Rock Fall’s range is largely constructed using 100% non-metallic components. Fibreglass toe caps are manufactured in the same way as steel ones, using a compression machine.

But what would you choose, fibreglass or steel toe caps? The differences, benefits, pros and cons are subjective. It’s been widely debated in the industry.

Paul Wilson, Marketing Manager at Rock Fall UK, presenting the pros and cons between metallic and non-metallic toe caps in this short article:

Q: Is there a difference between two materials?  

A: The injection moulded thermoplastic toe caps have a different manufacturing method and our research shows that Fibreglass toe caps can give the wearer 26.5% more space for their feet! (This is calculated from circumference, height, radius and area).

Q: How are the fibreglass and steel toe caps tested? Are there any differences?

A: Both toecaps are tested in line with EN 12568:2010 for 200J Impact testing.

It’s a little-known fact that Fibreglass toecaps are also Thermal Aged tested separately at both low (-20°C) and high (+60°C) then 200J Impact tested. They are also separately exposed to Alkali, Acid and Fuel Oil and 200J Impact tested.

Q: Aren’t Steel toe caps stronger?

A: For years, steel safety toes have been the old tried and true method for protecting the feet of countless workers on the job.

Steel and Fibreglass toe caps that are certified to EN ISO 20345:2011 have been tested to 200J force of energy as per EN ISO 20344:2011 test methods. Typically, when testing steel toecaps they compress within tolerance; whereas, in our experience, Fibreglass toecaps rebound and dissipate shock more effectively. This is verified in tests conducted with ITS and other testing houses and notified bodies for the PPE regulation.

Q: What would happen if there was enough force to crush the toe cap materials?

A: There is minimal research into the amount of force required to crush to failure either material. However, there have been a number of reports of industrial accidents that Steel toecaps have crushed leading to amputation or subsequent need to amputate, whereas a Fibreglass toecap,  under the same impact, has shattered causing significant damage but reducing the likelihood of required amputation.

Q: What are some of the most important benefits of switching from steel toecaps to fibreglass toecaps?

A: The nature of the material means that Fibreglass toecaps are non-conductive of current or temperature.

Most importantly, because of this non-conductivity, they do not conduct electrical currents like steel does so it is much safer to use fibreglass toecaps in trackside environments, both under and overground.

The non-metallic fibreglass toe cap will not set off metal detectors. Although this is perhaps an obvious point, they are less intrusive in airports or in the presence of other detectors equipment.

Steel toecaps get cold when it’s cold and in extreme temperatures get hot when it’s hot. Ask your wearers how it feels to put a pair of Steel toecaps on when they’ve been left out in the van during the cold months!

Thank you to our guest blogger, Paul Wilson, for lending his time and expertise in safety footwear. Watch this space for some interesting research on the limitations of both materials.

Disclaimer: The information provided through Greenham Pulse is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Greenham Pulse is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.