Safety footwear protects feet against a wide variety of injuries. Injuries resulting from impact, compression, puncture, and slips, trips and falls are the most common types of foot injury at work. The appropriate type of safety footwear for an environment depends on the types of hazards that are present. Before buying safety footwear, it’s important to evaluate the work environment for risks such as foot or ankle injury from uneven or slippery walking surfaces, extreme hot or cold, exposure to water or other liquids, or exposure to rotating or abrasive machinery.

The type of electrical hazard(s) present is another important factor to consider when choosing safety footwear. Electrical injuries, electrocution (fatal), electric shock, burns and falls, may occur as a result of contact with electrical energy. In addition to injury, an electrical discharge may spark an explosion or fire or damage sensitive electronic components or equipment resulting in latent or catastrophic failure.

Protection from electrical hazards

Safety footwear is often marked as Electrical Hazard (EH), Static Dissipating (SD), or Conductive (Cd). This indicates the type of protection technology the safety footwear provides from electrical hazards in the workplace. Appropriate electrical protection is determined by the work environment in which the footwear is used. Wearing footwear ill equipped for the electrical hazards present at a workplace is dangerous. It’s important to recognize the differences between EH, SD, and Cd footwear and to know what type of protection your work environment demands.

The following is a brief guide to help identify the correct type of electrical protection for safety footwear at work. If you are unsure, it’s a good idea to visit a safety footwear retailer to discuss the differences and for help choosing the right protection for your specific work environment.

Electrical Hazard Safety Footwear (EH)

Electrical Hazard safety footwear protects the wearer in industrial environments where accidental contact with live electrical conductors may occur. EH safety footwear prevents employees’ feet from completing an electrical circuit to the ground; therefore, this type of footwear is categorized as non-conductive. Electrical Hazard footwear is designed to impede, or reduce significantly, the flow of electricity through the shoe and to the ground, thereby reducing the possibility of electrocution. Nonconductive footwear must not be used in explosive or hazardous locations; in such locations, electrically conductive shoes are required.

Static Dissipating Safety Footwear (SD)

Static dissipating safety footwear is designed to dissipate (reduce) the amount of static electricity buildup on your body. Static dissipating footwear conducts static electricity through the footwear into the ground, effectively dissipating static electricity into the walking surface to reduce the risk of electrostatic discharge. SD footwear is most commonly applied in two types of environments: computer component handling facilities and other environments where static electricity can be problematic. An environment where static electricity is considered problematic includes plants where machinery and production processes create a large static electricity field during manufacturing. Typically, these fields create a build-up of static electricity on employees working in the environment, and then discharges when the employee touches metal that goes to ground or has a neutral or a charge less than that of the employee’s body. SD safety footwear helps reduce the frequency of electrostatic discharge events; however, floors, mats, and machinery also need to be grounded to reduce static electricity in the environment.

Conductive Safety Footwear (Cd)

Conductive safety footwear is designed to conduct static electricity through the footwear and into the ground. Like SD footwear, Conductive footwear dissipates static electricity into the walking surface to reduce build-up. However, safety footwear equipped with conductive technology is designed to dissipate static electricity much faster and more complete than static dissipating footwear. This is because conductive footwear is worn in environments that are highly flammable and explosive. Reducing the possibility of a static discharge in these environments is critical to the safety of not only the employee, but the other employees in the immediate area, and even citizens in the vicinity of the explosive area.

Understand your environment

Electricity is a powerful source of energy that generates the lights, tools, machinery and many other devices that are necessary for our day-to-day work. Despite its prevalence in work environments, electricity poses a threat to employees and improper procedures may cause damage to components and machinery, injury, or even death if taken for granted. To avoid injury and damage as a result of electrical hazards at work, it is important to understand the type of protection demanded by an environment. Always be sure to identify the type of electrical protection provided by safety footwear before buying and never hesitate to discuss your specific needs with a safety footwear retailer, just to be safe.