EU footwear standards

28 March 2004

A joint initiative between European standards organisation CEN and International Standards Organisation ISO, new standards for safety footwear for sale throughout the EU have been confirmed. They incorporate changes to Europe's original footwear standards, now twelve years old, to better reflect new manufacturing methods and testing procedures. The new standards represent the minimum requirements for CE marking safety footwear and Satra held a seminar to explain the implications of the new standards. Peter Doughty said one of the major differences involved a change in testing environment which may affect test results. One subject covered at the seminar was materials tests and requirements to meet EN ISO 20344/5/6/7. Upper properties tested include tear strength, tensile strength, water vapour permeability (WVP), water vapour coefficient (WVC), flexing resistance and hydrolysis. Changes to the previous standard concerning upper leather include the following: * All test pieces shall be conditioned in a standard atmosphere of 23°C and 50% relative humidity * Chromium VI (hexavalent chromium) shall not be detectable * The pH value shall not be less than 3.2. If below 4, the difference figure shall be less than 0.7 * Water vapour permeability (WVP) shall not be less than 0.8mg/cm2 h * Water vapour coefficient (WVC) shall not be less than 15mg/cm2 * Using the Bally Penetrometer, maximum 0.2g cloth uptake after one hour and water absorption of upper to be 30% maximum * Tongue materials are only tested if the material is different from the upper or of a different thickness from the upper * WVP of vamp lining shall not be less than 2mg/cm2 h * WVC of vamp lining shall not be less than 20mg/cm2 * Lining must not develop any holes after Martindale abrasion testing: 25,600 cycles dry; 12,800 cycles wet. * When leather collar and insert materials are present above the specified height, they must exhibit specified lining tear strength and lining abrasion resistance and meet leather pH and leather chromium VI restrictions * Leather insock must meet leather pH and chromium VI restrictions and water absorption and desorption values as follows: after four hours, water absorption shall not be less than 70mg/cm2; water desorption shall not be less than 80% of the water absorbed, after 24 hours hanging * There is no test for upper abrasion resistance but scuff resistant coverings for the toe region must be at least 1mm thick if present Chainsaw cut-resistant uppers are a requirement in some specialised applications. Some leathers with certain finishes and types of formulated rubber offer good protection, says Satra, by causing the chainsaw to slip over the surface rather than cutting in. Such materials will not stop a saw but better types resist cut-through long enough for the operator to take avoiding action. Cut-resistant uppers are also required in some specialised industries, ie when handling large sheets of glass. Here the cut-resistance can be improved in many ways. Typical examples include using particularly thick leather/linings or incorporating specialised cut-resistant fibres in the upper construction. The test involves a small rotary blade being driven back and forth across the surface of the specimen until it penetrates the full thickness of the sample. The number of cycles needed to cut through indicates cut resistance. Keith Parker asked: 'What level of testing demonstrates due diligence?' His advice is that the appropriate frequency and quantity of sampling must develop over time, based upon the manufacturer's experience and specified sampling procedures. Only then, he says, will an effective due diligence system be in place, demonstrating consistent quality and performance throughout each and every production batch. He also suggests using the Satra Global Quality System.

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