In the workplace, electricity can be a grave danger. Just three milliamperes of power are enough to cause you bodily harm. Many professionals such as engineers, electricians and maintenance men work directly with electricity. Salespeople and office workers work with electricity indirectly and may be exposed to particular electrical hazards.
You may know the dangers and are careful. However, power cannot be seen, and in some places such as construction sites, electrical cables can be left exposed. Your safety as a worker starts from the ground up. Therefore, footwear security is the most important in this regard.
In professions where you directly work or are in direct contact with electricity, protective boots are needed. One mistake can lead to injury or in severe cases, death. That's why we have Electrical Hazard boots.
What are electrical hazard boots?
Electrical Hazard (EH) boots are non-conductive boots which prevent your feet from completing an electrical circuit to the ground. These boots have an Electrical Hazard (EH) rating on them. This means they have been tested by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for their protection against electrical shock. They must be able to significantly prevent the flow of electricity through them and into the ground. They also prevent electrocution should you step on a live wire.
A key feature of these boots is their thick insulated soles. The rubber out-soles are very durable. They are also abrasion, water, and slip-resistant. These extra qualities help protect you from falls or slips when working.
Electrical Hazard boots, as dictated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), must be able to withstand 18000 volts of electricity at 60 hertz for a whole minute without leakage of more than one milliampere under dry conditions. According to OSHA, electrical hazard boots should be used in conjunction with other protective wear.
Standard Requirements for Electrical Hazard Boots
Electrical Hazard boots should be able to meet particular criteria before they are certified.
Currently, there are two sections laid out by the American Society for Testing and Materials that are used to ensure that Electrical Hazard boots meet the correct standards. These are:
- The ASTM F2412-11, Standard Specification for Performance Requirements
- The ASTM F 2413-11, Performance Requirements for Protective(Safety) Toe Cap Footwear
The F2413 standard was released on August 11th, 2011. This section states the minimum requirements needed for performance, design, testing and classification of footwear. If a footwear is to be certified to meet ASTM F2413-11, it must initially meet:
- The Impact Resistant Footwear section
- The Compression Resistant Footwear Section
It can meet other additional requirements namely:
- Metatarsal protection
- Electrical hazard protection
- Conductive protection
- Puncture protection.
Initially, manufacturers did not mark footwear as having met ASTM requirements. After ASTM released these standards, manufacturers can now test their safety toe and non-safety toe as having met Electrical Hazard standard. Previously, only guidelines for safety toe footwear standards and testing were available. Marking of ASTM certification on footwear must be in a rectangle and written within four lines. The fourth line is used when the standards the footwear meets are more than three.
This standard also dictates that manufacturer's name, logo or trademark must be stamped on each protective cap of the shoes.
Electrical Hazard boots can have either steel or composite toes. In fact, before composite toes were put on EH shoes, all safety toes were made of steel. A common misconception many people have about work boots is that they should not have metal when you are working around places with electrical risks. Well to put this myth to rest, metal only conducts electricity when it is in contact with another metal. In this case, the steel safety toe is surrounded by leather, rubber and other forms of insulation and therefore it is very safe.
Other Types of Boots that Protect Against Electrical Hazards
Perhaps, you may also have heard about static dissipation boots and conductive boots.
These two types conduct electricity through them to eliminate the risk of static shock. EH boots are recommended for use in dry areas while static dissipation boots and conductive boots are used mostly in areas where there is a risk of a fire or an explosion.
You should not wear Electrical Hazard boots in hazardous or explosive areas.
When is Electrical Hazard Protection Compromised?
Unfortunately, these boots can be affected by certain factors and their potential to keep the wearer safe, affected. The Excessive wear of the soles or exposure of these boots or wet or humid conditions or both can reduce the effectiveness of these shoes. Another factor that can reduce their chances of protection is contamination with conductive materials. When soles of these boots pick up tiny bits of metal or metal shavings they can be less efficient.
EH Boots are designed as secondary sources of electrical hazard protection against coming into contact with electrically charged conductors or parts and live electrical circuits. You should not use them as your primary source of protection against electrocution. This is stated in the Occupational Health and Safety magazine. Therefore, if you are going to work in an area which is electrically hazardous, you should ensure all primary forms of electrical hazard protection should be employed.