If you’ve ever worked in a factory, you’re bound to notice just how important safety is based on the rules that are literally pinned everywhere. One of the most common rules regards the type of boots that you wear while working in the factory, whether they be soft, comp or steel toe boots. Despite there being several different types of shoes for different industries/occasions, this article will boil down to three vital ones which may at one point be the ones stopping you from a severe electrical shock. They include:
- Electrical Hazard Boots
- Electrostatic Dissipative Boots
- Conductive Boots
These are typically your best options when you wish to protect yourself from an electrical shock. People working in high-voltage areas will probably have these since they are what ensure that no one gets electrocuted despite handling equipment which may have a live charge. The idea behind electrical hazard shoes is simple too. The surface of these boots is made from materials that are highly non-conductive, thus preventing the flow of an electric current to the ground. Whenever you come into contact with a live electric current, it usually attempts to flow through your body (since you are a good conductor of electricity) to the ground to complete the circuit. If this circuit is completed, you will experience an electrical shock which will damage your nervous system and may lead to death. However, electrical hazard boots prevent the circuit from being completed by disallowing the current to pass to the ground. The material that is used to prevent electric current from flowing to the ground is in many ways similar to what you would find as insulators on electrical cables. Most of the electrical wires in our homes are usually insulated to prevent potential hazards such as when two cables come into contact with one another. For boots to be classified as Electrical Hazard (EH), they need to be able to withstand at least 18KV of electricity at 60Hz for a complete minute. Anything that falls short of this would not be ideal for use as an electrical hazard safety boot. These boots are thus suitable if your job involves any open electrical circuits.
Electrostatic Dissipative Boots
Substituting electrical hazard boots with electrostatic dissipative boots (ESD) would be a big mistake because the dynamics of these boots are completely different. ESD boots are also the easiest to categorize wrongly and misinterpret. Unlike EH boots which prevent electricity from making a complete circuit and electrocuting you, ESD boots are made in such a way that they dissipate static electricity from your body thus reducing the chances of a static shock. Naturally, our bodies are good conductors of electricity, but they can also easily build up a static charge depending on what we do on a normal day. Walking on carpets, for example, tends to pile up some decent amount of static electricity in our bodies, and the moment we come into contact with a metallic object such as a door knob, the built-up charge will quickly leave our bodies resulting in a painful shock. The concept with the ESD shoes is to at first prevent the build up of static electricity in our bodies by dissipating as much static charge as it can. As such, ESD shoes could be thought of as doing something opposite of what EH shoes do, but with static electricity and not the normal electrical current. ESD shoes provide some weak level of protection against electrical shocks too. This is typically around 240 volts. It thus means that even with the ESD shoes, your chances of getting an electrical shock will be lowered, but anything higher would result in you getting electrocuted. These boots are thus suitable in environments where build-up of static electricity would be problematic but not entirely life-threatening. People working in electronic chip factories tend to wear these kinds of boots.
Conductive boots are the opposite of electrical hazard boots but could also fall under ESD boots. Having these types of boots when there’s a live wire lying around would be a big risk because they would instantly pass the entire electrical current through your body. Their resistance to electricity is minimal, meaning that they are more conductive than resistive. You might be wondering where such boots may be useful and why. Well, electronic chip makers use ESD and conductive boots in different sections of factories. Conductive boots are ideally antistatic boots without the electrical hazard protection. They thus remove any form of static electricity faster than ESD boots would thereby reducing the chances of sparks occurring. People working in gas stations also use these kinds of boots as any small spark could lead to something disastrous in the end. Because of their nature, conductive boots could also be come extremely dangerous if used outside the environments that they were built to be used in. Walking with these kinds of boots in a factory would be the equivalent of walking barefoot on a wet surface with several electrical cables lying around. This is because they further increase conductivity while reducing build-up of static electricity in your body. They’re normally marked as CD similarly to how static dissipative boots are marked as SD/ESD or how electrical hazard boots are marked as EH. Conductive boots are usually much harder to come by because they require special kinds of environments unlike EH boots. A person would be much safer walking with EH boots in different kinds of environments compared to CD boots
One thing to note about the two main types of boots mentioned i.e. electrical hazard boots and static dissipative boots is that they lose their effectiveness depending on certain conditions. EH boots, for instance, become less effective in wet environments. If they are also subjected to a lot of wear and tear and metallic material is lodged in the soles, their effectiveness becomes further reduced. On the other hand, ESD shoes become less effective if the boots become wet as well. They are also more effective when the soles are in contact with the surface.