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Safety Shoe Rules & Regulations

Safety Shoe Care Guide

Safety shoes are a must have staple to the outfit of anybody dealing with hazardous materials, heavy objects, or any environment in which your feet might be at risk of being injured. There are many occasions in which it's highly recommended that you wear safety shoes, but are you aware of the situation in which you have to wear safety shoes?

In this article, we’re going to cover the situations in which regulations dictate that safety shoes must be worn in order to keep you safe and well informed at all times. We’re also going to look at whose obligation it is to provide safety shoes and also the safety boot ratings that are available and in which situations each are suited towards.

If you’re in a position at work in which you feel safety shoes are required, then make sure to take note of the information below to ensure that you keep your feet as safe as possible at all times.

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Safety shoe requirements

Let’s begin by looking at who needs safety shoes, in what circumstances they’re an absolutely necessity, and when you must have your pair to hand!

Who Should Wear Safety Shoes

There are many occupations that require safety shoes, not just out of common sense, but as a requirement within the appropriate uniform of the role. We’ve looked at when employees should wear safety shoes, so if you’re wondering if your position, or a position that you’re interested in, requires this then have a look at our list below:

  • Roofer
  • Plumber
  • Tiler
  • Labourer
  • Electrician
  • Chef (in some instances)
  • Store assistant (in some instances)
Working at height

Now, by no means is this a complete list of jobs that require safety shoes, but it’s definitely a good guideline! If you’re in one of the positions above and you’re not sure when to wear safety shoes whilst on the job, then you must check with your employer as soon as possible.

When do you need to wear safety shoes or boots?

It’s very important to know when safety toe shoes are required if it hasn’t been made clear by your employer already, as you want to keep your feet and ankles as safe as possible at all times. If you are ever working with the following then safety shoes are an absolute must and will be required by your employer:

  • Hazardous materials
  • Electrical instruments
  • Sharp objects
  • Heavy objects
  • Operating heavy machinery
Working with hazardous chemicals

If your role involves spending a lot of time with any of the above then it is recommended that you wear safety shoes at all times, however if only a small aspect of your time is spent with the items on the list then knowing when to use safety boots has to be decided between you and your employer, bearing in mind the safety regulations set out in your contract.

NOTE: If you’re not sure when you should wear safety boots then speak with your employer before beginning work.

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Are employers required to provide safety shoes?

This is another very important aspect to consider if you need to wear safety footwear for work. So, who is responsible for purchasing safety boots? If you are required by your job position to wear safety boots then your employer is required to provide these.

Safety boots are included within the category of personal protective equipment (PPE) in line with the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992. Within these regulations it states that “Every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to his employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work except where and to the extent that such risk has been adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective”

Now that’s quite a mouthful! What it means is that if your role involves working in an environment that exposes your feet to a safety risk then you are to be provided with work boots, unless your employer has implemented other means that have reduced the risk.

However, this doesn’t fully answer the question of who should pay for safety boots, as you may feel that your role requires safety boots but your employer disagrees. If this is the case then it’s important to discuss your safety concerns with your employer and refer to the regulations above.

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Are Safety Shoes VAT Exempt?

Whether you’re a company or an individual purchasing this footwear, it’s important to know if safety shoes are vatable.

If you are an individual buying yourself a pair of safety boots for work use then you do not need to pay VAT. Although we mentioned above that employers are obligated to purchase safety boots for you, you may find a better pair that you wish to purchase yourself.

If you are an employer buying safety footwear for an employee then you must pay VAT at the standard rate.

The above information is only relevant to boots. Safety shoes are not VAT exempt and neither are safety trainers, and individuals must pay the standard VAT Rate on these.

So, to sum up this section, safety boots are zero rated for VAT only if you are an individual. However, companies are required to pay VAT and claim this back in the regular manner.

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Safety footwear standards in the UK

In 2022, the safety footwear standards were introduced under EN ISO 20345, establishing a set of essential requirements to enhance protection in the workplace. This standard outlines specific criteria that safety footwear must meet to ensure the safety and wellbeing of workers.

Basic requirements include toe protection with a minimum impact resistance of 200 joules, a compression resistance of 15,000 newtons, and an antistatic property. Additionally, the footwear must have a closed heel area, energy absorption in the seat region, and resistance to petrol and oil.

The upper part of the footwear must also be at least 105mm in height, encompassing the heel area to provide comprehensive coverage and support.

These standards aim to guarantee that safety footwear adheres to specific guidelines, promoting a safer work environment and minimising the risk of injuries associated with various workplace hazards.

What are the non-slip footwear standards

The EN ISO 20344:2011 standard was updated recently to become the EN ISO 20344:2021. Despite the name change, it still will continue to improve and strengthen workplace safety footwear against slips and trips. However, any safety shoes that are already on the market will not need to be certified according to the new standard until their certificate expires. EU-type certificates have a validity of five years.

Previous certifications consisting of ‘SRA’, ‘SRB’ and ‘SRC’ will no longer be used. In addition to the shoe passing a slip-resistant test on ceramic tile with a cleansing agent, companies can perform another slip test, which will be labelled ‘SR’, provided the shoe passes a slip-resistant test on a ceramic tiled floor with glycerine.

To meet the requirements to help prevent slip-related injuries in the workplace, the following minimum standards must be achieved:

Type of Surface Type of substance Position of foot Industry Standard
Ceramic Tile Cleansing agent Forward heel Slip 0.28
Forward flat slip 0.32
Steel plate Glycerine Forward heel Slip 0.13
Forward flat slip 0.18

Safety Boot Ratings

There are many different styles of safety boots with many different possible ratings. Safety boots are rated based upon the environments that they are suited towards and have to meet a minimum requirement in line with the safety shoes UK regulations mentioned above. Let’s look at the ratings that you may have come across:

Rating Description
SB Ensures toe protection against a 200-joule impact
P Penetration Resistance
C Conductive
A Antistatic
I Electricity Insulating Footwear
E Energy Absorption
HI Insulation Against Heat
CI Insulation Against Cold
WR Water Resistance
M Metatarsal Protection
AN Ankle Protection
CR Cut Resistant Upper
WRU Water Penetration and Water Absorption Upper
HRO Outsole Resistance to Hot Contact
FO Fuel Oil-Resistant Outsole

As you can see there are many options available, from safety shoes with an electrical rating, to a pair designed for water resistance. This list should guide you to finding the best pair suited for your job requirements.

As some styles will include multiple benefits from the list above, there is another rating list for boots incorporating multiple safety factors. Here it is:

Rating Safety Factor
S1 Antistatic, oil-resistant & energy absorption
S2 Prevents water penetration
S3 Midsole penetration resistance
S4 Leak-proof
S5 Leak-proof with midsole penetration resistance

If you want more information on safety shoe regulations then you can find this within the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 mentioned earlier. However, your first point of contact should be with your employer to find out if and when they require you to wear safety footwear based upon your specific role.

Now you know when safety boots need to be worn and who pays for your safety shoes, you can work knowing that your feet are going to be kept as safe as possible at all times. One final point to remember is that although style is an important factor in any pair of shoes that you buy, when it comes to safety footwear there is also the practical aspect that needs considering. You should also take responsibility for your own safety shoe care and maintenance to ensure your work boots stay in good condition.

So, think about your job and the environment you will be working in and select a pair with a safety shoe rating that will keep you as safe as possible.

Can you wear your own safety shoes to work?

The option to wear your own personal safety shoes to work depends on your employer's policies and industry regulations. Employers often have specific safety standards, and certain industries may require compliance with particular footwear specifications. At a minimum, safety shoes must meet certification standards, such as EN ISO 20344:2021, ensuring protection in the workplace.

Job requirements, potential hazards, and liability considerations are also factors influencing this decision.

That said, you should communicate with your employer to understand their policies and gain approval if your personal safety shoes meet the necessary standards.

You Know the Rules, Now Choose Your Shoes!

Now you know the rules, you'll have no trouble finding the saftey shoes you need in our range…

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