by , on February 21, 2018
red background with burning question

Q: Regarding Arc Flash Hazard footwear — leather boots are recognized as adequate protection for hazards >12cal. What about insulated heavy rubber (“Mickey Mouse”) work boots?

A: Rubber insulating boots (DI) boots meeting ASTM F2413 (DI) are tested for boot characteristics and for DI characteristics.

This is done by using ASTM F1116 Standard Test Method for Determining Dielectric Strength of Dielectric Footwear as specified in ASTM F1117 Standard Specification for Dielectric Footwear.

Arc Rated Testing

There is no arc testing required by this standard or by ASTM F2413. But the three main manufacturers have tested according to ASTM F2621 in a setup we [Arcwear] designed.  We expose the boot 12 inches from the arc and expose it to 40 cal/cm² and evaluate for ignition, and melting and dripping. The three boot brands we have tested have passed this criteria.

We also put paper tissues in the boot just to evaluate for scorching, and we have observed none.  My bet is the boots would ignite at the edge at some point. But I would never worry about a boot ignition since the feet will typically never see that much energy in a T&D setting that I can envision.

What Do Use Standards Say?

NFPA 70E® in Appendix table H.2 [citing 130.7 (C)(8)] lists “Dielectric overshoes as needed” in the Two-Category approach with Arc Flash Suits. This would indicate that the committee (whose members have known about my results from conversations and from my IEEE paper on arc flash testing of various PPE) feels there is no current need to arc rate shoes. Additionally, in 130.7 (C)(10)(e) the standard goes further:

Foot Protection. Heavy-duty leather footwear or dielectric footwear or both provide some arc flash protection to the feet and shall be used in all exposures greater than 4 cal/cm².

OSHA states in the preamble to 1910.269 (2014 version) that, “The final rule removes the requirement for employees to wear protective footwear as protection against electric shock.

…OSHA is revising its general industry standard on foot protection, 29 CFR 1910.136, to require employers to ensure that each affected employee uses protective footwear when… the use of protective footwear will protect the affected employee from an electrical hazard, such as a static-discharge or electric-shock hazard, that remains after the employer takes other necessary protective measures.

Also in the preamble:

Secondary insulation normally insulates an employee’s feet from a grounded surface. Electrical hazard footwear and rubber insulating matting are examples of secondary electrical protection.

Because ASTM does not consider DI or EH shoes as primary protection, OSHA eliminated its language which implied that.  One must still use DI or EH footwear as secondary protection, but because they are never re-tested like gloves or blankets, they cannot be considered primary protection.

I know of no incidents of rubber insulating shoes failing. The data I have gives strong precedent that this kind of incident occurring would be quite difficult.

Hope this helps.

Have a question about electrical safety and standards? Ask us here OR on our forum!


Hugh Hoagland
About author:
Hugh Hoagland is the foremost tester of clothing and PPE exposed to electrical arcs and is an arc flash expert. Read more about Hugh.

2 Comments on "Is There Arc-Rated Footwear?"

RICK JOURDAN - 18 July 2018 Reply

Hello Hugh I am an electrician at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) in Cedar Rapids IA. we have put in our boot purchasing policy that the boots need to be leather for electrical arc flash purposes. We have a boot truck that comes to our plant that has all kinds of boots on it. They have some leather boots that have some nylon areas along the tongue and some that have nylon in the lower part. The question becomes how much nylon can there be. they have some leather boots that have a rubber covering over the steel toe and he is telling me there is no leather behind the rubber. So that was another question. Wondering your thoughts? thanks Rick

    Hugh Hoagland
    Hugh Hoagland - 2 August 2018 Reply

    The NFPA 70E standard says "leather" and doesn't mention ANY nylon other than prohibiting it in apparel. I have tested many shoes which look like running shoes and they can ignite. I haven't seen a lot of the nylon tongues ignite up to about 40 cal but the ones I have tested are NEW. I'd really avoid full nylon shoes. Pretty unlikely to have shoes negatively involved in the arc but we know leather and ASTM D1117 rubber insulating shoes do well in arc flash.

Leave a Reply