tested and meets the necessary safety standards.

ASTM F2413-18

Another ASTM standard, F2413-18, specifies the performance requirements for protective toe cap footwear. It includes guidelines for impact resistance, compression resistance, metatarsal protection, electrical hazard resistance, and other essential safety features. ASTM F2413-18-certified footwear must first meet the requirements of ASTM F2412-18a Sections 5.2 (Impact Resistance) and 5.3 (Compression Resistance).

ASTM F2413-18 Protective Footwear Marking

ASTM F2413-18 is a crucial standard that provides guidance on the marking of protective footwear. Understanding the markings is essential for selecting the appropriate footwear for specific workplace requirements. Here's a breakdown of the key markings:

ASTM F2413-18

Line 1: ASTM F2413-18

This marking indicates that the footwear meets the performance requirements outlined in the standard. It assures users that the footwear has undergone rigorous testing to ensure safety and compliance.

Line 2: M/I/C

This line is an indicator of the gender the shoes are intended for. M is for Male and F is for Female. It also shows the existence of impact resistance (I) and compression resistance (C).

Lines 3 and 4: EH

These lines signify footwear designed to offer protection against specific types of hazards referenced in the standard. The marking is used to designate the following:

Metatarsal Protection (Mt): Indicates that the footwear includes specific metatarsal protection, shielding the delicate bones in the foot from impact and compression injuries.

Conductive (Cd) Properties: Indicates that the footwear is conductive and helps to dissipate static electricity buildup, reducing the risk of static discharge in sensitive environments.

Electrical Hazard Resistance Properties (EH): Denotes that the footwear offers electrical hazard resistance, safeguarding the wearer against electrical shocks and hazards.

Static Dissipative (SD): Signifies that the footwear is designed to dissipate static electricity to prevent static buildup in environments where electrostatic discharge could be a concern. The number following "SD" indicates the maximum electrical resistance allowed:

  • SD 100: Maximum resistance of 100 megaohms
  • SD 35: Maximum resistance of 35 megaohms
  • SD 10: Maximum resistance of 10 megaohms

Puncture Resistance (PR): Indicates that the footwear has been tested for puncture resistance, offering protection against sharp objects penetrating the sole and causing injury.

Add-On Devices

This refers to additional features or attachments that can be added to the footwear for enhanced protection, such as metatarsal guards or toe caps.

Assessing Workplace Hazards

Assessing workplace hazards is a critical step in ensuring foot safety. Here's a breakdown of the two key aspects of this process:

Identifying Common Workplace Foot Hazards

It is essential to identify and understand the specific hazards that pose a risk to foot safety in the workplace. These hazards can include:

  • Falling Objects: Objects that may accidentally fall from heights and cause injuries to the feet.
  • Slips, Trips, and Falls: Slips, trips, and falls are caused by uneven surfaces, slippery floors, or obstacles that can lead to foot injuries.
  • Chemical and Electrical Hazards: Chemical and electrical hazards are usually from exposure to corrosive substances, chemicals, or live electrical circuits that can harm the feet.
  • Punctures and Sharp Objects: Nails, shards, or sharp tools that can penetrate the footwear and injure the feet.
  • Extreme Temperatures: Extreme heat or cold that can cause burns, frostbite, or thermal injuries to the feet.
  • Crushing Hazards: Heavy machinery, equipment, or vehicles that can crush the feet if proper precautions are not taken.

Impact of Hazards on Foot Safety

Understanding the impact of these hazards is crucial for implementing effective safety measures. Hazards can lead to a range of foot injuries, including:

  • Fractures and Breaks: Heavy impacts or crushing forces can result in bone fractures or breaks.
  • Cuts and Lacerations: Sharp objects or tools can cause cuts and lacerations to the feet.
  • Burns and Chemical Exposures: Exposure to extreme heat, fire, or hazardous chemicals can result in burns or chemical injuries.
  • Sprains and Strains: Slips, trips, or uneven surfaces can lead to ankle sprains or strains.
  • Puncture Wounds: Penetration of the feet by sharp objects can result in puncture wounds and potential infections.

Types of Protective Footwear

Protective footwear comes in various categories, each designed to address specific workplace hazards.

Steel/Composite Safety Toe

These types of footwear provide protection to the toes in environments where there is a risk of crushing or impact injuries. Slip-on toe caps are also available for temporary use when toe protection is only needed briefly.

Metatarsal Guard

Footwear with metatarsal guards offers additional protection to the top of the foot, including the metatarsal bones and toes. This can be achieved through built-in guards in the boots or by using temporary accessories when protection is required for a short period.
Static Dissipative - Electrostatic Discharge - ESD - Conductive

Shoes with static dissipative properties are designed to minimize the buildup of electrical charge between a person in motion and their surroundings. They conduct the charge through the shoes to the ground, making them suitable for environments involving electronic components, flammable liquids, explosives, and plastics.

Electrical Hazard (EH) - Non-Conductive

EH-rated shoes act as electrical insulators, preventing or reducing the flow of electrical current from the feet to the ground. These shoes are essential for protecting against electric shock from contact with live conductors.

Dielectric Electric Overshoes

This type of footwear has soles that provide a barrier to protect personnel from open electrical sources up to 600 volts. They are primarily used when working on live power or in areas with live power where there is a risk of touching or stepping on an energized conductor, especially in wet or damp conditions.

Thermal Insulated Shoes

These shoes are designed to resist high heat and cold situations, providing insulation against extreme temperatures. They are suitable for tough outdoor environments where protection from temperature extremes is crucial.

Waterproof Shoes

Constructed to keep the feet dry and comfortable in wet conditions, waterproof shoes are essential for environments where there is exposure to moisture or liquids.

Chemical-Resistant Shoes

Constructed using various materials, chemical-resistant shoes provide protection against chemical and biological hazards. It's important to ensure that the protective material used is compatible with the specific chemicals being handled. Slip-on overshoes or booties can also be used for additional chemical or biological protection.

Puncture-Resistant Shoes

Designed to protect the midsole of the foot, puncture-resistant shoes offer defense against sharp objects that can pierce or penetrate the sole. They are particularly important in environments where there is a risk of stepping on nails, shards, or other sharp objects.

Slip-Resistant Shoes

Footwear with slip-resistant tread patterns is essential for environments with wet, oily, or greasy floors. They provide traction and help prevent slips and falls. Additionally, shoe chains, cleats, or spikes can be used over existing boots to prevent falls on ice, snow, or other slick surfaces. However, it's important to avoid wearing ice or snow cleats on hard surfaces other than snow or ice.

Safety Features and Materials

Protective footwear utilizes various safety features and materials to enhance foot protection. These may include:

  • Impact-Resistant Toe Caps: Made of steel, composite materials, or aluminum, these provide sturdy protection against heavy impacts.
  • Non-Slip Outsoles: Often constructed with specialized rubber compounds or tread patterns to offer excellent traction on slippery surfaces.
  • Chemical-Resistant Materials: Such as rubber, neoprene, or specialized polymers, provide a barrier against hazardous substances.
  • Insulation Materials: Such as Thinsulate™ or other thermal liners, keep feet warm in cold environments.
  • Conductive or Static-Dissipative Materials: Enable controlled dissipation of static electricity, reducing the risk of electrostatic discharge.
  • Puncture-Resistant Midsoles: Made of materials like Kevlar® or steel, they prevent sharp objects from penetrating the sole.


1. What industries require protective footwear?
Protective footwear is essential in industries that expose workers to foot hazards. Examples include construction, manufacturing, mining, logistics, oil and gas, agriculture, healthcare, and utilities. These industries involve risks such as falling objects, heavy machinery, chemicals, electrical hazards, and slippery surfaces, necessitating the use of protective footwear.

2. How often should I replace my protective footwear?
The lifespan of protective footwear depends on various factors, including usage, environmental conditions, and the manufacturer's guidelines. Regular inspection is crucial, and footwear should be replaced when it shows signs of wear, damage, or degradation. Additionally, follow the manufacturer's recommendations for replacement intervals to ensure optimal protection.

3. What should I do if I encounter a safety hazard while wearing protective footwear?
If you encounter a safety hazard while wearing protective footwear, immediately assess the situation and prioritize your safety. Follow established emergency procedures and report the hazard to the appropriate personnel. Seek medical attention if necessary, even if the footwear appears undamaged. Document the incident and communicate it to your supervisor or safety department to prevent future incidents.

4. What workers are required to wear protective footwear?
Workers in various industries, such as construction, manufacturing, and industrial settings, are often required to wear protective footwear. This includes safety shoes or boots that provide protection against hazards such as impact, compression, punctures, and electrical hazards.

5. What are 5 factors that need to be considered when the appropriate type of protective footwear?
When choosing the appropriate type of protective footwear, it's important to consider comfort, durability, safety features, style, and slip resistance. These factors ensure that the footwear provides comfort, lasts long, offers protection, matches personal style, and minimizes the risk of slips and falls.

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.