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A work shoe is not always a safety shoe

Thursday 07 October 2021

In certain occupations, personal protective equipment, short for PPE, is mandatory. These devices protect the employee, minimizing the risk of physical harm or injury in the workplace. The risks employees face are described in a mandatory Risk Inventory and Evaluation (RI&E). This plan should list personal protective equipment.

Prevention of personal injury

Personal protection concerns mainly the prevention of injuries to hands, feet, the head, eyes and ears. The degree of protection is determined by the assessed risk category. Personal protective equipment is classified into three categories; low risk, medium risk and high risk. Shoes are also classified in this category classification. However, there is a clear difference between work shoes and safety shoes.

Work shoes or safety shoes?

Safety shoes are designed to optimally protect the feet from entrapment, falling objects, sharp objects and/or hazardous substances. Safety shoes are classified in the medium-risk category. Work shoes, on the other hand, are classified as low risk. It is therefore important to purchase proper footwear. Each sector has specific requirements that shoes must meet.


Safety shoes are classified into four different classes indicated by the classification 'S'. Work shoes are classified in a similar O-class. The difference concerns toe protection. Safety shoes, unlike work shoes, always have a steel or plastic toe cap, which provides protection for the toes. Further distinctions are made according to the degree of absorption and waterproofing of the shoe. There are different standards for dry and wet working conditions. In addition to safety shoes, there are safety boots.

Personal fitting of shoes

There is an extensive collection of work and safety shoes for men and women. Good professional advice is important because in addition to safety, comfort is also important. Shoes should provide proper support to prevent physical complaints. Poor support leads to complaints in shoulders, neck and knees and puts unnecessary strain on the back. Work and safety shoes should therefore always be measured personally.

An S-class safety shoe is a work shoe, but an O-class work shoe is not a safety shoe. In construction, industry and logistics, safety shoes are an obligation. In the hospitality and care sector, O-class work shoes are mostly required.