Frequently Asked Questions
- What is this site?
- Why did we create the site?
- Who are we?
- The tone of this site
- Why the name?
- Do Safety Steel Toe and Safety Composition Toe footwear pass the same Safety Standard Tests?
- What is the difference between ANSI and ASTM International?
- What is the difference between EH (Electrical Hazard) and ESD (Electrical Static Dissipative) Footwear?
- Does a steel shank make safety boots puncture resistant?
- What is the purpose of a steel shank?
- What component will certify a boot as puncture resistant?
- Do all footwear companies test safety footwear to the same standards?
- How to read the ASTM safety label inside Protective Footwear
What is this site?
This site was created out of the realization that while work boots today contain many features, which are regularly mentioned in catalogs, advertising, hang tags, and websites, there is really very little information on what exactly these features mean in the real world. Aspects like safety features, outsole materials, footbeds, laces, hooks and eyelets, leather and general durability are all topics that consumers contact boot companies directly about daily. Over time, the idea for this website grew from those questions. The first and most important area we will address on this site is safety features. If you go online and search for boots which contain the usual safety terms, like 'steel-toe' or 'met guard' or 'E/H', almost invariably you will read that they meet some certain standard. If you dig deeper to find the actual wording of the standard, it can be much tougher to find. A little diligence, however, and you can still find them, usually partially quoted on a boot company website. If you keep going, and want to read the actual standard as published by the standard agency itself, you will likely learn that you must pay a significant fee to them before you can get it. And, after reading the standard a few times, you will find much of it is rather dry, technical and difficult to understand. So, continuing the effort, you search for social groups or chat rooms that you can join to see if others have been there before you and have learned what you are wondering. Unfortunately, there are none of note. Anything you find is more likely to be either a consumer rant against a particular brand, or a marketing-driven, lawyer-approved vague and generic answer from a brand's customer service department. No real dedicated, focused presentation of what the safety features are designed to do. No examples of the actual testing that takes place, just descriptions. Therefore, no way to truly understand what the safety features can't do. What they can't protect you from. And that leaves a lot of room for misunderstandings. Every one of us who works in occupations that require safety features in the first place will agree that if you mix possible dangerous situations with misunderstanding, injury is a predictable outcome. And since injury avoidance is the original intent of the safety features in the first place, it seems that more could be done to help clarify information on safety features for the benefit of those who buy work boots. It takes hundreds, and probably thousands of people to design, build and deliver a pair of boots to you. You don't have to go far into the supply chain of most boot companies to find intensely dedicated people who take their work seriously. The work of designing, building, testing and delivering consistently safe boots so that every single pair unquestionably meets the standards is a challenging and ongoing process. And it is personal. Keeping in mind that the next pair could be sold to a friend or family member, maintaining standards and regularly testing those safety features has a very human side.
Why did we create the site?
We regularly hear from people who relate stories where they either avoided or escaped injury, or were told by their doctors that the safety features in their boots minimized an injury from an accidental situation. This is the primary function and goal of the standards and testing requirements. Usually, in those situations, there are obviously a lot of new questions that we are asked by those folks. They are related to the safety features, how they work, what they can and can't do. Questions like this demand straight talk and not advertising jingles, sound bites or sales pitches. Therefore, we created this site. We started with a few guiding principles.
1. Since the exact same safety standards apply to all brands, we will discuss the standards, the testing and the results, without referencing any brands. This site is specifically designed to not promote our own brands, either subtly or overtly, but to be an impartial, informational resource about the various safety features found in products throughout the work boot marketplace.
2. We will not test brands head-to-head to find whose boot is 'safer'. Since they all meet the same standard, which is a minimum, we will avoid this practice. We are not a testing facility. Over time as this site evolves, we intend to demonstrate and explain the in-house testing nearly all factories practice, and to emphasize the service and function of the independent labs that all boot companies utilize (and whose results they publish). The labs are third-party organizations that do consistently thorough and honest work.
3. We will not accept advertising nor collect names for direct-marketing purposes for any brand. We will not sell information to anyone.
4.We seek to explain and clarify what the standards are and demonstrate the actual tests, but will make no recommendations as to the suitability of a boot for a specific job. We in no way are a replacement or substitute for safety directors, safety officers, doctors, testing facilities, the standards organizations themselves, or common sense.
Who are we?
This site is conceived, owned and operated by the Workgroup division of H.H. Brown Shoe Company. Established in 1883, H.H. Brown has been making work footwear continuously ever since, and entered the branded business starting with the Gorilla brand around the turn of the last century. In 1963, in keeping with the times, H.H. Brown created Carolina Shoe Co. and soon after launched Richland Shoe, now known across the western landscape as Double-H Boots. The acquisition of Corcoran military boots followed soon after, and H.H. Brown’s Matterhorn brand boots became the standard in the mining business. Rounding out the company’s work boot brands is a license partnership approaching its fifteen-year anniversary, Browning. It is rare in the footwear business for licensing partnerships to last even half that long. Safety footwear is our heritage and our area of expertise. It may come as a bit of a surprise, but when it comes to safety, all boots in the market meet the same existing standards, which most major workboot brands know very well. Therefore, there is no public interest being served on this site in promoting one brand over another. Instead, we would like to offer this website as a resource for consumers to learn about the safety features in any boots that indicate they meet one or more safety standards, how they are tested, and what protection can be reasonably expected from them.
The tone of this site
The daily phone conversations, email communication, even letters – between our Customer Service department and consumers inspired the conversational tone for this site. And, since the hard-to-find online information on standards is written in technical jargon and legalese, we wanted to use clear, user-friendly and approachable language on this site. When new employees of ours read the universal standards documentation information online, they come away with more questions than answers – mostly about clarifying the standards’ definitions and how they apply to the everyday use of the boots. Just as with consumers, we end up having conversations discussing what the technical stuff means in real life. Therefore, you will notice that the initial feel of this site is conversational, as opposed to technical. As the scope of topics grows, and the depth of other topics expands, more and more of our experts will contribute. Expect some variations in style, but until we learn differently, the conversational tone will dominate. We will keep a critical eye on things to maintain this feel, and of course will study any feedback we get along these lines. Please note that our intention and goal is to illuminate and clarify safety standards information in order to reduce misunderstandings for consumer boot-wearers. It is not a forum designed to invite highly trained engineers and scientists to 'match wits' with boot companies’ designers, the outside labs' SATRA testing machines, global or US testing standards, legal principles or political rhetoric of any kind. Also, this is not a forum for any brand promotion by any participant, including consumers. All of those topics are more appropriate to other sites.
Why the name?
The name of the site, on first reading, has an admittedly arrogant sound. After considering quite a few others, we felt this name, once the purpose and the guiding principles were understood, most accurately conveyed the site’s objective. Convenient, and we hope catchy enough, that it will actually help encourage people to take a more active role in understanding the safety features in their workboots. Because we avoid promoting brands, and stick to explaining the safety standards that apply to all brands of boots to workboot wearers, we hope the name of the site will represent a central place to collect the knowledge and efforts of the industry in a way that passes them along in a helpful manner. We will not be advocating changes in standards or testing. We will not lobby government. We do not attempt to be your collective voice. We are not looking to ignite emotions nor create a place for folks to begin and flame debate. We won't be looking for contributions or paid links. Just a place where folks who need or want to wear workboots with safety features can go to learn something. As we've said, our friends and family ask these questions too. The idea for the name of the site was inspired by a business/website called ‘The Corvair Authority’ by William Wynne, with his permission. Yes, that old Chevy sports car. Actually, William is in the business of teaching people how to convert the old car's engine into an aviation-grade power-plant. A core principle often repeated on his site resonates. He states he is not looking for folks primarily interested in how little they can learn to 'get by'. Rather, his purpose is to teach understanding to the truly inquisitive and thoughtful. Our interpretation is that thorough, vigorous and rigorous understanding of all aspects of the tools of craftsmanship is the mark of a professional.
What is the difference between ANSI and ASTM International?
ANSI (American National Standards Institute) – for 90 years has served to coordinate voluntary standardization for product safety for the U.S. private sector. ANSI accredits standards developers to create standards. (As defined on the ANSI website www.ansi.org). Accreditation is defined as the procedure by which an authoritative body gives formal recognition that a body or person is competent to carry out specific tasks. (As defined in ISO/IEC Guide 2:2004). Presently, there are more than 220 ANSI-Accredited Standards Developers including organizations like ASTM International, Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., NFPA International, ASME International, ASHRAE, CSA America, Inc. and NSF International. ASTM International (American Society for Testing and Materials International) – an international standards organization which voluntarily develops and publishes consensus technical standards of materials, products, systems, and services.
What is the difference between EH (Electrical Hazard) and ESD (Electrical Static Dissipative) Footwear?
EH - Electrical Hazard Safety Footwear
Electrical Hazard Safety Footwear is designed to reduce the flow of electricity through the footwear. Electrical Hazard Safety Footwear that has been tested for Electrical Hazard protection by an independent safety testing laboratory and passed testing will have the “EH” designation marked on the ASTM label inside the safety footwear.
IMPORTANT NOTE : Electrical Hazard Footwear is designed to be a secondary protection source not a primary protection source in an Electrical Hazard environment. ASTM F2413-11 standards 5.5 Note 2, clearly states the primary footwear to be worn in step potential electrical hazard environments is dielectric footwear. ASTM F2413-11 standards section 5.5.2 clearly state EH footwear should be used as a secondary source for EH protection.
SD – Static Dissipative Footwear (also called ESD – Electrical Static Dissipative Footwear)
Static Dissipative Footwear is designed to reduce (dissipate) the amount of static electricity build-up on the body. Static Dissipative footwear that has been tested in an independent safety testing laboratory and passed will have the “SD” designation marked on the ASTM label inside the footwear.
For more in-depth information on EH and SD Footwear Refer to the EH and SD section “Relating Methods to Standards”.
What component will certify a boot as puncture resistant?
Boots certified as Puncture Resistant (PR), have either a stainless steel plate or a non-metallic puncture resisting plate placed between the insole and the sole of the boot. To be certified as Puncture Resistant the boot must pass ASTM standards testing for Puncture Resistant.
Do all footwear companies test safety footwear to the same standards?
If the safety footwear is worn in the United States it is tested to ASTM test method F2412-11. The safety footwear must pass performance requirements of F2413-11 for safety toe and F2892-11 for soft toe. Other countries have different standard requirements and test methods.
How to read the ASTM safety label inside Protective Footwear
Inside each safety shoe/boot is a required label which indicates the safety properties offered and tested for the specific style. The label is a four line format, identifying the type of footwear, hazards it is designed to provide, Example Label ASTM F2413-11 M I/75 C/75 Mt/75 EH How to read the label Line 1 : ASTM F2413-11 Specifies the ASTM standard the protective footwear meets. In this instance, the footwear meets performance requirements of ASTM2413 that were issued in 2011. Line 2 : M I/75 C/75 Mt75 Broken down this line specifies - Gender, Impact, Compression rating of the category. M=Men, W=Women, I/75 - specifies the protective footwear has been tested for Impact (I) resistance rating (75 foot pounds), C/75 - specifies the protective footwear has been tested and rated for Compression Resistance (C) 75 or 2500 pounds of compression, Mt/75 - specifies the protective footwear has a protective Metatarsal (Mt) tested and rated to (75 foot pounds). Line 3 & 4 : EH Line 3 & 4 are used to specify the protective footwear has been manufactured to offer other protective benefits from specific hazards such as EH, SD and PR. EH - Electrical Hazard - EH Footwear is constructed with the capability to withstand 18,000 volts at 60 Hz (Hertz) for one minute with no current flow or leakage in excess of 1.0 mA (Milliampere) under dry conditions. EH footwear is manufactured so the footwear outsole can provide a secondary source of protection. SD - Static Dissipative - SD Footwear is to be constructed to reduce excess static electricity. The SD footwear shall have a lower limit of electrical resistance of 10 to the 6th ohms (1 megohm) and an upper limit of electrical resistance of 10 to the 8th ohms (100 megohms) when tested at 50 V per test method F2412. PR - Puncture Resistant - PR footwear is manufactured with a Puncture Resistant plate positioned between the foot and outsole, or used as the insole and is made an integral and permanent part of the footwear during manufacturing.