Electrical Hazards: Making Sense of Protective Footwear Ratings

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The right footwear is an essential part of your workwear and it’s important to choose the right footwear for the task and environment. Working with electricity, for example, can pose a different set of threats to working in construction and the hazards of each need to be considered when choosing your safety gear.

The main types of electrical safety footwear are anti-static, non-conductive and conductive. Each is intended to protect against the specific hazards you may encounter in specific types of work environments so if you’re unsure what you need for your work environment here’s a short guide to help.

Anti-static footwear is ideal for environments where significant levels of static electricity accumulate on the body and where that accumulation poses a risk to safety. The purpose of this kind of shoe is to prevent static electricity building and gathering around the body by allowing it to leave the body and dissipate into the ground.

Because anti-static footwear allows small amounts of electricity to leave the body through the ground they offer less protection against electric shock than the non-conductive alternative, only protecting against shocks of 240v compared to 600v. It’s important to consider the levels of electricity you may be exposed to at work before deciding which footwear is the best option. If your working environment or hobby lends itself best to anti-static footwear, please be sure to take extra safety measures to prevent electric shock.

Non-conductive footwear is intended to protect the wearer from accidental exposure to live charges of electricity. They achieve this by preventing electricity from running through your body and into the ground, creating an electrical circuit.

A common misconception is that these boots will not provide protection against heavy objects, as they do not allow for steel toecaps. However, many non-conductive boots do have a steel toecap as the metal is encased in a non-conductive material to prevent the metal allowing electricity to course through.

It is very important to check for signs of wear and damage around the steel toecap, however, as once it is no longer properly and completely encased in non-conductive material - if a tears appears near the metal, for example - the boot will no longer provide effective protection against electrical shocks.

If you work in an environment where the buildup of static electricity poses a risk to safety non-conductive boots are not a suitable choice as they do not allow static electricity to leave the body safely. They are, however, ideal for environments where there is a risk of contact with live electrical charges. 

Conductive footwear does not provide electrical resistance. Instead, they allow electricity to flow freely through the body and into the ground, making them best suited to environments where static electricity poses a significant risk and where there is no risk of contact with live charges.

By allowing electricity to leave the body so freely, these boots are able to provide much greater protection against the buildup of static electricity which is ideal for highly explosive environments where a spark from a statically charged wearer could ignite a fire or explosion.

Conductive footwear does not provide any protection against electric shock and so is not suitable for environments where there is a risk of contact with live charges.

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