Spotlight on Safety: How to Read the Safety Symbols on Work Boots

Posted: 5/8/2017

How to read symbols on workboots

Are you wondering what the symbols on the various types of safety footwear mean? The symbols are given by accredited laboratories and organizations which do the testing of the safety type and levels of safety provided in accordance with the requirements of a number of national as well as international standards. The testing is done for a multitude of hazards, including slippage, toe protection, metatarsal protection, puncture resistance, electrical hazard protection, electrical conductivity, static safety, chainsaw safety and others. The suitable safety footwear and the other personal protection equipment for each profession and workplace vary depending on the possible hazards and the level of risk on the job.

When choosing safety work boots, always make sure that they carry the symbol for the type and level of protection you need. Boots without symbols have not passed the testing and could be dangerous to wear on the job.

safety symbols on boots

Infographic by MyBootprint

Here are the main symbols for safety footwear in the US and Canada and their meaning

• The letter "R" is in place of the name of the accredited institution or organization which has

Yellow Triangle Safety Symboltested and approved the shoe. 


• The symbol with a green triangle indicates that the shoe has been tested and approved for class 1 toe cap impact resistance of up to 125 joules as well as puncture resistant soles. This type of shoe is a suitable choice for construction workers, and people who work in the heavy industries where there are hazards of rolling or falling heavy materials and tools, as well as potentially dangerous sharp objects which one can step on and get injured.

• The sign featuring a white square containing an orange omega symbol is for testing and approval done for electrical hazard protection. These boots are for electricians, as well as all other people who work in conditions where there is a risk of getting in contact with live electrical currents.

• The mark which has a yellow square containing the letters "SD" is for testing and approval

SD Rectangle

 for antistatic qualities. This type of shoe should be worn by people who are at risk of accumulating static electricity causing the malfunction of electronic equipment. The sign also means that the soles of the shoes dissipate the accumulated electrostatic charge in a controlled manner, so at to control the static conductivity.

• A mark with a red square with the letter "C" and the sign for grounding is awarded to shoes which have successfully passed the tests for electro-conductivity. Such shoes should be worn in places where a risk of low electrical hazard exists.

• The sign which features a white square containing a green fir tree is given to footwear which has successfully passed the testing for resistance to cutting machines and chainsaws. Such shoes are a must for people in the line of forestry, loggers, and others who use such dangerous equipment.

• The sign which has a white "R" on a blue background is for testing and approval of class 1 toe cap protection of up to 125 joules. Such footwear though doesn't have puncture resistant soles.

• The mark with a black "R" on a gray background indicates that the footwear provides class 2 toe protection for an impact of up to 90 joules, and no puncture resistance.

Choosing the appropriate footwear for every profession is crucial. Good quality, tested and rated shoes and boots can literally save the life of the worker, and protect him or her from mild to serious and in some cases debilitating injuries.

It is important to buy shoes which carry the mark for the type and level of protection you need for your specific job and in accordance with the potential hazards and levels of risk at your workplace.

Only accredited laboratories can do the testing and approval of safety footwear. The tests are done in accordance with a variety of different safety standards, laws and rules. Only the footwear which passes these tests receives one or more of the safety symbols, so make sure you pick wisely and read the symbols right when you are purchasing work boots for yourself or for your employees.

Safety footwear will ensure that the productivity at the job is not affected by injuries, possible sick leave and time and expenses for recovery, and of incidents which lead to fatalities at work.

Michael Pierce is the co-founder and editor of Mybootprint and Shoematters.  Visit his websites for in-depth reviews and recommendations of comfortable and durable work boots for every job.

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