You wouldn't wear protective overshoes to a fancy-dress gala, but those big unsightly galoshes that briefly turn a pair of pricey dress shoes into circus attire deserve more respect in safety-conscious workplaces. And they're finally getting it. The protective toe overshoe now has its own Canadian Standards Association standard - CSA Z334. The standard was published on January 1, 2015, and manufacturers have a year to comply.
You bet, says Matthew Rowlands, assistant general manager at Swenco Limited in Waterloo. Rowlands and Swenco Limited owner-president Paul Sweeny co-chaired a CSA panel, the Subcommittee on Over-the-shoe Toe Protectors, to develop a new set of safety criteria because the ones under CSA Z195-09, Protective Footwear, weren't up to the job.
"We created a new standard for occasional-use, protective footwear that is slipped over a shoe," Rowlands says. "An overshoe of that kind should have different test requirements."
The new standard CSA-Z334 does something else that is just as important: it clearly states that protective overshoes should not be regarded as safety footwear. They are for temporary use only. They're great for the trade delegation touring your shop; not so good for the worker operating a press at the back.
"The standard has defined the application," Rowlands says. "That hasn't been done before."
This little piggy
So where lies the biggest difference between the old standard and the new? At the toe.
Z334 recognizes that all toe caps are not the same, and the ones used in protective overshoes have a different design and purpose. They are higher and wider to accommodate a foot already wearing a shoe.
As an example, let's use an overshoe to fit a men's size 9.5 to size 11 shoe. Under Z195, the minimum clearance between the cap and the toe is to be no less than 13.2 millimeters after impact. While meeting the needs for safety shoes and boots, that distance - about a half-inch - isn't considered adequate for protective overshoes. The sole of a shoe itself can be a half-inch thick.
Under Z334, using an impact weight of 22.7 kilograms, the minimum post-impact clearance is 41.7 mm - a difference of 28.5 mm over the old standard. This takes into account the thicknesses of soles and toes, with room to spare.
Even the testing methods set Z334 apart from Z195. The cap in an overshoe, while being tested for impact resistance, is clamped at the ball of the foot to prevent it from pivoting on impact and deflecting the blow towards the tips of the toes. Clamping keeps the impact on target and consistent during testing, and ensures the toe performs to the desired standard.
Better standard, better safety
The subcommittee didn’t take its responsibilities lightly, Rowlands says. It took a year to develop new criteria and test them.
Rowlands believes the safety benefits of CSA Z334 offer value to footwear manufacturers, to employers who have visitors in settings where protective footwear is required, and to end users themselves.
"It's in footwear manufacturers' best interests to provide the best level of protection," Rowlands says. "They should change as soon as possible. "What it will do is provide a verification of their product. The buyer can now vouch for it."
As for employers, Rowlands encourages them to add CSA Z334-compliant footwear to their personal protective equipment (PPE) program, taking into account the hazards that require over-the-shoe toe protectors, procedures for selection and fitting, maintenance and storage, monitoring use, and training.
And for the end user, the visitor, footwear meeting CSA Z334 offers a greater amount of protection than what they were getting before. There is the expectation of, 'This is the kind of protection I should be getting.'"
A visitor, he adds, should reasonably expect the same or similar level of toe protection wearing a steel-toe overshoe, tested to the CSA Z334 standard, as someone wearing a CSA Z195-approved shoe or boot.
Protective overshoes under Z334 will feature a purple patch with a white hourglass symbol to indicate temporary use. Hang-tags or inserts at point-of-purchase will also emphasize that message, and state that the overshoes are not to be worn over pointed-toe and open-toe/open-heel footwear.
All of which, says Rowlands, simply means the protective overshoe is finally getting its due respect.
"We spend so much time on the eyes and ears of our visitors, but not much on protecting their feet," he says. "You're just as much at risk of having something fall on your toes, as you are being affected by noise."
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