Safety footwear has evolved enormously over the last two hundred years. While clogs and heavy leather boots were used by factory workers and miners in the 19th century, steel toe-cap and hobnail boots came to the fore in the first half of the 20th century. Army surplus footwear and rigger boots are just some of the products used in the years that followed.

Protective footwear has obviously moved on in light years since those times, nevertheless some of today’s poorly designed and non-compliant safety footwear can be just as uncomfortable and damaging as stiff leather hobnail boots.

The design, development and manufacture of safety footwear in the 21st century is controlled by the regulatory framework provided by the European Directives for Personal Protective Equipment (CE EN 20345:2011), which ensures that every safety footwear product is designed to offer the right protection in compliance with these standards.

While governmental regulations control safety footwear design and development, product innovation is being influenced by advances in materials technology, the uses and applications of which are being driven by behavioral safety and environmental responsibility as well as user attitudes to style, design and comfort.

For the latest brand addition to the Hultafors Group’s PPE portfolio, EMMA Safety Footwear, sustainability is the watchword. A policy of ‘100% Circularity’ in every product in the EMMA range ensures that each one is made entirely from recycled or recyclable materials added with a 100% ‘circular’ manufacturing, usage and recycling process for every shoe and boot it produces.

Importantly, this 100% Circularity policy is complemented by a service that takes back used shoes and boots for recycling when they’re replaced by new EMMA products, therefore enabling environmentally- responsible companies and individuals to make a positive footprint in their workplaces.

For the leading safety footwear brands, these are the key drivers in product design and development – as well as the fact that men and women have different on-site requirements.

There has been an increase in the use of behavioural safety or behaviour modification approaches which involve the clear understanding individual attitudes to safe or unsafe behavior at work.

For many employers, this is a key issue given that so many accidents and injuries are reported to be attributable to inappropriate or sloppy attitudes at


Peter Dumigan, Managing Director of the Hultafors Group UK, discusses how sustainability, behavioural safety and materials technology are driving safety footwear design.

work. In terms of the overall management of health and safety practices at work, effective behavioural awareness among the workforce - which comes from an effective understanding of health and safety issues - does reduce risk and injury.

For safety footwear manufacturers this issue is compounded by design and fashion influences. Comfort, aesthetics and style of products are key factors in encouraging workers to wear safety footwear – and, by association ensuring they understand the benefits of keeping their feet comfortable and protected.

It’s a highly efficient vehicle for increasing workforce participation in health and safety programmes. Thus, the resulting behaviour and individual actions can positively influence the overall health and safety culture in an organisation.

For brand leaders, ‘Performance Through Innovation’ is a key philosophy in continually modernising safety footwear and satisfying, not only regulatory requirements, but both end-user and corporate health and safety needs.

By using modern high-tech materials in product design, 21st Century health and safety is moving away from the old adage that high-protection safety footwear can come from simply having a ‘heavy boot’. Whilst there will always be ‘traditional’ work boots in any safety footwear range, the most modern safety footwear can be lightweight with sporty-looking designs if they’re made from state-of-the-art footbed materials complimented by the most modern technical fibres and quality materials in the uppers.

Nick Thorpe, Category Manager for Safety Footwear at Hultafors Group UK, said: “In terms of what inspires our product development, it’s ultimately the specific needs of professional craftsmen and women on site which have been thoroughly researched and tested. Our objective is simply to deliver the best quality safety footwear on the market”.

“While quality materials and technologies are at the heart of our product range, product design and choice has to reflect the environments in which products are worn – whatever the working environment or weather condition – to deliver safety and protection wherever our customers are”.

THE SAFETY SHOE Far from being conventional in its looks and just

the kind of design wearers will aspire to, the newest products really are revolutionary for safety shoes. Something which until now has been impossible to

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