This safety game has a lot of hurdles, doesn’t it? So naturally, when it comes to planning our PPE procurement – even when just focusing on footwear – there’s a lot to consider. And as Leticia Sanz Eguizábal addresses in her article, it’s not just the obvious hazards that you need to account for.
Hardwearing? Tick. Impact protection? Tick. Comfortable enough to wear all day, every day? Tick – hopefully! Over your career there’s a high chance you’ll be wearing your protective footwear for more hours than your favourite jeans, so you’d better hope they’re comfortable. Point being, many of us get so preoccupied with ticking the obvious boxes for requirements, that we don’t stop to think of whether the very material the boots are made of could cause more safety concerns than all the external environmental factors we plan for. Fortunately, this is an essential remit of quantitative risk assessment of goods such as footwear.
Regarding this assessment, the CTCR laboratory accredited by ENAC No. 1299 / LE2460, has the necessary competencies to carry out multiple tests, and among them is the chemical determination of chromium(VI) content in leather according to the UNE-EN ISO 17075-1 standard (colorimeter method).
Leather footwear is very important for the European industry since it represents approximately 60% of all footwear production.
“we don’t stop to think of whether the very material the boots are made of could cause more safety concerns than all the external environmental factors we plan for”
Specifically, when considering leather production for footwear at a national level across the country of Spain, leather fashion continues as the highest (64% in pairs, 83% in value), followed at a good distance by textile material footwear with (28% in pairs, 11% in value) achieving a high representation among the neighbouring producing countries. Regarding exports, leather regains prominence in the first quarter, with an estimated growth of 2.7% in inter-annual rate.
The production of leather footwear is an intensive process, both in terms of the work to create the product, and the time required to do so. In case you were under any illusions, the leather producing process is complex. Raw skins are transformed into different types of leather through a series of chemical and mechanical processes. The basic characteristics of each type of leather, such as softness or thickness, depend on the tanning process and, currently, most of the leather used to produce footwear is chrome tanned.
Chrome tanning formed the basis for the development of the leather business on an industrial scale. However, if not controlled correctly, the use of chromium in the tanning stage carries a potential toxicity risk due to hexavalent chromium, Chromium(VI). Since this material is a component in many consumer items and, unfortunately, in its manufacturing process still generates by-products and waste, the leather industry bears the responsibility of managing and controlling that potential risk. In order to comply with current sustainability standards, it is necessary to guarantee the safety of tannery workers, the environment and of the final consumers.