Occupational Safety and Health Administration laws are in place to protect employees from hazards in the workplace that can cause injury. The regulations require companies to assess workplace hazards and put in place systems to eliminate or reduce their potential. Using personal protective equipment, or PPE, is one safety measure employers can use to protect employees. Personal protective equipment covers protection for eyes, ears, arms, legs, full body and feet. OSHA laws for safety shoes fall within PPE regulations that outline minimum protection requirements.
Under the PPE standard, when foot protection is needed, OSHA requires employers to select options that meet certain levels of protection. OSHA regulations list American National Standards Institutes and American Society for Testing and Materials standards as acceptable guidance to follow when it comes to choosing foot protection. Following these standards, employees facing potential hazards on the job have access to the best available options in foot protection.
Hazards vary from one workplace to the next, and safety shoes may not be a requirement in all cases. OSHA rules require each employer to assess workplace hazards and make the call as to whether safety shoes are required. When safety shoes are required, they must have impact-resistant toes and soles that are puncture resistant. In jobs where hot surfaces are a factor, safety shoes must also be heat resistant. Examples of jobs with hot work surfaces include roofing, paving and foundry work.
Electrical Conductive Shoes
Workplace exposure to static electricity require employees to use conductive footwear. Certain safety shoes are specifically designed to be electrically conductive to prevent injury where an electric spark can cause a fire or explosion due the presence of static electricity. These types of shoes are for work in areas with explosive atmospheres or where employees need protection from the risk of static electricity buildup. Such working conditions can be found in facilities that manufacture explosives and in grain elevators.
Nonconductive Safety-Toe Shoes
In situations where employees work around high voltage electrical equipment, nonconductive shoes are needed to guard against electrical shock. These shoes are designed to protect the wearer against open circuits of up to 600 volts. Other insulating equipment may be required in this scenario. However, nonconducive shoes are not good for work in wet conditions and are not to be worn in explosive atmospheres.
Safety Shoes Upkeep
When safety shoes are required, OSHA laws mandate that employers train workers on how to maintain the footwear and how to inspect the shoes for defects prior to each use. Shoes must be checked for wear and tear, including holes, cracks and other impairments that diminishes protection. Safety shoe manufacturers typically provide upkeep instructions, including cleaning and maintenance.