Ask the Expert, Personal Protective Equipment, Personnel Safety

Ask the Expert: Comparing Safety Boots

In our latest installment of Ask the Expert, brought to you by the team of industry experts at EHS Hero®, we look at a recent question from a subscriber asking about how aluminum safety toe boots compare to other types. See what the experts had to say.

safety boots

Q: How do aluminum safety toe boots compare to steel and composite toe boots? Our company only allows steel and composite, but I thought all safety boots meet the same ANSI standard. 

As you stated, there are three types of protective toes: steel, composite, and aluminum/alloy. All safety toe footwear must pass the same impact and compression tests to be rated compliant with American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards, but the different types do have distinguishing characteristics. 

Steel toe boots provide maximum protection and are less expensive than alloy or composite toe boots. 

Aluminum/alloy toe safety boots are lighter, but generally less protective against impacts from falling objects, compression, and shearing than steel toe boots. They are also more expensive. 

Composite toe boots are not as strong as steel or alloy toe boots, so they must be thicker and more bulbous to achieve the same safety ratings, and the composite material can weaken over time. They are also less protective against dropped objects and shearing than steel or alloy. However, composite toe boots are lighter than steel toe boots, and they have the added benefit of better insulation against hot and cold temperatures. 

You should note that though OSHA allows employers to use PPE constructed in accordance with any of three national consensus standards (ASTM F-2412-2005, “Standard Test Methods for Foot Protection,” and ASTM F-2413-2005, “Standard Specification for Performance Requirements for Protective Footwear”; ANSI Z41-1999, “American National Standard for Personal Protection–Protective Footwear”; or ANSI Z41-1991, “American National Standard for Personal Protection–Protective Footwear”), ANSI Z41 was withdrawn and replaced by standards ASTM F2412 and ASTM F2413 in 2005. As a result, manufacturers no longer follow ANSI Z41, but instead follow the ASTM standards for steel, aluminum/alloy, and composite toe boots. 

Further detail of the standards and their comparisons of the types of safety toes may be obtained by contacting www.astm.org

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