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BSIF in action: Safety Footwear Product Group

06 May 2015

Safety Footwear is a product area that has suffered considerable disturbance in recent years.

Following the revision of EN standards, the new versions were called into question with official objections raised at the Commission. These took some time to resolve and, if the terms of the original objections had been adopted, the market would have suffered grave shortages, resulting in large numbers of workers unable to obtain appropriate footwear.

Following discussions within the Safety Footwear Group, BSIF negotiated with the Commission for a common sense approach to the revised standards which allowed new test methods to follow an ongoing process, so that production of new products merged with existing supplies without any disruption to availability of appropriate protection. This is a perfect example of one of the many benefits for organisations in joining BSIF and participating in the relevant Groups. A collective voice from the majority of manufacturers and suppliers in a specific product area prevented a major PPE issue and implemented a reasonable and managed change.

The BSIF Safety Footwear Group continues to enjoy a great working relationship with the regulatory bodies and its last meeting was hosted by the Health & Safety Laboratory in Buxton. Following the meeting the Group were given a tour of the laboratory and a demonstration of the test rig used in determining performance of slip resistant footwear under HSL’s GRIP Scheme.

Poorly performing toe-caps

A new issue was brought to light at the Safety Footwear Group meeting which will require added vigilance by all producers. Toe-caps built in to footwear are designed to protect the front of the foot when heavy objects fall onto or roll over it. They have traditionally been fabricated from steel, but in recent years composite moulded caps have also been introduced. A UK accredited test laboratory has tested a range of footwear incorporating moulded toe-caps and alarmingly has found several models which perform poorly, despite carrying EN approval. In the samples tested compression moulded caps performed as they should, but several types of injection moulded caps did not.

Potentially the cap used in current production is not the one the footwear was approved with, perhaps having been introduced later to save costs or to provide an alternative supplier for that component. Users cannot check their footwear as the toe-cap is integral, so it falls to producers and suppliers to be extra vigilant with their supply chain, checking that only originally approved parts are used and full traceability is in place.

BSIF will highlight this issue to all suppliers and it is likely that extra testing will be required to reinforce confidence with their market.