Steel toe boots are mandatory in certain instances by law. Sometimes serious work boots may be suggested or required by your employer for safety purposes, even if not required by law.

The latter is determined by your employer alone, so that would be something you had to take up with them. However, there are federal regulations that cover use of steel-toe and composite boots, so it's good to be aware of those things.

Boots are classified as personal protective equipment, aka PPE, and steel toe boots and composite toe boots are definitely a class of it. There are, therefore, a number of regulations about their use.

Perhaps a better way to phrase the question is WHEN are steel toe boots mandatory, or better yet, "are steel toe boots mandatory for my job?" And in that case…

OSHA And Steel Toe Boots

can steel toe boots be mandatory

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has the following to say about use of steel toe boots.

OSHA code 1910, Subpart I, section 136 states that employees have to protective footwear when:

"...working in areas where there is a danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, or objects piercing the sole, or 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."

So, in other words, protective footwear such as steel toe boots, is required if anything heavy can land on your feet, sharp objects can puncture the sole, or if there's a hazard of electrical shock.

OSHA also lays out requirements for steel toe boots (as well as other protective footwear) in that they cede to the ratings established for such footwear by the American Society for Testing and Materials International, aka the ASTM.

Nobody knows what the "A" stands for anymore; since it's now an international body, it's not really an "American" group for testing but one digresses.

In other words, if anything bad can happen to your feet, OSHA regulations state that an employer can and/or has to mandate that you wear protective equipment. A prime example of this is wildland firefighters who need good fire boots to protect their feet while on the job.

Therefore, anyone to whom that applies technically has to wear PPE at work.

Do I Have To Wear Steel Toe Boots If My Employer Says So

do you have to wear steel toe boots

If your employer requires employees to wear steel toe boots, chances are there's a good reason for it. If they say you have to, you definitely should.

If an employer requires use of steel toe or composite toe boots at work, you may wonder if they can even require you to do so.

The relevant OSHA regulation is quoted above. If your job is, in any way, described by that language, then your employer can absolutely require use of PPE on the job site.

Is there anything at work that could hurt you if it fell on your foot? Is there anything in the work place that could injure your feet? Then steel toe boots can be required if OSHA regulations are interpreted that way.

Of course, then you have "conditions of employment," and compliance with PPE requirements would definitely be one of them.

Protective equipment, as well as a good pair of custom work boots made for the task, keeps employees from getting hurt. While it does mean that PPE reduces workplace injuries and therefore keeps employees at work and being productive, it also keeps you from getting hurt.

Yes, you have to pay for them unless your employer gives you a stipend and not all do, but that doesn't mean it isn't still a necessary and proper precaution to make.

It's kind of like the "right of way" and a crosswalk. Sure, you might have the right of way as a pedestrian, but having that right of way justified in court would mean you had to get hit by a car first. Vindication is great, but not getting run over is definitely better.

So if your employer requires you to wear steel toe boots, chances are that it's a really good idea and they probably have every right to ask that you do so. Granted, it would be swell of them to give you a boot allowance to buy them.

Invest In Good Steel Toe Boots If You Have To

If you have to wear steel toe boots for work, investing in a great pair of work boots with a protective toe is going to pay off so much more in terms of your health, comfort and safety than just getting any pair.

Start with a great pair of boots to begin with, and you won't have the negative experiences that so many people associate with steel toe boots.

You want to start with a pair of boots that are made for your feet, and built so that your feet have the support to keep you on them all day without causing discomfort. Sufficient arch support will make sure you feel less fatigue, and don't suffer foot injuries common with poor quality footwear.

A toe box that fits and allows your toes to move around as they should with a steel toe is easier to talk about than it is for many bootmakers to make.

That's why it's critical to find a pair of steel toe boots that fit you rather than merely being offered in your size. Custom fitting is the most reliable way to make sure you have that.

So if you do have to wear steel toe boots for work, make sure to invest in a quality pair. Investing in your own comfort and safety will always be a smart decision.