Choosing Slip-Resistant Footwear

Jan 11, 2022
by Julie East

Recently, my daughter accepted a position at a local veterinary clinic.  Besides having to order scrubs as part of her uniform, she needed slip-resistant shoes. My thought…aren’t all shoes slip-resistant? Apparently, there is a host of slip-resistant footwear on the market, and choosing the right one for the conditions can be very difficult.

Choosing the right footwear has to take into account a number of factors in addition to slip resistance, such as comfort, durability and any other safety features required, like toe protection. The safety features of footwear are tested according to a set of European test standards and will be marked with one of the following codes:  SRA, SRB or SRC.

The codes indicate that the footwear has met the specified requirements when tested as follows:

  • SRA – tested on ceramic tile wetted with dilute soap solution;
  • SRB – tested on smooth steel with glycerol;
  • SRC – tested under both the above conditions.

The final choice on your footwear may have to be a compromise. Consider these when choosing slip-resistant shoes:

WHAT IS THE ENVIRONMENT?

When selecting the right footwear for the job, it’s important to know what the floor environment will be. Shoes designed to be slip-resistant in wet, outdoor conditions may not be effective on a shop floor coated with oily overspray or chemicals. Likewise, shoes designed for hospital or restaurant workers dealing with water or food-based oils may quickly degrade in industrial cutting oils.

Fortunately, the slip-resistant footwear market has grown significantly over the past decade giving consumers many different options for different work environments.  Generally, a softer sole and close-packed tread pattern works well with fluid contaminants and indoor environments. A more open pattern works better outdoors or with solid contaminants. The only sure way to tell is to test footwear in your environment. A label of ‘Oil-resistant’ on a shoe does not mean ‘slip-resistant’.  Oil-resistant is just a statement that the soles will not be damaged by oil.

LOOK AT THE SOLE

No single tread pattern is necessarily better than another. Although shoe manufacturers have a lot of material to explain how features of their tread patterns help improve safety, it’s important to understand how those features actually help with slip resistance.

  • Super-deep treads or patterns with a lot of voids can feel unstable. Choose a shoe with a grip that hits the ground firmly.
  • The more channels, the better. Tread tunnels channel water or oil away from the shoe. When you step in a liquid, it will choose the path of least resistance. If the tread has lots of channels or pathways to facilitate flow, it will provide a safer step.
  • Circular grips help prevent hydroplaning better than square or triangular-shaped grips.
  • Tread patterns can become clogged with waste or debris. Soles should be cleaned regularly. If your soles clog up frequently, look for an alternative design of tread with a wider space between the cleats and a deeper tread pattern.

No shoe is slip-proof. Just like with safety earplugs, glasses, gloves and other PPE, slip-resistant shoes help to reduce hazards and improve safety. And like those other PPEs, shoes don’t last forever. Safety footwear should be replaced from time to time. Establishing a regular change-out schedule helps ensure that shoes aren’t worn past their prime.

HOW CAN LOFTON SAFETY HELP?

Workers have a right to a safe workplace. If you have questions regarding safety issues or training, contact Lofton Safety Services at 337-330-2642 or info@loftonsafety.com. For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers’ Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit www.osha.gov.

About Lofton: Founded in 1979, Lofton Services offers clients the best of all worlds. We provide the responsive, personal service and flexibility of a small local firm while having the technology, resources, and infrastructure to deliver the benefits of the biggest players in our industry. Lofton can deliver the right people, with the right skills, right when you need them. Contact us today.