Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Ask CJ: steel-toed boots?

From the inbox, a good safety question:
Do most industrial labs require some sort of steel-toe or composite toe shoe to do routine synthesis lab work?  
Answer: not that I've seen. If you have a kilo-lab environmental or higher scales, I imagine that steel toed boots become more important. Readers, what have you seen?

(I should take this moment to note that for women readers, this is a nice Twitter thread with recommendations for steel-toed boots/shoes that work well.) 


  1. It's been required by all three of my employers. You get one pair at hire and another pair (usually from the "shoe truck") once a year. It's not just about being steel-toed, but cross-contamination as well. Generally I try to have a heavier pair for the lab that gets pretty dirty, and a cleaner, lighter, more professional-looking pair that I use when customers may be about.

  2. I worked at two R&D centers that were just labs and no production. One company had a shoe truck that came periodically, but only required them for people doing special tasks like moving drums, so the average lab chemist didn't need them. The other company required them for everyone, but I wore regular leather dress shoes and no one noticed. Most people wore safety shoes that looked like dress shoes, rather than work boots.

    Another employer was a combination lab and plant facility. We needed steel toed boots to walk onto the plant floor, and the main concern was fork truck traffic rather than chemical exposure. I wore work boots every day because I had reason to go onto the floor frequently.

    In my current job, I keep a pair of steel toed boots in my office for occasional trips to the plant or business trips to sites that require them.

    I'm not a fan of safety shoes that look like dress shoes. If I'm forced to wear safety shoes, I prefer work boots. They're extremely useful outside of work, while safety-toed dress shoes pretty much have to be thrown out when you're done using them in the lab. I wear my newest pair of boots at work, and the older ones are great for yardwork, home repair, etc.

    If your company isn't under contract with a safety shoe vendor and you're allowed to choose a brand, I recommend Red Wing boots. Expensive, but extremely durable and high-quality. Their store workers are well-trained and helpful.

  3. Do you worry about the steel toe part getting bent and trapping your foot? (You may have other significant worries if this happens, but...)

    1. Just last week, I did some destructive testing with a pile of my old steel-toed safety shoes. The results suggested that the events that would compromise a compliant safety toe would be highly problematic for a non-safety-toe-shod foot.

      3000 PSI pressure washer with zero degree tip--lifted leather off safety toe, otherwise no failure

      Sawzall with metal-cutting blade--slight groove in safety toe, no failure (and that only because the shoe was in a vise)

      Angle grinder with metal-cutting wheel--eventual failure (I had to secure the toe, out of the shoe, in a vise and hold the grinder against it for a while--maybe 30-45 seconds?--to get any penetration at all)

      Framing hammer--maybe a slight deformation (1/16"?) when hit repeatedly with all my strength

      4# masonry hammer--deformation (1/4") when hit repeatedly (again, as hard as I could)

      8# sledge hammer--deformation to failure (again, as hard as I could)

      Loosely, I think this is a replication of what Mythbusters found with heavy weights in a drop rig.

    2. I'm happy to help!

      Seriously, it was a lot of fun.

  4. We are required to have steel-toe boots or shoes to work in the lab. Our site works from research scale to high volume manufacturing. The labs have walk-in hoods and we bring solvents into the lab in 55-gallon drums using a hand truck style drum cart. Sometimes we need to use hydraulic pallet jacks for large steel cylinders that have the more reactive materials.

    The boots and uniforms are required to stay onsite. The company gives you a voucher to get the boots at a local provider. The uniforms get washed by an external company.

    Not sure why we are required to have steel-toes. I have been to other non-chemical company’s warehouses and the only requirement was close toed shoes and they have pallet jacks and fork lifts. In the state next-door, I used to work with pallet jacks as a dock worker at a large department store and I did not need steel-toes. I would have to guess it is because of the 55-gallon drums, they can be 300 to 500 pounds. The dichloromethane drum is heavy, almost 700 pounds when it is full.

  5. We have different regulations for different parts of the site. In labs, only requirement is close-toed, non-athletic shoes (to slow down absorption from spills). Other parts of the site require steel-toed shoes due to large equipment being used. We also have the shoe truck.

  6. Where I work, which is one of the largest biotech's in the world, my manager and senior scientists all came to the agreement that we need to have safety toed shoes (composite, aluminum, or steel) AND waterproof to protect against spills. I personally hate boots, steel toed or otherwise, so every day I shake my head when I'm swapping out shoes at my desk.

    I am of the opinion that only if I were working in kilolab or pilot plant or larger, that we should need to have these things. A hood should capture most stuff and the likelihood of a spill on my shoes is probably lower than a spill onto the 2-3 feet of my exposed pants coming from underneath my Nomex lab coat.

  7. Yes, but the operational lab is in the production clean room which is shared with heavier stuff. So, it is not necessary for the lab itself, but since you are in the environment - it is mandatory.

  8. I've worked in both lab and plant engineering roles at GSK in the UK, and for day to day lab work safety shoes are not required.

    The exception is one lab area where we use hydrogen lecture bottles for a continuous gas-liquid reactor but that's to mitigate the fire risk from static electricity rather than physical protection of the feet. In plant areas safety shoes are mandatory, part of the basis of safety for flammable atmospheres, again mainly to ensure that staff are grounded and reduce the risk of static discharge but also for physical protection.

    Personally, I still have my safety shoes from my plant job, and wear them in the lab when I'm doing anything on a reasonably large scale - if I do have a spill I'd rather not damage/contaminate my own shoes. My shoes have composite toecaps so they're a lot lighter and more comfortable to wear than steel ones - I'd highly recommend the 'Himalayan' brand, they're great for wearing all day.

  9. Let me ask: I'm a male nurse, I need to buy a pair of men's nursing shoes Good, now I'm wearing uncomfortable nurse shoes, can you tell me some more online shopping sites that sell good shoes?


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20