By Rehan Iqbal
Beware if you work in a restaurant, hospital, nursing home or at a production plant or construction site. You probably can't just wear any shoe you think is safe. Your employer will more than likely tell you to choose shoes that meet ASTM slip-resistance standards.
What is ASTM?
ASTM stands for American Society for Testing Materials. It’s an organization that evaluates safety equipment across manufacturing, restaurant, retail, and most other industries.
Inspection of safety shoes has become an ASTM priority. This includes setting standards for slip-resistant footwear worn while working in a restaurant or at factories.
What is the ASTM Slip-Resistance Standard?
ASTM, also known as ASTM International, developed the F2913 slip resistance standard in 2012. It’s a guideline for making sure workers don’t slip and fall when on the job, provided they also adhere to precautions. For instance, you should not walk near chemical signs or wet floors. Examples of other ASTM slip ratings ASTM F1677, ASTM F3445-21, ASTM D471-16a
How is the ASTM Standard Tested?
The F2913 inspection protocol calls for testing the performance of an entire shoe. You may hear this called the “Whole Shoe Test.” The Whole Shoe Test determines how well footwear holds up in hazardous, slippery conditions.
Reaction to Contaminants (Safety Hazards)
OH&S (Occupational Health & Safety) calls substances spilled on floors “contaminants.” This refers to grease or oil, water, ice and other liquids, or soap found on the floor.
When testing footwear for the workplace, inspectors watch how the shoes react when a person walks over spilled substances. It’s not that simple, however.
Spills and substances could end up on wood, linoleum, tile, cement or dirt. For that reason, the ASTM inspection team also considers floor surfaces when testing shoe slip resistance.
The ASTM standard for slip-resistant shoes involves testing the whole shoe, not just the bottom of it. However, it’s not just about the type of footwear. It’s also about the relationship between the shoes, the floor material and any contaminants (safety hazards) found on the floor.
The “Friction” Test
The Whole Shoe Test involves both horizontal and vertical contact tests. In the process, a force of friction that happens after movement has started is measured.
The measurement taken plugs into equations that determine a surface’s “coefficient of friction” (COF) calculation. It’s a technical process that may take you at least a couple of math lessons to understand. Leave that up to the company you work for to worry about.
Keep in mind that the wet versus dry friction tests will provide varied results. You also will have to consider how shoes perform when walking on sticky floors, such as ones that have dried juice spilled on them.
Recommended Slip Resistance Standards
For employers, they may have heard of a .5 COF OSHA recommendation. This may be outdated, so you will have to watch for updated information.
The COF may vary, depending on the floor surface and the type of soles worn. You will probably want to try for a COF of between .5 and 1, depending on your industry and the hazards confronted.
Slip Resistant Vs. Non-Slip
You might see some safety shoes described as “non-slip.” There’s no such thing as a shoe that will 100 percent prevent you from slipping and falling. You still need to take other precautions when working, such as keeping the floors in your space clean and dry.
If a shoemaker does sell “non-slip” shoes, don’t expect those shoes to magically prevent you from falling. However, they will have traction on the soles that will make it easier for you to keep your balance if you feel like you are going to fall.
As it turns out, there’s no definite number for ASTM slip resistance. Mostly, watch for shoes that have traction on the bottom of them instead of a smooth outsole. When purchasing footwear for your job, stick to the approved list provided by your employer.