By Jayden Mark
Dielectric boots are electrically insulated to protect the wearer from high voltages. Along with insulated gloves and protective matting, they are essential PPE for people working in an environment where they are exposed to a high-voltage or work close to live current.
Electrical hazard safety boots are not all the same. An electrician working with normal domestic electricity does not require the same level of protection as one who works with high-voltage lines and equipment. When you are exposed to electricity over 500V, you face increased risk. High-voltage current can arc over a distance of 40 CM (approximately 1.3 Ft) at 5,000V.
For this reason, dielectric boots are tested to a much higher standard, EN 50321. This requires that the soles of the boots be thicker and that the boot be higher. The upper of the boot may not conduct electricity to the inside when wet or when the wearer perspires.
Dielectric boots are tested to protect the wearer within a maximum leakage current range and maximum working voltage, depending on the class of boot.
How Dielectric Boots are Tested
Manufacturers of dielectric boots are required to test their safety footwear according to EN 50321-1:2018.
The boots are submerged in a tank of water and the boot is filled with water. An electrode is placed inside the boot, and another is grounded to the tank. When voltage is passed through the electrode, the leakage must not exceed the specified amperage for the class of boot.
The class rating for dielectric boots are as follows:
All dielectric boots are tested to these standards when they are manufactured. They also must be tested every year to ensure that remain safe. Boots can be damaged through normal wear and tear, as well as exposure to certain chemicals.
Who Needs to Wear Dielectric Boots?
People who work with high-voltage equipment or power distribution should always wear the correct protective equipment (PPE). This includes dielectric boots and gloves. While protective matting is also required, this is not always practical.
Anyone working in the following industries should wear dielectric boots:
Dielectric Boots vs Electric Hazard Boots
While dielectric boots are effectively electric hazard boots, they are not the same as conventional boots worn by electricians. Until quite recently, testing for both types of boots were the same. Since 2018, dielectric boots now need to meet the much higher EN 50321-1:2018 testing standard. Boots are tested at various different voltages, depending on the class of boot.
One of the primary differences between dielectric and regular electrical hazard safety boots are that dielectric boots must be made from rubber. Other materials, like waterproof leather don’t provide the same protection as rubber in wet conditions.
Typically, safety boots have a sole that is no more than 10mm thick. Depending on the class of boot, diametric boots need to be tested with a gap of between 40mm and 70mm (1.5” to 2.75”) both inside and outside the boot. This requires a sole that meets the minimum requirement for the class of testing.
Dielectric boots have to be completely sealed, with no seams. They need to protect the wearer, even when completely submerged in water. They also need to be waterproof against perspiration. This is why testing regulations for different classes of dielectric boots have a minimum water level to the top of the boot during testing of 40mm to 130mm (1.5” to 5.1”). In order to provide protection for a water level of 5.1” (class 4), the boot need to be higher than this.
Dielectric boots are designed and manufactured to a very high standard and rigorously tested. The risk of burns or cardiac arrest, when contact is made with high-voltage electricity, are severe. Hence the need for improved safety gear for people working in these conditions.