By the end of 2021, the future PPE footwear standards should be approved and published. Currently at the formal vote, it is now possible to make an inventory of all the technical changes brought about by these new texts.
Initiated in the late 1980s, the system of standardisation that has been put in place to assess the performance of PPE footwear (personal protective equipment) is atypical. Compared to other PPE, footwear standards have many unique features.
- It is almost completely unified; all European standards are also ISO (worldwide) standards.
- A classic PPE is put on and taken off in the presence of risk(s) or can be easily replaced, for example gloves. A PPE shoe is worn for several hours and cannot be changed quickly. Therefore, standards will assess the protective functions of the footwear but also its robustness, durability and comfort.
- One standard, EN ISO 20344, compiles all the tests that can be performed on PPE footwear.
- More than 90% of the world market is based on only two performance requirement standards
- EN ISO 20345, safety footwear (85%)
- EN ISO 20347, occupational footwear (5%)
- All other PPE footwear standards (e.g. EN ISO 20349-1 foundry footwear, EN ISO 17249, forestry footwear, etc.) are essentially based on EN ISO 20344 and 20345, supplemented by specific tests related to the associated risks.
In recent years, the market situation has changed significantly with the introduction of new materials. Users are also adapting and asking for lighter, more fashionable shoes. This phenomenon is amplified by the decrease in the share of heavy industry. All over the world, the proportion of women at work is increasing and many manufacturers are dedicating shoes for them that are adapted to their needs and morphology.
Another fundamental change is the implementation of the new European PPE Regulation 2016/425. Europe is the world leader in the use of PPE, and the arrival of this new legislation has a beneficial impact on the global market, which is looking for high-calibre PPE that meets the requirements of this new text.
EN ISO 20344-5-6-7 was published in 2011. At the end of 2017, it was decided to revise the standards. Initially, the revision was intended to be mainly editorial, such as the inclusion of new legislative requirements, correction of errors, removal of ambiguities in the text, etc.
Very quickly, technical modifications became necessary to take into account new parameters:
- Technical: new test standards, EN ISO 13287 (slip resistance) or EN ISO 22568 part one to four (toecaps and anti-perforation inserts)
- Societal: it is imperative to be able to legally cover the use of orthopaedic variations.
During 2018 and 2019, the changes were discussed by the technical committee and then approved.
The draft revisions were sent for public inquiry in April 2020. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the results of these consultations could only be assessed from January 2021. All four drafts were unanimously accepted at European and worldwide levels – minus one vote (only Italy issued a conditional refusal). All the comments made during the public enquiry were considered one by one until May 2021, and the four final drafts (FDIS) were sent to CEN and ISO for the formal vote which will take place by the end of 2021. The technical content of the revision is therefore definitively fixed and will not change.
Changes in Test Methods, EN ISO 20344
EN ISO 20344 is a catalogue of some 50 test methods which includes original methods or adaptations of existing tests for PPE footwear. The following list of changes (see table 1) may seem ‘heavy and indigestible’, but it is nonetheless critical and essential. In effect, footwear that claims compliance with the three new standards (EN ISO 20345-6-7) must have been tested with the new EN ISO 20344 test methods. A change in EN ISO 20344 will require the corresponding tests to be redone, which will involve costs for the manufacturer which could include development, preparation of new prototypes, testing, new certification, marketing, etc.
There are tens of modifications, the purpose here is to list the main ones. In particular those that will have to be carried out to obtain future EU certificates.
Why New Requirements for Puncture Resistance?
In the early 2000s, new textile puncture-resistant materials came onto the market. Manufacturers were soon using them in PPE footwear. The EN ISO 20344: 2004 test for assessing conformity was designed only for metal inserts. Notified bodies will therefore adapt the test to the new materials. The coordination of Notified Bodies (VG10) established a method which will be commonly used, and which was the working basis for the test to be included in EN ISO 20344:2011.
However, the protection provided by non-metallic anti-puncture inserts (NMAPI) remains criticised, particularly in Germany, which threatened the European Commission with a safeguard clause on this subject in 2013.
“since the publication of EN ISO 20344:2011 the number of accidents involving foot perforation has decreased”
The standardisation committees then launched a research programme in 2014 in which footwear manufacturers, NMAPI suppliers, safety research centres and notified bodies participated. The aim: to develop a new method of assessing NMAPI that will improve safety.
A new test nail was proposed (Æ-3 mm, pyramid shape) and this work was concretised by the publication of EN ISO 22568-4 in 2019. Very quickly the use of this standard proved to be almost impossible. Its reproducibility was poor, as the sharpness of the pyramid-shaped edges of the nail was almost impossible to standardise by the nail manufacturers. VG10 will advise against this standard. Further work was carried out and a new nail was defined (Æ-3 mm, conical shape). A revision of EN ISO 22568-4 will be published by the end of 2021.
From 2011 to 2021, the preventionists studied the actual situation and discovered it is quite different from the one presented by Germany in 2013. Since the publication of EN ISO 20344:2011 the number of accidents involving foot perforation has decreased. The current method is therefore generally applicable.
The standardisation committee has therefore decided that EN ISO 20344:2021 will propose two test methods for NMAPI, the first one from the 2011 version for general risks marked “PL” and a second one (EN ISO 22568-4:2021) for perforations caused by fine and sharp objects “PS”. The wearer will therefore be able to choose the type of protection associated with his or her risk by choosing an EN ISO 20345:2021 PL or PS shoe.
Changes in Requirements, EN ISO 20345 – EN ISO 20346 – EN ISO 20347
- EN ISO 20345, safety footwear (200 joules toe caps)
- EN ISO 20346, protective footwear (100 joules toe caps)
- EN ISO 20347, occupational footwear (no toe caps)
The first two documents are almost identical. Only the properties associated with toecaps (impact and compression) differentiate them. EN ISO 20345, which has the highest performances, is the most widely claimed. The market share of EN ISO 20346 footwear is very low.
EN ISO 20347 has all the properties of PPE footwear except for toe protection, and does not include a protective toe cap.
The following remarks on the evolution of EN ISO 20345 will, therefore, also apply to the other two standards.
There are tens of changes, the purpose here is to list the main changes. In particular, those changes that must be taken into account to obtain future EU certificates (see Table 2).
“EN ISO 20347 has all the properties of PPE footwear except for toe protection, and does not include a protective toe cap”
Timetable for Implementation
The final validation process has started: the formal vote.
From now on, member countries will vote but they cannot technically modify the documents. Only three kinds of votes are possible: acceptance, rejection, or abstention. Considering the previous formal votes, we can reasonably expect a smooth acceptance, probably by the end of the third quarter of 2021 and an official publication at the end of 2021 or at the beginning of 2022.
Another important point to note is that the publication of a new standard automatically revokes the previous version after six months. For the publication of EN ISO 20344-5-6-7, a transitional period of one year has been decided before the revocation of the old standards. This will facilitate the transition between the two sets of standards for the manufacturers. During this end of 2021, CTC will keep you informed on the progress of these documents.
Dr JC CANNOT
Director of Standardisation of CTC, notified body N°0075, Convenor CEN TC161 WG1 / ISO TC94 SC3 WG1