How To Know If Your Safety Footwear Needs Replacing

Safety footwear is vital in the workplace to protect the feet against heavy objects, fire hazards or dangerous chemicals. They are known to be extremely durable and long-lasting compared to your everyday shoes. However, as with everything, wear and tear occurs and even something as durable as steel toe boots will need replacing after extensive usage.

Experts have identified that many workers do not prioritise cleaning and inspecting their safety footwear on a consistent basis. As many of them just want to get to their next destination after work and may have other priorities to fulfil rather than cleaning and maintaining their safety shoes.

The purpose of this article is to educate on how to identify when a workers’ safety footwear should be replaced and to understand the best ways to care for your safety shoes to ensure they are in the best shape for as long as possible.

Knowing When To Retire Your Boot

Although it is important to select the right kind of safety shoe to fit specific demands of a job, it is equally as important to know when it no longer serves its purpose of protection and requires replacing.

There can be many factors that come into play when determining if a safety shoe needs to be replaced. We need to take into consideration the job hazards that the shoe is being exposed to, how often the boot is being worn and the size and weight of the worker.

Safety shoes with steel toecaps will often reveal more clues than shoes with composite material toecaps. If a heavy object falls on a steel toe shoe, the steel cap will reveal obvious dents and will not form back into shape which indicates that the shoe must be replaced. This is why we recommend replacing shock absorption safety footwear anytime something heavy is dropped on it. There might be obvious doubts that the shoe will be able to protect the workers feet the same way the second time around. Composite material safety shoes on the other hand could be severely damaged in the same scenario but still maintain its shape and form, which proves that the clues might be harder to look for.

Wear & Tear

Injuries from hazards in the workplace may be a rare occurrence, hence most shoes just wear out from normal wear and tear. Knowing when to replace safety shoes due to wear and tear can depend on many factors. The most obvious one is when a safety shoe’s steel toe or other protective parts such as the steel midsole or the metatarsal guard is showing.

Experts recommend replacing impact and compression resistant shoes if there are signs of physical damage at the toe area of the shoe. For safety shoes with metatarsal guards, they must be replaced immediately after an impact occurs or when the metatarsal guard is exposed from wear and tear.

For rubber or PVC-based waterproof or chemical-resistant safety footwear, it is recommended to replace them immediately if there is any separation between the rubber or PVC parts such as the outsole, foxing or the toe cover.

For slip-resistant safety shoes, the key is to evaluate the tread. As long as the tread or outsole shows signs of damage or wear, the shoe likely needs replacing soon. If an area of the tread is worn smooth or the tread design is no longer visible, then the shoe needs to be replaced immediately as it most likely is not going to provide the slip protection required. The same can be said about tires. You will lose the value of the grip long as one part of the tire is worn smooth and the tread design is barely visible.

Look for leaks

A leak can compromise the ability of a safety shoe from protecting the foot from water or harmful chemicals. During the evaluation of water-resistance, look for cuts, cracks, or punctures in the footwear as this can cause leakage which can expose the worker’s foot to harmful chemicals. There are two ways to test a water-resistant safety shoe for leaks. – Method 1: Remove the insole and fill the shoe or boot with water. Place the shoe on a newspaper and look for leaks. If there is any sign of a leak, the shoe should be replaced. Let the boot dry out completely before wearing it again. – Method 2: Line the inside of the shoe or boot with a cloth or paper towel. Hold the towel or cloth in place with a heavy object on top of it. Fill up a bucket of water with the water level a few inches below the top of the shoe (do not let the water overflow into the opening). Leave the shoe in the bucket overnight. Inspect the paper towel or cloth the next day. If it is damp, there is a leak and the shoe needs replacing.

Extending the Life of Your Safety Footwear

Taking a few minutes each day dedicated towards caring and maintaining your safety footwear can greatly extend its life. Here are some tips from experts:

Rotate Between Shoes
Whenever possible, purchase two pairs of safety shoes or boots and rotate between them daily. Due to the involvement in heavy activity, a worker can perspire approximately 200 millilitres of moisture into a shoe. This can slowly affect the durability of the shoe and cause discomfort. By rotating pairs, you allow the moisture to dry out and improve comfort and durability.

Keep Footwear Clean
Safety footwear should be cleaned after every use. Depending on the type of shoe and how dirty they are, here are the common methods used:

  • Spraying your shoes off with a hose
  • Dipping your shoes into water after every use
  • Cleaning thoroughly with soap and a wet cloth or brush. If your shoe is full-grain leather, use a slightly damp cloth and mild detergent instead or you risk damaging the leather.

Cleaning safety footwear not only protects the shoe from added wear and tear, but also makes it easier to identify signs of physical damage. It also helps upkeep the performance of the shoe.

Maintain the Leather
To preserve safety footwear made with leather, experts advise to maintain the shoe’s material by using leather maintenance oil, grease or moisturizing creams to prevent the leather from drying or cracking. Before doing this, however, be sure to always consult the manufacturer first as they may have their own instructions on maintaining their material.

Selecting the Right Shoe
It all starts with selecting the right shoe to match the specifications of the job. When safety footwear fails on you, it may be because the shoe was not a good fit for the job it was assigned to in the first place. By conducting hazard assessments for each job, this allows professionals to understand the kind of protection required to ensure that workers are equipped with the right footwear to protect them from the specific hazards they are being exposed to.

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