Should Electricians Wear Steel Toe Boots?

Should Electricians Wear Steel Toe Boots

The truth is that Steel Toe Electrical Hazard Safety Shoes very well pass the ASTM Standard Electrical Hazard Protection Test just as the composite or the aluminum toe shoes. One such example of a boot is Irish Setter Men’s Ely 83608 6″ Steel Toe Work Boot

According to the letter by OSHA, it is very clear that safety toes have no relation with electrical hazard protection. The reason behind it is that the safety toe material remains inside the material of the boots or shoes and does not come in contact with the floor.

So, it does not really matter if your boots are made of steel toe; as they are still safe for you as an electrician. There is no effect of the material of the boots on the effectiveness of the electrical hazard safety features.

The only thing you need to be careful is that your steel toe should not come in contact with the floor and the only way this can happen is when you kneel down. While kneeling down, the knee comes in direct contact with the floor and the current passes from the knee to the toes and thus the steel toe than have a chance of getting electrically charged.

Can you wear steel toe boots in the electrical trade?

In a letter of recommendation, OSHA clearly states that “OSHA does not generally consider the wearing of steel toe shoes by electrical tradesmen to be hazardous, so long as the conductive portion of the shoe is not in contact with the employee’s foot and is not exposed on the outside of the shoe.” 

OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 cites ASTM F1117 shoes in the standard for protection against electric hazards.

In an interpretation letter from OSHA dated 17th March, 1993, it is stated that electrical traders does not require to wear “safety toed shoes” and further adds that if the worker wishes, he might purchase “non-metallic safety footwear that provides both foot protection and is non-conductive.” 

What are the main causes of electrocution electrical hazard?

I have listed below a few of the main causes which may lead to electrical hazards:

      • Faulty electrical appliances
      • Open circuits
      • Touching of electrical appliances with wet hands
      • Touching of electrical wires or faulty appliances with barefoot
      • Overloaded circuits
      • Improper grounding
      • Improper wiring
      • Contact with high voltage circuits
      • Unexpected electrical sparks 

Check out our guide on best steel toe boots for men and women.

Types of Shoes that Offer Electrical Resistance

OSHA states:

“Electrical hazard, safety-toe shoes are non-conductive and will prevent the wearer’s feet from completing an electrical circuit to the ground. These shoes can protect against open circuits of up to 600 volts in dry conditions and should be used in conjunction with other insulating equipment and additional precautions to reduce the risk of a worker becoming a path for hazardous electrical energy.”

Electrical Hazard shoes are manufactured with particular properties like electrical shock-resistant heels and soles. The outsoles too offer secondary protection against electrical shock from accidental contact with energized electrical circuits or parts.

All the parts that protect against the electrical shock are capable of withstanding 14,000 volts at 60 Hz for 1 minute with no current flow under dry conditions.

There are basically three types of shoes that protect against electrical shock:

1.) Electrical Hazard (EH) Shoes:

EH rated shoes are the ones which are tested by the ASTM standards for their protection against electrocution. These shoes are generally thickly insulated which prevents the wearer’s feet to come in close contact with the floor. These shoes are designed to provide protection against 600 volts of current in dry conditions.

One thing to note is that shoes made of leather will also not automatically qualify for EH rated ones, even if the shoe would provide protection against arc fire.

2.) Dielectric (DI) Shoes:

Dielectric shoes or boots are the ones that provide protection against high voltage current and are capable of resisting electric flow even in wet conditions. 

3.) Anti-static shoes:

icon-antistaticshoeThese shoes are for workers who work in environments that are sensitive to static electricity. They offer electrical resistance say between 0.1 to 1000 Mega Ohm. These types of shoes help to dissipate the accumulation of static electricity from the body and provide resistance to electrical shock from live circuits.

These shoes or boots are generally used there is more likelihood of explosions or fire. The anti-static shoes and boots are usually marked SD or ESD

SD or static dissipating shoes are the ones that minimize the build-up of static electricity in the body and in no way prevent it.

ESD or electrostatic discharge safety shoes have very low electrical resistance (say between 0.1 to 100 Mega OHM). These shoes prevent the build-up of static electric charges in the body and they do this by sending the charge to the ground.

Which one offers better electrical resistance (leather or rubber)?

Though the fact is electrical resistance capacity of the boots does not at all depends on the material of the boots, still research conducted on contact resistance between the body and points of contact of electricity such as the ground, shows that rubber is a better insulating material than leather when it comes to resisting electricity. Look at the following table:

Body part Point of contact Insulating material Resistance against electricity
Hand or foot Ground  Rubber sole 20 mega ohm 
Foot  Ground  Leather sole (dry conditions) 100 k ohm to 500 k ohm
Foot  Ground  Leather sole (wet conditions) 5 k ohm to 20 k ohm

Also, there is one more fact to prove that rubber is a better insulating material against electricity than leather and that is electricity needs the movement of electrons in a conductor and rubber lacks these free electrons. Therefore, rubber cannot conduct electricity.

Recommended Steel Toe EH Protected Boots 

Before you go, here’s a list of some shoes and boots which offer good protection against electrical shock:

1.) Irish Setter Men’s Ely 83608 6″ Steel Toe Work Boot: 

This is one such example of a work boot which is steel toe yet is EH rated.

2.) Danner Women’s Bull Run Moc Toe 6″ Work Boot: 

This boot is EH rated and its sole is made of rubber.

3.) Irish Setter Work Men’s 83912 Marshall 11″ Pull-On Steel Toe Waterproof Work Boot:

This boot too is made of steel toe caps yet offer EH protection.

What kind of boots should electricians wear?

Electricians should wear footwear that are EH rated and are manufactured with non-conductive and electric shock-resistant soles and heels that do not transmit the electricity from the circuit to the boots and to the feet.

The soles should be made of rubber specifically because rubber soles are non-conductive. Plastic equally serves the purpose as they are non-conductive too.

Also, the footwear should not necessarily have steel toe caps because that would increase the risks of electrical shock transfer from the circuit to the feet because metals are good conductors of electricity.

But if the steel toe boots are EH rated you can surely wear them during electrical works. Also, steel toe boots have not shown up any case of electric transfer as long as the metal is covered with the shoe material.

It is better if the shoes are made of leather, suede or rubber materials.

See also: Why Do Electricians Wear Rubber Gloves While Working?

Electrical safety shoes standards:

According to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269, in work environments including transmission, generation and distribution of electricity, shoes rated ASTM F1117 should be worn.

OSHA states that electricians do not necessarily have to wear shoes that have safety toes.

NFPA 70E suggests wearing of DI or EH shoes during electrical works.

Electrical safety shoes must meet ASTM 2413-2005 standards.

ASTM F1116-03 2008 is the ASTM test method for the dielectric boots and shoes.

It’s time to bid Adieu!

Well that was all about which boots should electricians wear and which they should avoid.

I hope that this article has made it clear that steel toe has nothing to do with electrical conduction until and unless the metal touches the ground directly.

That’s all for today! 

Have a great day ahead!


Stephen Luettgen
I have 12+ years of experience in construction, inspections, handy work, and currently working as a Construction Site Manager. In today’s day we spent a significant part of our time at workplace and a right work gear can have significant impact not only on your safety but also work quality.

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