Safety footwear, commonly known as safety shoes, are specialised shoes or boots designed to protect the wearer's feet during accidents or hazardous working conditions. In Singapore, it plays an important role in preventing occupational injuries, especially in industries with risks of falling objects, heavy loads, sharp objects, chemicals, slip hazards, and more. This article aims to provide an overview of this in Singapore, including regulations, standards, types of safety shoes, proper fitting and selection, as well as common issues.
In Singapore, the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act and its subsidiary legislation govern the requirements and standards for personal protective equipment including safety footwear. Under the WSH (Construction) Regulations, all workers in the construction industry must wear safety footwear that complies with Singapore Standards SS 586 or equivalent. Other high-risk industries like manufacturing, marine, oil & gas sectors also require workers to don certified ones.
Employers have a legal duty under the WSH Act to provide workers with appropriate personal protective equipment including safety shoes and ensure they are worn properly. Workers also have the responsibility to make correct use of issued safety gear. Non-compliance can result in stop-work orders or fines for contractors and companies. Regular inspections help enforce the regulations.
Standards for Safety Shoes in Singapore
The key standard for safety footwear in Singapore is SS 586: Part 1 – Safety and protective footwear. It specifies technical requirements and test methods for footwear protecting against impact, compression, penetration and chemical/liquid hazards.
Some key aspects covered in SS 586 Part 1 include:
Toe caps: Must withstand impact of at least 200J and compression of at least 15kN. Made of steel, aluminium or composite.
Midsoles: Provide puncture protection from below. Tested at 1100N.
Heel seats: Reinforced to prevent injury from sharp objects penetrating from behind.
Outsoles: Slip-resistant and abrasion-resistant. Tested on wet surfaces.
Upper parts: Strong and flexible material like leather or synthetic. Seams securely joined.
Footwear meeting SS 586 standards offer impact, compression and puncture protection for toes and heels, as well as slip-resistance. This protects workers from common hazards in industrial environments.
Types of Safety Shoes in Singapore
There are different types of safety shoes suitable for various work environments and risks:
Steel-Toed Safety Shoes: Most basic type with reinforced steel toe caps protecting against crushing injuries. Suitable for general construction, manufacturing, warehouses.
Steel Midsole Safety Shoes: Offers protection of steel toe caps with added puncture-resistant steel midsoles. Used where sharp objects may penetrate from below.
Electrical Hazard (EH) Safety Shoes: Made of non-conductive material like rubber or plastic composite. Insulated soles prevent electric shocks. For working with exposed electrical parts or wiring.
Chemical and Liquid Resistant Safety Shoes: Upper leather treated with polymers or replaced with chemical-resistant synthetic material. Seams are seam-sealed. Sole does not absorb chemicals. Used with chemical handling or wet work.
For maximum protection and comfort, it is important to select the right one for one's job scope and fit it properly:
Consider job hazards and environment in choosing appropriate toe caps, midsoles, outsoles.
Wear the same size as regular shoes. Try shoes on with work socks to allow for thickness.
Toes should not touch end of shoes when standing. 1/2 inch space in front is ideal.
Shoes should be firm but flexible. Walk around in them to test for comfort.
Inspect shoes regularly for wear and tear. Replace at first signs of cracks or loose fittings.
Break in new shoes gradually to condition feet. Wearing inserts can reduce impact.
Properly fitted one prevent injuries from poor support, blisters or shoes flying off during accidents. Replace shoes regularly as materials degrade over time.
While they are designed for protection, there are some issues to watch out for:
Heat stress: Steel/composite toes can trap heat. Consider breathable materials where possible.
Weight: Heavier shoes may cause fatigue over long periods. Balance with lighter designs.
Sizing issues: Poor fits cause discomfort affecting work. Ensure proper sizing during selection.
Cost: Quality shoes tend to be more expensive. Balance with budget while meeting standards.
Durability: Outsoles wear down faster than regular shoes. Inspect regularly and replace promptly.
Addressing such shortcomings through better designs, regular maintenance and sizing guidance can improve worker compliance with safety shoe policies. Proper education on issues and care can also boost safety culture.
Proper Maintenance and Care
To maximize the protective lifespan of safety shoes, it is important they receive proper maintenance and care:
Proper care extends the working life of it, saving costs of premature replacements. It also ensures foot protection is not compromised due to neglect of maintenance.
Despite precautions, some foot issues can still arise from safety shoe use:
Addressing such problems early prevents worsening that could impact worker mobility or productivity. Proper shoe fitting and foot hygiene habits can help reduce risks.
Fostering a strong safety culture is important to ensure high compliance with safety shoe policies:
With commitment from all parties, a positive safety culture nurtures voluntary compliance with foot protection rules for the benefit of workers and workplace safety overall.
Properly fitted and well-maintained ones, together with efforts to promote strong safety awareness, play a key preventive role in protecting workers from foot hazards on the job. This supports Singapore's national agenda of achieving excellence in workplace safety and health through practical protective solutions and a culture of self-motivated safety compliance. Regular evaluation helps ensure continuous improvement.
Safety shoes play an important preventive role in Singapore's industrial landscape by protecting workers from foot hazards. Following regulations, using certified footwear suitable for tasks, ensuring correct fits, and addressing issues through proper education are vital aspects of an effective safety shoe program. This helps reduce occupational injuries and supports national WSH efforts.
To enhance foot protection, new technologies are being applied in safety shoe design and manufacturing:
While newer designs may cost more initially, their improved features could boost worker acceptance and safety compliance over time, translating to fewer injuries and associated cost savings for businesses. As technologies advance, safety footwear standards may require revisions to keep pace.
Despite efforts, full compliance with safety shoe policies remains challenging due to various human and situational factors:
Addressing root causes of non-compliance through practical solutions, clear communication and positive reinforcement of safe behaviors supports
achieving higher and sustainable compliance levels over time.