Slip-resistant footwear

PPE - July 4, 2013 - 0 comments

Workers sometimes require safety footwear in their PPE kits. Slip-resistent safety footwear comes in many forms and this guidance from HSE explains what to look out for.

Choosing slip-resistant  footwear from the whole host of products on the market can be difficult. Sole descriptions  are varied, from ‘improving the grip performance’ to ‘excellent multi-directional  slip-resistance’. Often, footwear is just described as ‘slip-resistant’ and the  brochure does not describe the conditions for which the footwear is most suitable.

Footwear selection has to take account of a  number of factors in addition to slip resistance, such as comfort, durability  and any other safety features required, such as toe protection. The final  choice may have to be a compromise.

Top  tips

  • Accidents are  expensive – there are many hidden and uninsured costs. With footwear, like any  product, you tend to get what you pay for. Ensure you buy footwear which will  do the job – this will not necessarily be the cheapest. But it may be more comfortable  or attractive – ensuring that staff wear it, and it may last longer.
  • Specify the main  surfaces and contaminants which cause slip risks in your workplace, and seek  your supplier’s advice on suitable footwear.
  • Some generally slip-resistant footwear may not be suitable  in specific demanding conditions. For example, footwear that performs well in  the wet might not be suitable on oily surfaces or where there are sticky food  spillages which clog up the cleats.
  • You can  commission additional slip testing through the supplier  – e.g. on surfaces/ contaminants representative of your workplace.
  • Consider asking your  supplier to provide trial pairs to help you make the right choice, and do not select footwear on the basis of brochure  descriptions or laboratory test results alone.
  • Footwear trials should  involve a representative sample of the workforce and last long enough to  produce meaningful results. Remember – workers may not wear  footwear if it is uncomfortable or impractical, no matter how effective it is.

Key points on soles  and walking surfaces

  • The sole tread  pattern and sole compound are both important for slip resistance. Generally a  softer sole and close-packed tread pattern work well with fluid contaminants  and indoor environments. A more open pattern works better outdoors or with  solid contaminants. The only sure way to tell is to trial footwear in your environment.
  • Tread patterns should  not become clogged with any waste or debris on the floor – soles should be  cleaned regularly. If soles do clog up then look for an alternative design of  sole, e.g. with a wider space between the cleats and a deeper tread pattern.
  • Slip resistance properties  can change with wear; for example, some soles can deteriorate with wear,  especially when the cleats become worn down.
  • Have a system  for checking and replacing footwear before it becomes worn and dangerous.
  • The correct choice of footwear on wet or contaminated  profiled steel or aluminium surfaces, e.g. chequer plate, is important. With  some footwear the surface profiles do not provide the improvement in slip  resistance that might be expected.
  • ‘Oil-resistant’ does not mean ‘slip-resistant’ – the  former is just a statement that the soles will not be damaged by oil.

Testing  for slip resistance

Check with your  supplier whether the footwear you are interested in has actually been tested  for slip resistance – older models might not have been. Where footwear has been  tested, coefficient of friction (CoF) test values must be available. CoF data  can be requested from the supplier. Some  suppliers now publish it in their catalogues. The higher the CoF, the better the slip resistance. Look for CoF results  higher than the minimum requirements set out in annex A of EN ISO 20345/6/7:  2004 (A1:2007) – the standards for safety, protective and occupational  footwear.

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.

It should be noted that these test surfaces are not  wholly representative of all underfoot surfaces, so additional information may  be needed to help to identify the best slip-resistant shoes for your  particular environment.

The Health and  Safety Laboratory (HSL) carries out research on footwear testing for HSE, and  they have developed an in-house test which they have used for testing many  footwear types. See:

Further information

If footwear has helped you in preventing slips  accidents, HSE would like to hear about it and to publicise it as a case study.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

Safety footwear is a must for many industries.

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