Safety Footwear

Safety Footwear

Don’t know your ANSI from your elbow? Here’s our quick guide to safety footwear

If you are looking for safety boots with a protective toe, the first thing you should look for is a European safety standard. This insures the boot has been tested to make sure it meets the minimum requirements for PPE footwear. This will be indicated by a CE logo or an EN ISO 20345 code. Some boots may have an American safety standard (ANSI), but they would not be allowed as PPE issue unless they have also been tested to European standards.

A safety boot should have a protective toe cap to protect from impact and compression. Safety toes were traditionally steel, but composite material is now being used more and more. The composite material can be made from Kevlar, carbon fibre or other non-metallic material. Composite toes are often preferred as they are non-metallic and non-magnetic, and they are lighter than steel but still meet the same safety standards.

What Do Safety Boots Protect From?

Safety toes should protect from both falling objects and from compression (as if a car rolled over the foot for example). To see how well a toe cap protects from the impact of falling objects, the tests are calculated in units of energy (Joules) rather than weight. This is because a heavy object falling from a height of 2 feet could have less of an impact than a lighter object falling from 20 feet. Boots classified to EN ISO 20345 should withstand 200J of energy. It should also withstand a resting weight of 1000kg.

For additional protection safety boots may also have a protective midsole. This could be a plate (such as steel or aluminium) or it could be incorporated into material (such as Kevlar) which protects against penetration of the sole by nails etc.

Safety boots should also be anti-static. During normal activities clothing and environmental factors can cause a build up of static electricity in the body. Then when you touch something it can cause the charge to rush from your body, causing a spark and an electric shock. Anti-static footwear will significantly reduce this effect.

Who Needs Safety Boots?

There are three basic categories of PPE; simple, intermediate and complex. Simple is protection against minimal risk – where any element of danger or harm is gradual and can be safely identified in good time. Intermediate should provide protection against risk of severe injury. Most safety footwear falls in this category. Complex covers products designed to protect against mortal danger or serious and irreversible harm to the health of the user (this would include footwear for fire fighters).

Making Sense of Marking Codes

Safety footwear should all be marked with the code EN ISO 20345 (you can usually find safety marking inside the tongue of the boot). This will usually be followed by a number of different codes indicating the level of protection given, for example if they also have midsole protection, heat insulation, the level of non slip. The chart below is a quick guide to the most common marking found in boots aimed at the law enforcement and security industry.

MARKING CODES SB Toe protection tested with 200J impact and 15kN compression force (includes fuel and oil resistant outsoles)
  S1 As SB with the addition of anti-static properties and energy absorption of heel region
  S2 As S1 with the addition of water resistant upper materials
  S3 As with S2 with the addition of a penetration resistant mid-sole, must also have cleated out-sole
  SRA Meets minimum requirement on ceramic tile with sodium lauryl sulphate solution
  SRB Meets minimum requirements on steel floor with glycerol
  SRC Passes both of SRA and SRB
  HRO Heat resistant out-sole compound: shall withstand 300°C for 60 seconds
  P Penetration resistant outsole: penetration force >1100N
  A Anti-static: Electrical resistance between 0.1 and 1000MΩ
  E Energy Absorption of the seat (heel) region: energy absorbed to >20J
  WR Water resistant uppers
  ORO Oil resistant out-sole
  HI Heat insulation of sole complex
  CI Cold insulation of sole complex
  FRU Fire resistant uppers
BS7971-5:2004   Safety standard for footwear for use in violent situations and training such as riots and public order


Your employer should let you know what level of protection you require and issue suitable footwear. If you have to buy your own boots you should ensure they are designed for the level of risk – if you have been told you need S3, it is essential you make sure the boots are S3. It is also important to remember that, as with all PPE, safety boots are designed to protect you from certain risks but they should never be assumed to guarantee 100% protection. You should still remain vigilant for potential dangers and make sure your boots are properly maintained and replaced as soon as there are any signs of deterioration.