Testing Cold Protection According to EN ISO 20344: Is There Any Professional Footwear that Does Not Pass?

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The present Comité Européen de Normalisation (CEN) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards for safety, protective and occupational footwear EN ISO 20344–20347 classify footwear as cold protective by a pass/fail test where the limits are set for an allowed 10°C temperature drop inside the footwear during 30 min at a temperature gradient of ∼40°C. It is questionable if a simple pass/fail test of this kind provides approved footwear that really protects the feet from cooling in exposures ranging from temperatures at +18°C to as low as or even lower than −50°C. This study selected for testing some professional footwear that could certainly not be considered as cold protective. Some footwear that could be used in cold was selected with as low insulation as the not cold-intended footwear. Also, a boot intended for cold was selected to be tested according to a modified standard at a temperature gradient of 70°C. The footwear selection was based on insulation measurements with a thermal foot model. All footwear did pass the test. Although it is clear for the user that a sandal, a mesh shoe or a thin textile shoe is not cold protective, it is not as clear that an item of safety footwear, that has as low insulation as those mentioned above, could be classified as cold protective according to the present standards. Because of this, the user might have a deceptive feeling of safety and may be exposed to higher risks. As practically all professional footwear may pass this cold test, then the method/requirements should be radically changed or such a test should be removed from the standards.

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