Can Electricians Wear Steel Toe Boots?
Top-quality work boots for electricians are one of the most important parts of a contractor’s kit. But not every electrician is familiar with the best work boots right off the bat. A common question is whether steel-toed boots are appropriate footwear for electrical tradesmen since steel conducts electricity.
So, is a composite toe work boot better for electricians? Do steel toes offer sufficient electrical hazard protection? What are the other criteria you should take into mind when buying safety footwear?
We answer all your questions in this complete steel toe boots guide.
What Kind of Boots Should Electricians Wear?
Let’s start by laying out the most important factors in any electrician’s work boots. As a rule of thumb, if a shoe meets all these criteria, it’s a good shoe for electrical professionals.
Perhaps the most vital quality in work boots for electricians is that the shoe is rated EH – this means that it offers electrical hazard protection. In practice, this means that no part of the shoe could allow electricity to pass through to the contractor’s foot.
OSHA has no specific regulations concerning the safety toe material for electricians. The safety organization doesn’t stipulate that workers in the electrical trade require a safety toe at all. However, a steel toe can be included in an EH-rated pair of work boots and count as PPE as long as:
- The conductive portion (the metal) is never in direct contact with the employee’s foot; there must be a non-conductive layer between the two
- The conductive portion is not on the outside of the shoe.
In other words, steel-toed boots can be rated as offering foot protection against electrical hazards as long as the steel is fully encased in non-conductive materials like rubber or leather.
Is non-metallic safety footwear preferable to minimize the risk of an electrical shock? The key to answering this is in determining the quality of the EH boots.
A well-designed work boot will last for years with virtually no risk of the steel being exposed on either side. This means that a steel-toed work boot won’t conduct electricity any more than EH shoes built with a composite toe.
Buying from a recognized, trusted manufacturer and checking the EH rating of a safety shoe is the best way to ensure that you’ll never be in danger of receiving shocks through your shoes.
Safety Toe Shoes
The main reason you’ll want to know if electricians can wear steel toe boots is that steel provides amazing protection for your feet. Steel can endure markedly higher pressure and impacts than a composite safety toe, which is why they’re usually preferred by road workers. When there’s the constant risk of a vehicle running over your foot, you want all the protection you can get.
Composite toes are still excellent choices, and they’re used by many of the best brands. However, if heavily protective safety toes are a must-have on your work boots, steel is the best you can get.
Electrical professionals working in environments where impact damage (e.g., from falling objects) or pressure is a threat often prefer steel for this reason.
Waterproof Work Boots
Adequate waterproofing is an extremely important part of the design of a work boot. Water conducts electricity, which means that if a shoe became saturated along with the worker’s foot, it would pose a risk of electric shock.
Electrical workers frequently operate on wet surfaces where exposed wires are a safety hazard. Work shoes are typically made with full-grain leather uppers that offer protection right up to the ankle. Some include a membrane that offers additional protection against water getting into the shoe.
This isn’t just a safety feature, of course – it’s a comfort feature. When you’re choosing a work boot, whether it includes a steel toe or not, you must be protected against water coming into the shoe. Blisters are extremely annoying, but electrocution is potentially fatal.
A high-quality rubber outsole is the main line of defense against receiving an electric shock from a wet surface. Thick rubber soles are a feature of most protective footwear and provide extra grip as well as full electrical resistance, although polyurethane is another popular and effective choice.
A rubber outsole is also typically used to encase the metal portion of steel toecaps. High-quality rubber is extremely durable, which is why it would take many years of heavy wear and tear for a metal toe to become a safety issue. The rubber sole is usually combined with full-grain leather to create a shoe that is fully waterproof and can protect against any ground-based electrical hazard.
Quality is everything when you’re looking for footwear as a contractor. This is why we encourage buying from brands that are renowned for producing high-quality safety footwear for electricians and contractors: it’s safer.
It means your shoes will last much longer. That means you won’t have to replace them every couple of years. There’s truth in the idea that big investments pay themselves back over time; a high-end pair of steel toe-capped boots will be with you for years. They’re more likely to be comfortable for longer thanks to design features that improve their durability, and the safety provided by the metal toe is less likely to be compromised.
Overall, a good boot is a durable boot. Steel safety toes offer protection with high-quality materials that last along with the steel.
Cement construction is typically preferred in modern work boots to nail construction. This especially makes sense if the shoe has a composite toe, as this means that the shoe is entirely metal-free. This is beneficial for anyone in work environments that use metal detectors, such as airports.
Some people argue that nails will always provide superior longevity to cement. So is there a reason that manufacturers tend to use cement rather than nail construction, even if you’re already using a steel toe cap?
Benefits may include:
- Reducing weight:
- Improved quality of contact cement:
- Reduced chance of exposed metal:
The main reason that cement is preferred to nails in steel toe-capped shoes is that the cap adds far more value to the shoe than the nails do. Nails might make it slightly more durable over time, but the extra metal adds weight and increases the risk of exposure to an electrical hazard.
Manufacturers find that the potential drawbacks of nails outweigh the benefits of contact cement (literally), compared to the huge safety advantages of steel toes compared to composite. This is why it’s the preferred construction method for most of the best boots today.
Slip-Resistant Safety Shoes
If your work environment is wet enough for current flow through the water to be an electrical hazard, it’s also wet enough for you to slip over. A good pair of work boots will have an excellent slip-resistant rubber grip on the sole to keep you safe at work.
A good grip is also important when you’re working in confined spaces, which is common for electricians. This is an occupational safety measure, and one of our best safety tips is that you should test the grip on any shoes you buy before you wear them at work.
Steel toes keep your feet protected from impact hazards like falling objects and pressure hazards. However, that’s no use if your boots aren’t also extremely comfortable.
At the end of the day, you’re the person wearing the shoes, and everyone’s feet are different. This is why there’s not necessarily one “best” work boot: as long as it has the necessary protective gear like sturdy steel toecaps, rubber soles, good waterproofing, and fits snugly, it’s the right shoe.
Is it Okay for Electricians to Wear Steel Toe Boots? FAQ
Still concerned about wearing steel toe boots for electricians? We answer some common questions about safety shoes below.
Are Steel Toe Boots Conductive?
Not unless the metal is exposed. The most important design feature of any shoe with a steel toecap is that the metal isn’t exposed either to the outside environment or the wearer’s foot. As long as it’s properly insulated with good-quality materials, there’s no risk from electric hazards.
A low-quality pair of boots might use poor insulation materials or have a design that risks exposing the metal to an electrical work environment. However, this is an issue with the manufacturer, and it’s why we highly recommend buying from a trusted brand that has a reputation for designing top-quality work boots.
What are the Risks of Steel Toe Shoes for Electricians?
Unless the shoe is degraded to a point where the metal is exposed, there are no electrical hazard risks associated with steel toe work boots for electricians. Static electricity and other job-specific hazards are nullified by the rubber and leather used to shield the metal and the electrician’s foot.
A major safety benefit of a steel toe is that it can resist pressure and impact far more effectively than a composite toe. In this sense, a sturdy metal safety toe reduces the risk to electricians compared to other designs.
Is a Steel Toe Better Than a Composite Safety Toe?
There are two major differences between a steel and composite safety toe:
- Steel is more resistant to external physical force
- A composite toe is typically lighter
If a lightweight design is your main priority, you may wish to avoid steel. However, the weight difference is generally small and is offset by the increased shielding. This is especially important in roadside work environments.
Both designs offer excellent electrical hazard protection as long as the other materials used in construction are high-quality. Rubber is the main element providing electrical resistance, and top manufacturers know that the only way to create the best boots is with a strong rubber sole.
Do Steel Toe Boots Count as PPE?
OSHA, the workplace health administration, considers these shoes as PPE for electrical work.
Best Manufacturers for Work Boots for Electricians
So what type of work boot should electricians wear, and who are the top manufacturers? How do you find the right pair for your needs?
We’ve put together a list of the best in the business along with a couple of recommendations for their top steel toe-capped work boots.
Wolverine is a leading work boot manufacturer in the U.S. and has produced some of the best shoes for electricians over several decades. The manufacturer prides itself on using the finest materials and industry-leading construction methods to ensure its work boots stand the test of time.
Some excellent models can be found in the Durashocks range. From full-grain premium leather uppers to sturdy rubber soles, these offer amazing protection against electrical shock hazards on the outside and boast top-quality comfort features on the interior. Wolverine is noted for the importance it places on comfort and this is certainly true of its steel-toe boots.
While this is a premier manufacturer, many of Wolverine’s designs are available at a very reasonable price. This brand is a consistent favorite and comes highly recommended from industry professionals.
Timberland is a manufacturer that produces high-end workboots as well as fashionable footwear. Not that the brand compromises on style when it’s creating electrical hazard-resistant gear: Timberland’s range is extremely attractive.
The brand’s Disruptor range features steel toecaps alongside anti-fatigue features and a more lightweight design than many other top manufacturers. This makes them attractive for anyone who works a lot in tight spaces or needs to be up ladders as part of their job – heavier models begin to wear after a while. While the steel cap offers the best protection, it’s a great design feature to offset the weight with a light, breathable shoe.
For anyone who loves to look stylish at work, you can’t go wrong with Timberland. Top-quality products with wonderful designs.
Carhartt is a leading shoe manufacturer and has received praise in recent years for its composite toe Carhartt men’s CMF6366 range. While this is an excellent work boot and comes with attractive features like a PU strobe pad and EVA midsole, we’d be wrong not to focus on their steel-toe offering.
Compared to the Carhartt men’s CMF6366, we found the men’s traditional welt 6″ steel toe model to be a fantastic work boot. It benefits from old-fashioned Goodyear welt construction – if you don’t know what that is, it’s a guarantee that your shoes have been manufactured with the greatest care and attention to detail. It’s also a brilliant comfort feature.
These shoes will resist static electricity and guard against electrical shock, and benefit from a padded collar for extra comfort. They barely miss the special EVA cushion flex from the EVA midsole found in the Carhartt men’s CMF6366 model, and they offer that additional protection only steel will give you. Great manufacturer, great boots.
Another top choice for stylish electricians everywhere, Dr. Martens knows how to produce a good-looking work boot that does the job and stands the test of time. The care this manufacturer puts into improving the longevity of its shoes is legendary, and that quality offsets the sometimes high price tag.
The Dr. Martens Icon 7B10 is a fantastic example of the careful craftsmanship this brand offers as well as being a masterpiece of workplace protection. No electrical circuit will threaten your feet with the powerful rubber soles and luxurious full-grain leather design, while there’s no denying the boot’s gorgeous aesthetics.
A frequent concern when you buy Dr. Martens for the first time is that their design isn’t appropriate for wider feet. We recommend that you give them a try, but also appreciate that comfort is everything in a work environment, and you should find a shoe that fits neatly.
Irish Setter specializes in workboots that balance comfort, weight, and security. This manufacturer uses top-quality materials and techniques to produce footwear that will last for years and can carry you through a long working day with minimal soreness.
One of this brand’s top steel toe shoes can be found in its Ely range, which combines superb waterproofing with a lightweight design and top-class steel protection. They also benefit from a very traditional design that won’t scuff easily and will maintain its attractive appearance for a long time.
Overall, it’s a great shoe for electricians and comes from a trusted manufacturer that has its craft down to a fine art.
Choosing the Best Electrical Hazard Shoes
Protecting yourself from electrical hazards is rule #1 of working as an electrical professional. Several great manufacturers produce the right footwear for the job – the trick is finding one that is comfortable on your foot and offers a level of protection that keeps you safe in your workplace.
Steel-toe boots provide the highest level of security you can find in footwear. High-quality steel toe shoes offer complete protection against electrical mishaps and keep you safe from so much more. That’s why they’re an enduring favorite among electrical professionals and a great choice for your next pair of work boots.