Finding the right safety footwear

When selecting uniforms and workwear, a key consideration should always be finding the right corporate footwear. Getting the right footwear for a given role is a benefit to the overall brand of a company, the wellbeing of staff, as well as productivity and safety in the workplace.

Assessing the risks of the job

Airlite poron xrd

A start point is to consider the risks, as this will help you decide on the right safety footwear for the job. Risks can be categorised as follows:


  • Temperature and humidity – hot, cold or wet conditions
  • Slipping
  • Likelihood of cuts and punctures
  • Chance of falling objects or heavy loads
  • Chemical splashes
  • Electrostatic build-up
  • Chance of the foot been run over by some kind of vehicle

Appropriate footwear should be selected to cover the risks identified:

Mitigation Properties

  • Slip resistance
  • Water resistance
  • Toe cap impact
  • Metatarsal protection
  • Puncture resistance
  • Insulation and breathability
  • Chemical resistance
  • Overall Durability

Following the rules

The selection process is helped by the standards for safety footwear, so understanding what all the symbols in a safety footwear catalogue mean is a good start to the process, but so is getting an HeathBrook expert to help you.

An employer needs to provide PPE and any other safety equipment workers may need. This includes safety footwear, so having done a risk assessment the standards will help you determine what level of protection is required.

  • SB - Safety Basic - This is the basic standard for safety footwear and must have toe protection that can withstand a 200 Joule impact. There can be other standards alongside the SB (EG: SB-FO would have the basic standard of safety toe-cap, but also features a Fuel/Oil Resistant Outsole).
  • SBP - This is the same as the basic standard for safety footwear but includes a mid-sole plate (steel, or composite material) to protect the foot against penetration.
  • S1 - S1 footwear is anti-static, resistant to fuel oil and features energy absorption at the heel. As with SB, other symbols can be added, EG: S1-HI would be an S1 shoe or boot, but is also insulated against heat.
  • S1P - S1P footwear the same as S1 footwear but including a steel or composite plate in the Mid-Sole to protect against penetration from under foot.
  • S2 - S2 footwear has all the aspects of S1 footwear, but adds prevention of water absorption for the upper. Again, codes can be added as they are with S1 and SB.
  • S3 - You will find the same safety elements as contained in S2, plus a penetration resistant midsole.
  • S4 - An S4 boot encompasses the same level of protection as an S1, however it is moulded from a polymer or rubber that makes them completely waterproof and leak-proof. A safety welly would be S4 at the least, and other codes can be added when the boot achieves other safety standards.
  • S5 - S5 gives you all the safety footwear features of the S4, plus midsole penetration resistance.

The risk assessment will also help you establish other product attributes to look for and these are also coded. There is an exceptionally long list of benefits if you are new to choosing footwear - these are some of the most common, that fit with our risk assessment:

Antistatic protection (A) - Protects against static electrical charges

Energy absorption (E) - Absorbs energy and pressure in the heel region to relieve pain

Water resistant upper (WRU) - Upper is resistant to water.

Heat resistant (HRO) - Heat-resistant outsole which resists 300℃ for up to 60 seconds

Insulation against cold (CI) - Provides insulation against cold for 30 minutes at -20℃.

Insulation against heat (HI) - Insulation against heat for 30 minutes at 150℃.

Electrostatic discharge (ESD) - ESD footwear has been designed for the electronics and explosives industry

Considering slips

A key consideration is slip resistance, which is explained clearly on this HSE page. The basic considerations are:

The safety features of footwear, including slip resistance, are tested according to a set of European test standards written into EN ISO 20344:2004 (A1: 2007). Footwear which has passed the EN test for slip resistance will be marked with one of the following codes, SRA, SRB or SRC.

The codes indicate that the footwear has met the specified requirements when tested as follows:

  • SRA – tested on ceramic tile wetted with dilute soap solution;
  • SRB – tested on smooth steel with glycerol;
  • SRC – tested under both the above conditions.

Another useful link if you are keen to consider worker's right when it comes to footwear is what the TUC have to say on the subject.

Asking the right questions

In essence understanding the risks and what is available will help you determine that correct level of safety footwear for your business. However it is also about comfort levels and making sure staff are happy to wear the footwear provided. Depending on the role, corporate footwear will need to provide support in a number of ways.

One size does not fit all

Will it need to have grip-soles to prevent slips and falls on wet surfaces? Or is comfort and support more of a concern if you are working with employees that will be on their feet for long periods of time? Chefs will require corporate footwear that is vastly different to concierge staff, but both roles will have their own risks to consider. In other words pair the right corporate footwear for the role to ensure staff safety and wellbeing.

How HeathBrook help

Tactical Footwear

We have extensive experience in providing footwear advice, we actually run footwear clinics for our customers that ensure employees are comfortable, safe and happy wearing the shoes they are provided with. We also have specialist boots including a boot designed specifically to protect the metatarsal using innovative technology, specialist occupational footwear and so much more. Contact us today so we can make sure everyone gets the perfect fit, when it comes to finding the right corporate footwear.