Employees who face possible foot or leg injuries from falling or rolling objects or from crushing or penetrating materials must wear protective footwear. Also, employees whose work involves exposure to hot substances or corrosive or poisonous materials must have protective gear to cover exposed body parts, including legs and feet. If an employee’s feet may be exposed to electrical hazards, non-conductive footwear should be worn.
OSHA’s foot protection standard applies to all General Industry employers who have employees with such exposures.
- ANSI Z41: An American National Standard that provides criteria for design, testing, and use of protective footwear. OSHA accepts shoes that adhere to two editions of ANSI Z41 (1999, 1991), or ASTM F–2412–2005, Standard Test Methods for Foot Protection and ASTM F–2413–2005, Standard Specification for Performance.
- ASTM F-2412 and F-2413: The most current industry standards for design, testing, and use of protective footwear. OSHA accepts shoes that adhere to ASTM F–2412–2005, Standard Test Methods for Foot Protection and ASTM F–2413–2005, Standard Specification for Performance, or either of two editions of ANSI Z41 (1999, 1991).
- Combination foot and shin guards: Protect the lower legs and feet, and may be used in combination with toe guards when greater protection is needed.
- Electrically conductive: Shoes provide protection against the buildup of static electricity. Employees working in explosive and hazardous locations such as explosives manufacturing facilities or grain elevators must wear conductive shoes to reduce the risk of static electricity buildup on the body that could produce a spark and cause an explosion or fire. Foot powder should not be used in conjunction with protective conductive footwear because it provides insulation, reducing the conductive ability of the shoes. Silk, wool and nylon socks can produce static electricity and should not be worn with conductive footwear. Conductive shoes must be removed when the task requiring their use is completed. Note: Employees exposed to electrical hazards must never wear conductive shoes.
- Electrical hazard, safety-toe shoes: Nonconductive and will prevent the wearers’ feet from completing an electrical circuit to the ground. These shoes can protect against open circuits of up to 600 volts in dry conditions and should be used in conjunction with other insulating equipment and additional precautions to reduce the risk of a worker becoming a path for hazardous electrical energy. The insulating protection of electrical hazard, safety-toe shoes may be compromised if the shoes become wet, the soles are worn through, metal particles become embedded in the sole or heel, or workers touch conductive, grounded items. Note: Nonconductive footwear must not be used in explosive or hazardous locations.
- Foundry shoes: In addition to insulating the feet from the extreme heat of molten metal, foundry shoes keep hot metal from lodging in shoe eyelets, tongues or other shoe parts.
- Leggings: Protect the lower legs and feet from heat hazards such as molten metal or welding sparks. Safety snaps allow leggings to be removed quickly.
- Metatarsal guards: Protect the instep area from impact and compression. Made of aluminum, steel, fiber or plastic, these guards may be strapped to the outside of shoes.
- Safety shoes: have impact-resistant toes and heat-resistant soles that protect the feet against hot work surfaces common in roofing, paving and hot metal industries. The metal insoles of some safety shoes protect against puncture wounds. Safety shoes may also be designed to be electrically conductive to prevent the buildup of static electricity in areas with the potential for explosive atmospheres or nonconductive to protect workers from workplace electrical hazards.
- Toe guards: fit over the toes of regular shoes to protect the toes from impact and compression hazards. They may be made of steel, aluminum or plastic.
Summary of requirements
Employers are required to do the following:
- Assess the workplace for areas where there is a danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, or objects piercing the sole, or when the use of protective footwear will protect the affected employee from an electrical hazard, such as a static-discharge or electric-shock hazard.
- Select footwear appropriate to the hazards of the job.
- Provide foot protection at no cost to the employee, with the exception of non-specialty steel-toe shoes if the employer allows them to be taken off the jobsite.
- Ensure safety footwear meets one of three OSHA-accepted industry standards (ANSI Z41-1991, ANSI-Z41 1999, or ASTM F-2412-2005 and F-2413-2005).
- Train employees on the use, care, maintenance, and inspection of safety footwear.