Kick Contamination out of the Cleanroom

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Courtesy of Safetytoes International Inc

Safety overshoes fight contamination.

The steel toecap safety overshoe has been around for a long time. Its origins lie in the marriage between the venerable rubber galosh and a steel toecap similar to those used in many of today’s safety boots. However, the safety overshoe hadn’t evolved much before a slate of revisions entered the market recently. Confined mostly to the “shoes for visitors” market, manufacturers of safety overshoes had been avoiding failure rather than attempting success. Some thought by improving their products they would attract the attention of “the big boys” in the safety footwear business. In fact, the early products could never have been perceived as a threat to safety boots.

That has changed now because of a number of developments.

Safety overshoes in North America are incapable of attaining either an ANSI tag or a CSA label. This is due to the criteria which govern how these “badges of approval” are obtained. Nevertheless, the threat to North American manufacturers from cheaper labour market producers is challenging a corporate culture that has been gripped with compliance and fear. There is a review underway of when a costly safety boot is required and when occasional toe protection would suffice.

A study of OSHA regulations indicates a fair degree of free will in making this determination which starts with a risk study and assessment. If such a study indicates only toe protection is required, there are a number of ‘cheaper-than-safety boot’ alternatives. Since OSHA does not “approve” items of PPE many employers are now re-examining their safety policies to see if costly safety boots can be replaced by comparatively inexpensive safetytoe overshoes. In step with this trend, safety overshoes are now being evaluated for previously unnoticed attributes. A number of safety overshoe brands have been tested by the same bodies used by safety footwear manufacturers and results indicate full compliance with toe protection standards.

Plant managers in clean environments or food processing situations have begun to see anti-contamination advantages from using a product that completely encases the outer shoe. Typically, these visitor overshoes are made available for plant tours and tend to be held at locations close to the security, human resources or manufacturing departments. The rubber material that holds the steel toecap can stretch over more than one size making them versatile and cost-effective. Since they are only used within the facility the threat of bacterial contamination is reduced. Furthermore, given that the wearer’s outside shoe is protected the wearer is more likely to participate fully in anti-contamination procedures, such as shoe baths, prior to entering clean areas. Other devices may provide minimum toe protection but do nothing to prevent bacteria ‘walked’ into clean environments. Visitors or personnel using their own safety footwear may well be in compliance with safety policies but they carry contaminants too.

Apart from their ability to protect toes, safety overshoes must be sturdy enough to resist wear, tears and cuts normally occurring in industrial settings. Some thought should be given to how the overshoe accommodates the various heel types of outer shoes. For use in fighting contamination, their ability to withstand harsh treatment during sanitization is very important. Brands that can withstand regular cleaning at high temperatures should be considered paying special attention to their material composition and construction. Some designs can reduce dirt retention and all overshoes smother nasty contaminants adhering to outer shoes. A number of the safety overshoe brands have other ‘tried and tested’ safety features such as resistance to slip, acid, oil and animal fat.

Qualities such as these, and a distinct improvement in appearance, have opened new markets for these versatile and cost-effective items of PPE. No longer confined to the unregulated “shoes for visitors” market, employers are switching to the less costly safetytoe overshoe.

In Europe these products have obtained CE Approval rating, certified by SATRA the most respected footwear testing body in the world.

Patrick Smyth is CEO of Safetytoes International Inc., makers of the ‘Slipp-R’ brand of safety overshoes. 1-800-441-5481.

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