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These boots were made for working

13 November 2013

Technology in safety footwear has changed considerably over the last few decades. Despite this, the premise for what is required has remained the same: comfort, protection and durability, explains Dr Martens.

While many people will associate Dr. Martens with music and fashion, the company has a deeper and more practical history with a reputation founded on high quality, durable work boots.

When Dr. Martens made its first pair of air-cushioned boots in April 1960, a British classic was created.  Over the years, experience and hands-on expertise has led to an improvement in every aspect of a work boot.  

It makes sense to select the most appropriate shoe or boot for both the workplace and the tasks that are undertaken during the course of a working day. General examples of the daily hazards that might be encountered include: wet, hot and cold conditions, electrostatic build-up, slipping, cuts and punctures, falling objects, heavy loads, metal and chemical splash. Heavy industrial conditions will have very different requirements to light industrial, such as working inside warehouses.  

Obviously the overriding principle of occupational health and safety is that occupational hazards should be eliminated at source. While employers have a duty to put controls in place, personal protective equipment such as safety boots have an important part to play in further reducing any risk.

Work environments
A heavy industrial setting will invariably include hazards from heat, heavy equipment and corrosive chemicals.  

A safety toecap will be essential where there is the risk of a shoe being crushed or hit by an object, or even caught in machinery. The Dr. Martens safety toecap for example exceeds the European standard, offering protection from a minimum 200j impact and 15kN compression force.  The general belief is that safety toecaps are not comfortable, but if they are correctly designed you should not be able to feel them at all.   

A puncture resistant midsole plate will protect against the threat of underfoot hazards, whilst a slip-resistant sole will reduce the risk of slips and falls on hazardous surfaces.  Dr. Martens provide differing options of tread, depending on the ‘grip capability’ that is required.  There are also sole designs which offer heat resistance up to 300°C for 60 seconds for where there is exposure to heat.  

In some work conditions, a water-resistant upper will be sufficient; others might require full waterproofing. 

At the other end of the scale, a basic safety shoe might be necessary that combines a smart ‘office’ appearance but that still provides necessary protection should the worker be required to go onsite.   A classic brogue style safety shoe, 2216, fulfils this brief, offering basic protection, comfort and style with yellow stitch or plain welt options . 

Light industrial work usually takes place inside warehouses or in ‘clean’ industrial settings.  Often a more athletic boot or a shoe option will be preferred.  Fortunately, there are many innovative technologies available in footwear today. Advanced foot protection technologies can combine the "heavy” durability of a traditional work boot with the "light” comfort of an athletic shoe.

Slip–resistant outsoles will be important, especially for boots to be worn on smooth warehouse floors. A high degree of oil and abrasion resistance might be necessary.

An anti-static safety feature is a common requirement for a light industrial workplace. Outsoles that will discharge static build-up through the shoe to the floor are available.   

Comfort is key

But protection should not come at the expense of comfort. This is important for general well-being. Ill fitting, uncomfortable footwear causes discomfort, pain and fatigue, setting up the worker for further injuries: they are likely to be less alert and more likely to act unsafely, resulting in an accident.  

In brief, to find the perfect boot for the job, it is essential to understand the demands of the work environment and seek out a boot with the combination of features that will provide the appropriate protection and comfort. As with all safety equipment, the key is to buy from a reputable manufacturer, ensuring that it meets European Standards.