Are the employers responsible for buying their employees work boots (UK vs US)?

The situation in the US

us-mapIn the USA, the employer is responsible for providing the employees with safety work boots, in the cases in which there are serious hazards at the work place which could cause injuries to the feet of the people working there. This is regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the Ministry of Labor. The conditions considered hazardous and require the use of protective footwear, according to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) are those where there are risks of actual foot injuries, such as: puncturing, spraining, lacerations or crushing by falling or rolling objects, as well as risks of electrical hazards (static discharge or electric-shock hazard).  The protective work boots should comply with the relative ASTM standards, which means that they should be properly market and tested for compliance during the manufacturing process. The current ASTM standards which need to be taken into consideration when purchasing safety work boots are:  ASTM F2412-11 (Standard Test Methods for Foot Protection) and the ASTM F 2413-11 (Standard Specification for Performance Requirements for Protective (Safety) Toe Cap Footwear).

In simple terms that means that if you work in the logging industry – one of the most dangerous industries in the world, then you should wear special high-quality logging boots like these.

The situation in the UK:

uk-mapIn the UK, the Personal Protective Equipment and Work Regulations require that the employers ensure that the employees have the appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) including safety work boots, in cases when there are actual risks of hazards in the workplace, according to a risk assessment. According to these regulations, the hazards to take into consideration include: wetness, slippage, electrostatic build-up, falling heavy objects, chemical or metal splashing and abrasion. All protective footwear should be marked with the CE mark, which ensures that the safety requirements have been met through testing and certification.

The regulations also require that not only is the employer responsible for providing the safety and protection equipment and footwear, but is responsible for its proper maintenance. Routine checks of the protective footwear, clothing and other equipment needs to be made by the employer or an authorized person. Anything which is damaged needs to be replaced.

The employers in the UK are not responsible for the protective gear and safety footwear for subcontractors working at their site. This is the responsibility of the subcontractors themselves.

Although, if a risk assessment finds that the hazards and risks at the workplace are properly controlled by other means, then the requirement for providing protective gear for the employees is not valid.

Conclusion

Of course, it is better to be safe rather than sorry and make sure all measures are taken so that the workplace is as safe as possible for all employees and other people who enter it. It is crucial to perform a serious risk assessment, and it is recommended that the employers hire an independent authority, organization or consultant to perform a professional and objective risk assessment for them.

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