Both metal and non-metal toe caps can pass the required European standards to protect your feet in the workplace but are either better than the other. The below discussion will address this question as well as highlight which alternatives are more appropriate for various applications or work environments.
Steel toe cap (STC) safety footwear are the worlds classic protective footwear. They come with heavy-duty STC and some styles also offer a steel midsole which is an extra plate of steel for extra protection. STC safety footwear offers the highest heavy impact and puncture protection but this comes with added weight and electrical conductivity.
Composite toe caps (CTC) safety footwear has evolved due to manufacturers pursuit of a more modern and improved alternative to the traditional STC safety footwear. CTC safety footwear in non-metallic and non-magnetic as well as being lighter in weight than STC safety footwear. CTC are commonly manufactured from fiberglass and carbon fibre. An advantage of CTC safety footwear is that they will not interfere with metal detectors.
CTC safety footwear is approximately 30% lighter in weight than STC safety footwear therefore CTC safety footwear generally offers the wearer greater comfort and is ideal for employees who are required to stand for long periods of time. Although CTC safety footwear is lighter in weight the footwear typically is bulkier than the STC alternatives as the CTC has to be thicker to meet compression and safety standards. This results in STC safety footwear being able to be designed sleeker than CTC counterparts and presents a better aesthetically pleasing appearance.
With regards to puncture and heavy impact protection STC safety footwear outperforms CTC safety footwear. STC safety footwear can hold a larger load or higher impact before cracking or shattering therefore STC safety footwear is recommended for work environments which encompass heavy hazards. Furthermore STC safety footwear scores higher when it comes to puncture resistance. Many workers avoid STC safety footwear as there is a false belief that the STC could cut off the wearers toes if enough pressure is applied, this is a myth. Without a STC present the wearer will be far worse off than with safety footwear that has a STC.
When undergoing testing, CTC safety footwear can withstand the same rate of compression, and type of impact as STC safety footwear. However, during heavy impacts footwear with a CTC will crack and shatter internally but from the outside no visible damage will be present. Thus, it is highly recommended to replace any CTC safety footwear after high impact as the boot is practically useless for the provision of protection.
In terms of insulation CTC safety footwear does not conduct heat or cold unlike a STC safety alternative. In other words, STC safety footwear can get extremely uncomfortable in extreme temperatures. Resultantly CTC safety footwear is the best option for work environments involving high heat or low temperatures.
Considering conductivity, CTC safety footwear is the recommended. Work environments encompassing high-risk electrical components CTC safety footwear lack any metallic components and make them safe around live wires. Although CTC safety footwear is best for electrical applications, certain STC safety footwear pass the electrical hazard ISO test as well. Safety footwear that passes the test will be stamped with an EH sign on the packaging. In order to past the electrical hazard ISO test safety footwear needs to withstand 18 000 Volts at 60 cycles per min (60 Hz) in dry conditions for no longer than a period of 1 minute.
When considering pricing, STC safety footwear is typically cheaper than CTC safety footwear and most manufacturers will not refund or provide a warranty on CTC safety footwear as it is impossible to ascertain if they have suffered any heavy impact.
In conclusion the choice between which safety footwear is best will depend largely on the nature of the job or work being performed. The below questions to consider will assist in determining which safety footwear is suited.
- Is heavy machinery present in the work environment,
- Is their a risk of heavy falling objects,
- Is their a electrical hazard present in the work environment,
- Does the wearer stand on their feet for the majority of the day,
- Does the wearer work in an extreme cold or high heat environment,
- Is their metal detectors present in the work environment.
Popular CTC safety footwear options include (click on name of shoe below to view product details):
- Caterpillar Resorption
- Caterpillar Diagnostic
- Caterpillar Excavator
- Bova Atlantis
- Bova Columbia
- Bata Performance
- Interceptor Welding Imara
- Rebel DynaPro
- Rebel WorkPro Occupational
- Rebel Jigga
Prepared by Maryke Jonker – 09.10.2020