Safety Footwear Codes Explained - Safety Brands

Safety Footwear Codes Explained

Safety Footwear Codes Explained

When you’re looking to purchase safety footwear, there are several factors which need to be considered. The first thing we usually think about is looks. This is certainly important, after all we want to be satisfied in what we wear. For some people that’s it, job done. “The manufacturers description said they were safety shoes, I’m happy with the appearance and they are comfortable, let’s crack on.” But there's a little more to it than that.

So here’s a decoded guide to safety footwear codes and what you need to look out for when purchasing safety footwear.


Safety Brands style 51 black and white steel toe trainer with air cushioned sole


We’ll be decoding and discussing:

  • PPE Regulations in the UK and What You Need to Know
  • What Does EN ISO 20345 Mean?
  • The Basic Safety Codes and What They Mean
  • The Slip-Resistant Sole Codes and What They Mean
  • Our top tips when buying safety boots


PPE Regulations in the UK and What You Need to Know
Regulation (EU) 2016/425 (as incorporated into UK law) sets out the essential health and safety requirements that must be met before PPE products can be placed on the Great Britain (GB) market. The purpose of the legislation is to ensure only safe and effective products are placed on the GB market by requiring manufacturers to show how their products meet the essential requirements. It’s important for PPE to conform to this particular standard if it’s to successfully protect you from as many hazards as possible.

Here at Safety Brands, our PPE Footwear is UKCA and CE Certified, meeting the stringent testing requirements of ISO 20345:2011.

What Does EN ISO 20345 Mean?
It’s a standard that applies across the UK and Europe. Set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), it outlines the minimum and optional requirements for safety footwear. This includes slip resistance and features to protect against thermal and mechanical hazards.

The Basic Safety Codes and What They Mean
The two EN ISO standards cover different protection classes. You may have seen terms like “SB (Safety Basic)” or “SRA” which is where the shoes are tested on ceramic tile wet with a dilute soap solution. This merely refers to the extent of a hazard to which the shoe should protect against.

So, let’s decode.

  • EN ISO 20345:2011 SB (Safety Basic)

As the name suggests, this is the basic safety standard for footwear. SB rated shoes offer non-slip soles and steel toe caps to protect against 200-joule impact. They may offer additional safety features which will be indicated via other symbols.

SB is the basic safety level required, but for footwear that promotes additional safety, look out for these codes…

  • Midsole penetration protection (P)
Protects feet against sharp objects that may pierce through the sole. Footwear that meets this standard resists a penetration force of 1100N. SB-P, S1-P, S3 and S5 ratings cover this.

  • Antistatic protection (A)
Protects against static electrical charges, such as minor static shocks, but does not offer full protection from exposure to electronics or explosive work. Electrostatic Protection is needed for that.

  • Energy absorption (E)
Absorbs energy and pressure in the heel region to relieve pain.

  • Water resistant upper (WRU)
Upper is resistant to water. Does not apply to rubber or polymeric footwear.


The Slip-Resistant Sole Codes and What They Mean
Slip-resistant shoes are essential for many workplaces. They have deeper tread grooves than standard shoes and so can grip the floor more securely to prevent slips, trips and falls. Slip resistance is classified via the following codes which indicate where the shoes have been tested and thus, their level of slip resistance.

  • SRA - Tested on ceramic tile floor wet with a diluted soap solution.
  • SRB - Tested on steel floor with glycerol.+
  • SRC - Tested under both SRA and SRB conditions.

In summary, when you’re picking safety footwear, it needs to meet the basic EN ISO 20345 standards. But if you want to be extra safe at work, the optional features are always helpful.


Safety Brands Style 101 Black Safety Trainer With Steel Toe Caps And Anti-Puncture Sole


Safety Brands tips when buying safety footwear

Assess where you’re working: This is critical, you’re not going to need S4 waterproof wellies if most of your day is spent in an office with occasional visits to the shop floor where the environment is not impacted by any sort of liquids. On the flip side it would not be prudent to get just the basic SB if you’re a contractor going to different types of building sites daily where hazards can range from rusty old nails to slippery underfoot conditions (SB (P)). You must take the time to consider all the hazards you come across on a daily basis and purchase accordingly.

Fit and comfort should be high on the priority list; Take the time to make sure that your new boots/trainers fit well and feel comfortable. Many of you will be wearing these for 7-10 hours straight if not longer! Make sure that they fit well, there’s no point buying a size 8 wide fit if you have narrow feet, maybe try a 7 or look for non-wide boot. Take care when buying online that your supplier has a good returns policy available.

Aftercare: Look after your boots, let them dry at room temp if they become wet. Do not dry on a radiator as this can damage the finish on the uppers. Make sure you lace up and unlace between uses and carry a spare pair of laces. If your boots get muddy make sure you clean them with a suitable brush. No pair of boots is going to last forever but with care and attention you can get the most out of yours.

A higher price doesn’t necessarily equal greater safety. The price of safety boots can vary. Don’t automatically think that an inflated price gives you a better level of protection. This is not always the case for a higher priced safety boot, you may be paying extra for a brand name or a swanky design. You can find a pair of perfectly sound SB (P) boots with anti-slip SRA in the £35 - £45 range with the caveat that the supplier is providing tested and certified PPE. Do some research and find what's best for you.


So, now you're an expert it's time to get the perfect shoe. You know where to look...

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