Safety Boots, Codes Explained Guide

When purchasing safety boots there can be a lot to consider. The first thing we usually think about is looks. This is certainly important, we want to be happy in what we wear that’s for sure. For some people that’s it, job done. “The manufacturers description said they were safety boots, I’m happy with the appearance and they fit great, let’s go to work.”

Hold on a second, just because it states safety, this isn’t giving us the full picture. There are many different codes and abbreviations associated with a pair of safety footwear to consider that will give you an indication of the levels of safety they will provide. The problem is these can get a little confusing.

Therefore, I wanted to write this handy no-nonsense guide that will cover all those codes and give you a layman’s description of what they all mean. At the end you will also find a helpful list of tips to use when buying your boots.

EN ISO 20345:2011

The first thing I want you to understand is what EN ISO 20345:2011 means, you will see it on a lot of product descriptions for boots. It specifies basic and additional (optional) requirements for safety footwear that are used for general purpose. All safety boots must be manufactured and certified under this standard.

So, if you see this on a product description, great you know where talking about safety boots and they meet the minimum requirements.

Safety Boots Ratings.
There are several ratings for safety boots and they are denoted by a two-letter abbreviation. They start with the letter S and are as follows.

  • SB (Safety Basic) = This is the basic safety standard for footwear. These will have toe protection against a 200-joule impact.
  • S1 = As well as the basic toe protection, S1 will ensure that footwear has anti-static protection, is resistant to fuel oil and has energy absorption in the heel.
  • S2 = These have all the same protection as S1, plus the added protection of preventing water penetration and absorption of the uppers.
  • S3 = This as all the same protection as S2 level, plus midsole penetration resistance.
  • S4 = The same level of protection offered by S1 but with a moulded polymer/rubber upper (e.g. Wellington Boots) making them fully waterproof.
  • S5 = The same features as S4 footwear with the additional benefit of midsole penetration resistance
Now this is where it can get confusing, sometimes a manufacturer will add on an additional letter. For example, a common one is SB-P. This is indicating that the boot as an optional feature. So, in this example you get the basic protection of SB plus you get the addition of P. The P stands for Penetration Resistance. There are many of these abbreviations that can be tagged onto a rating, so I will give a list of the more commonly used ones that you will come across:
  • P – Penetration resistance
  • C – Conductive
  • A – Antistatic
  • I – Electricity insulating footwear
  • WR – Water Resistance
  • M – Metatarsal Protection
  • AN – Ankle Protection
  • CR – Cut Resistant Upper
  • WRU – Water Penetration and Water Absorption Upper
  • HRO – Outsole Resistance to Hot Contact
Slip Resistance:
Anti-Slip footwear is becoming more requested on building sites, hospitals, food manufacturing plants and a wide host of other settings. And for good reason slips, trips and falls make up an astonishing 43% of all serious work-related injuries reported to the HSE. Footwear that as an anti-slip rating will be added onto the safety boot rating. For example, you may see the following S3 SRC. These are the three codes used for slip resistance testing.
  • SRA – tested on ceramic tile wetted with dilute soap solution.
  • SRB – tested on smooth steel with glycerol.
  • SRC – tested under both the above conditions.

Our Top tips when buying safety boots.

  1. Assess where you’re working: This is crucial, you’re not going to need S5 waterproof wellies if most of your day is spent in an office with only occasional trips onto the warehouse floor where the environment is not impacted by any sort of liquids. On the flip side it would be foolhardy to get just the basic SB If you’re a contractor going to different types of building sites daily where hazards can range from rusty old nails to slippery underfoot conditions. Take the time to consider all the hazards you come across on a regular basis and purchase accordingly.
  2. Fit and comfort are king: Take the time to make sure that your new boots are a snug fit and feel comfortable. Many of you will be wearing these for 8 hours straight if not longer. See that there are no manufacturers faults on the inner that may rub against your skin. Make sure that they fit well, there’s no point buying a size 8 wide fit if you have narrow feet, maybe try a 7 or look for non-wide boot. Incorrectly fitted boots can lead to trips. Take care when buying online that your supplier as a good returns policy available. PPE Work Solutions have a full 30 day returns policy that will give you plenty of time to make sure your boots are just right.
  3. Aftercare: Look after your boots, let them air dry at room temp if they have become wet. Don’t dry on a radiator as this can degrade the finish on the uppers. Make sure you lace up and unlace between uses and carry a spare pair of laces (Is there anything worse than breaking a set of laces at the beginning of a shift?). If your boots get muddy make sure you clean them with a suitable brush. No pair of boots is going to last forever but with care and attention you can get the most out of yours.
  4. Always buy new: I’m sure most of you would not buy second hand, but if you are considering it, please don’t. You have no real idea of their age or where they have been used. If a safety boot is showing signs of degradation on the toe caps or midsoles you should replace immediately.
  5. Price doesn’t necessarily mean safer: The price of safety boots can vary from £15 into the £100s. Don’t automatically think that price gives you the best levels of protection. This is not always the case for a higher priced safety boot, you may be paying extra for a brand name or a swanky design (This is fine if design and looks are a priority). You can find a pair of perfectly sound S3 boots with anti slip in the £30 range.

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