By Jayden Mark
Work boots are designed to ensure that we are safe in the workplace. For every type of job, OSHA specifies the safety requirements for PPE. This would include boots, gloves, protective eyewear, and other equipment that minimizes our risk of injury at work. Work boots for electricians are specifically designed to protect the wearer from electrocution.
In this article, we’ll be discussing every aspect of work boots with particular attention to the needs of electricians.
What You Need to Know About Work Boots for Electricians
When we think of PPE for electricians, foremost in our minds are the risks associated with electrical work. It’s true that electricians need the best protection from electrocution, but there can be other dangers in their working environment, like falling or rolling objects.
Electricians don’t all face the same risks. Working in a factory or on a construction site is different to an electrician doing mainly domestic electrical work. When an electrician works with high-voltage electricity, like a power utility, they face additional dangers. As a result, we cannot assume that only one type of safety boot is suitable for all electricians.
Electrical Hazard Boots
Most electricians should wear electrical hazard (EH) boots. This is but one of many safety ratings for a work boot. It is important to note that EH boots for electricians are a secondary level of protection. Wearing insulated gloves and using the correct tools are recommended as the first line of defense against electrocution. Of course, safe working practices are paramount.
EH work boots are designed to protect the wearer from electrocution. The EH marking will appear on the boot. This means that the boots have been tested according to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards to meet specific criteria. Essentially, an EH work boot insulates you from the ground. This prevents an electrical current from passing through the body to ground, which would result in electrocution when you make contact with a live electrical circuit.
How are EH Boots Tested
Electrical hazard boots are insulated using non-conductive materials, like rubber, plastic, and leather. It is important that the sole of the boot isolates the wearer to prevent an electric shock.
The boots are tested up to 18,000 volts for one minute. Independent testing is conducted to attain EH ANSI certification.
Dielectric safety boots are next-level work boots for electricians who work with live low voltage, medium voltage, or high-voltage electricity. This would include:
Dielectric boots are recommended when electricians are exposed to wet conditions or are required to work with live current. They provide additional protection, like thicker rubber soles and waterproofing. Typically, dielectric boots are made entirely from rubber or plastic and extend up the leg further than other work boots to prevent exposure to water.
How are Dielectric Boots Tested?
Dielectric boots are tested by filling the boot with water and immersing it in a tank of water. An electrode is placed inside the boot, and another is connected to the water tank. An electric current is conducted through the electrodes and the voltage between the electrodes is measured to detect any leakage. The electrical testing is performed for three minutes.
There are several classes of dielectric boots, rated by the test voltage and electric current as follows:
Re-Testing Dielectric Boots
All dielectric boots are tested according to these standards, relative to the class rating, when they are manufactured. Additional testing needs to be conducted every year to ensure that the boots have not been compromised by damage in the workplace. Punctures or exposure to certain chemicals will reduce the efficacy of dielectric boots.
Annual re-testing of dielectric boots ensure that workers remain safe when exposed to live electricity.
Non-conductive Vs Conductive Safety Boots
Some confusion exists between electric hazard (EH) boots that are designed to isolate the wearer from an electric current, and Static dissipative or conductive boots which prevent static discharge.
EH boots are worn when you are at risk of electrocution from contact with a live electric current. Static dissipative and conductive boots are worn to prevent static electric discharge. EH boots are designed to impede the flow of electricity to ground, whereas static discharge boots are designed to reduce the buildup of static charge. Conductive safety boots dissipate static electricity faster than static discharge shoes by conducting the static electricity directly to the ground.
Can Electricians Wear Steel Toes Work Boots?
Toe caps are a basic requirement for ASTM certified safety work boots. This means that the toe section of the boot is protected against crushing from falling or rolling objects. Various materials can be used for work boot toe caps, like steel, aluminum, metal alloys, and composite materials. The latter can be plastic, carbon fiber, or fiberglass.
Because metal is a conductive material, a fear exists that steel toe caps, or other types of metal, can increase the risk of electrocution. This has created a misconception that electricians should not wear steel toe work boots. Since the toe cap is insulated within the boot, they do not pose a risk of electrocution. If a steel toe boot has an “EH” marking, it is certified to be safe for electric hazard, regardless of the material used for the safety toe cap.