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Safe foot forward

11 August 2021

Safety footwear is an important part of PPE. There are so many choices available now that the wearer can get the protection they need in comfortable and well-fitted footwear. Darren Bowman and Sam Hill provide an insight.

UNDER THE Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations it states that if a risk has been identified but can’t be controlled in any other way, PPE must be provided including protective safety footwear. 

Since the adoption of regulations in the 1970s, safety footwear has become an essential part of PPE with the global market size estimated to be $6.5Bn (£4.7Bn). The majority of safety footwear is purchased off the shelf, without careful consideration of the operational environment or user requirement. The UK is a world leader in terms of health and safety legislation, and it still amazes me to see just how much safety footwear is procured based on product aesthetics alone, without any consideration of the safety features of the product and no knowledge of the label references such as S1P, S3, S5 etc. 

There is not one specific type of safety footwear that will cover all operational requirements for the user and several elements such as the working environment, level of protection required, comfort and budget of the wearer need to be carefully considered. 

For the working environment an analysis of the risk of falling objects, water, hot surfaces, electrical hazards, chemicals or oils. Also, is there a slip risk indoors or outdoors present? 

All basic safety footwear certified to EN20345:2011 will have a protective toe cap in either metal, composite or aluminium but if there are other risks you also might need to think about such as a protective midsole and additional metatarsal protection.

For the suitability, comfort assurance element, we need to consider whether a shoe, trainer, boot or wellington is required. The width of the foot and level of breathability required. Also, consideration of metal or metal free footwear. 

Technological advancements have been relatively few in recent years with the majority of footwear sales in the UK still consisting of footwear outsoles constructed in dual density PU. A shift towards more advance materials and mixed compounds such as PU / Rubber outsoles has increased recently due to the natural anti slip properties associated with rubber offering increased anti slip protection to the wearer. Innovative waterproof and breathable fabrics are being more commonplace also.

The majority of safety footwear for women is manufactured on men’s lasts which can cause discomfort and increased the risk of injury. A Dobson et Al study in 2018 concluded that only 37.7% of women believe that their safety footwear was “comfortable” Most leading manufacturers such as DeltaPlus have a dedicated Women’s styles available. 

Covid-19 has given us all time to reflect as we have all had more time to experience nature and our local environmental surroundings. As the leading global bluechip organisations shift towards prioritising Environmental, Social and Governance “ESG” practices above the hum of sustainable profitable growth, leading protective footwear manufactures such as DeltaPlus are striving to increase the level of sustainable resources in the physical products but also throughout the full value chain. Aiming to improve the protective performance and comfort of the product whilst contributing to a better, much sustainable world for us all.

Footwear selection can be complicated. The below tables provide a guide to assist the wearer to make the correct choice based on the risks and protection features required. 

There are several components in each piece of safety footwear and every part needs to be considered in detail when selecting a suitable safety footwear. The below diagram shows the parts of a shoe broken down.

To assist in selecting the appropriate Safety Footwear there are standards to follow under EN ISO 20345 / 47 / 49-1 & 49-2 in regards to protection levels represented by symbols, numbers and letters. The tables below are a useful guide to help decipher this.

Safety footwear is a very personal piece of PPE and is one of the only items, other than workwear that is worn constantly throughout the day. Unlike gloves or safety eyewear, footwear is not normally removed during breaks or at certain intervals during the working day so protection and comfort is essential.

DeltaPlus produces more than three million pairs of industrial safety footwear per year from two wholly owned production sites in China and India. Producing under the brand DeltaPlus in addition to some private label offerings for large retailers, all through a global sophisticated logistics network. 

Selling via distribution only, DeltaPlus is a truly global brand operating from 30 countries worldwide offering next day service with fully trained PPE local experts in all markets, providing the personal experience necessary to ensure the correct footwear and PPE is prescribed for the appropriate working conditions. 

The acquisition of Boots Company Italy, two years ago has helped to complement the industrial range with more than four million PVC Safety Wellingtons per year manufactured in the Italian production factory. Italian production removes import duties on this range into the UK and making DeltaPlus one of the leading global footwear manufacturers this product category and are experiencing significant growth in the PVC boot market via the extensive product range catering for Construction, Light Industrial, Agricultural and Food industries.

With the vision to create the footwear of tomorrow, DeltaPlus have invested in state of art testing and research laboratories and now have 20 employees dedicated to product testing and research projects, striving to innovate from a £1.75m annual research budget. 

DeltaPlus UK logistics platform, sales and marketing teams are based in Lancashire, north west of England. A full range of PPE and Safety Footwear is available and the UK distribution network is expanding. Please contact enquiries@deltaplus.co.uk if you would like more information on any of the DeltaPlus range. PPE site surveys and free, no obligation PPE audits are available from our dedicated team of local PPE professionals. Your Safety at Work is the brand mantra and DeltaPlus aim to provide PPE that provides confidence, comfort and pleasure to the wearer whilst providing the best value for money for the customer.

Darren Bowman is DeltaPlus UK PPE specialist and Sam Hill is DeltaPlus UK & Ireland managing director. For more information, visit www.deltaplus.co.uk