By Rehan Iqbal
Many occupations require certain clothing and precautions in order to keep workers safe from injury. Hard hats, gloves and high-visibility vest instantly come to mind, as do tough steel toe capped safety shoes. A reinforced toe-cap can be essential in many tough work environments where heavy-duty equipment is involved, or if there is a risk of falling objects. What some workers may not realize, however, it that there are different types of toe caps out there. This brief introduction to safety boot toe protection will look at three key options: steel, alloy and composite.
The Different Types of Safety Toe Caps
Steel Toe Capped Safety Shoes
The classic option is the steel toed work boot. This is the one that most workers immediately think of because they are a cheaper, accessible option that is designed to offer the optimal protection. There is also some assumption that hard toed boots are steel when they might not be. The main benefit of these shoes is that they offer great protection in work environments where there is a significant risk. The steel in the toe cap helps to eliminate the risk of injury from falling objects, materials and heavy machinery. This means that workers in construction, or those with dangerous equipment, are often best suited to these boots.
The problem is that they are the heaviest of the three options here and therefore may not be the most comfortable on long shifts in hot weather. Worker have to weigh up the pros and cons here. Is it important to stick with steel because of hazards and put up with the weight and potential discomfort? If not, one of the following alternatives may be a better choice.
Alloy Toe Capped Safety Shoes
An interesting alternative to steel is alloy. This is the sort of material that buyers will happily opt for once they have learnt how heavy steel really is, as long as they are happy to pay out a little more money for something a little more comfortable. They are pricier, but many buyers see this as a minor inconvenience for the other benefits. This alloy material works the same way as the steel, by providing that strong protective layer in the toe cap, but it has different properties. This alloy material is usually between 30-50% lighter and is also thinner. This means that there is often more room to move in the toe box and the boots are lighter overall. This can make a big difference to users working long shifts in tough conditions. The other great thing about these alloy toe boots is that they tend to be just as strong as the steel ones, so should be suitable in the same work environments.
Composite Toe Capped Safety Shoes
The final option in this list is something a little different. Composite toe work boots are a non-metal option for workers that need a lighter boot with greater freedom of movement. They tend to be made from Kevlar, fiber glass or carbon fiber. The result is that you have something of a compromise between a steel toed capped boot and a boot with no protection. There are greater comfort levels and a lighter weight, making them easier to work in, but they do not offer the same amount of protection. They are still strong enough to pass most safety standards, but they are no good in those tough work sites where there are risks of heavy objects falling onto toes. It all depends on the specifics of the job and the machinery used. Chainsaw work needs a strong boot and there are specialized chainsaw models out there. Composite models are also great for electricians because they do not conduct electricity. There are steel boots with electric hazard ratings, but there is more certainty with composite.
There is an added bonus with these shoes, however. They have a greater tolerance of heat then the steel or alloy models. Steel caps can get noticeably hot or cold, which can affect comfort levels even more, but this doesn’t happen with a composite. This is great for anyone that needs a strong safety boot in a hot or cold work environment where there are no immediate risks of injury or heavy machinery to deal with. This also means that these boots are great for cold store work and some may prefer using composite when working outside.
Which of These Safety Shoes is Best for You?
Steel, alloy and composite all have their pros and cons and different situations call for a different style of boot. Take the time to consider the safety requirements of the work place and find the toe cap that will offer the right amount of protection and comfort.