Are The ASTM Footwear Meetings On The Right Path?
How fitting is this? Anaheim California, home to Disneyland, playing host to this month’s ASTM safety footwear meetings. Just like the famous theme park, the meeting was part roller coaster, part big business, part Mickey Mouse and at its core, deeply human. Overall, it is important for us to attend these meetings so we can provide design and testing recommendations to our work boot partners. Yet in my opinion, the ASTM Technical Committee Meetings may do a better job of reaching their goal of “enhanc(ing) performance and help(ing) everyone have confidence in the things they buy” by implementing a few process tips that involve research, design, prototype and testing.
But first, let’s cover the met-guard protection part of the business. Even though Mickey’s shoes are flexible, comfortable and vivid yellow like XRD® materials, they are not ASTM F2413 approved safety shoes for metatarsal protection.
ASTM F2412 Notes
- The ASTM F2412 standard covers how to test protective footwear including electrical protection, toe caps, metatarsal protection and puncture resistance.
- This standard is up for the ASTM mandated 5 year review, and the committee put the final touches on some revisions that will go to vote in the next couple of months.
- The revisions did not include any changes to the existing testing for met guards.
- There was a lot of discussion about the testing and possible changes, but they will come about at a future point.
- The most popular suggestion is using a 1” cylinder of modeling clay, in a molded insert to measure the deformation during testing, replacing the existing wax footforms. This is going to be tried during the next few months.
ASTM F2413 Notes
- The ASTM F2413 standard defines what the results of this testing must be, in order to certify protective footwear.
- This standard is up for its 5 year review this year as well, and the committee defined some changes that will be made, and discussed changes to the met guard spec. But none were settled on because there is no good bio-mechanical testing to suggest what is acceptable.
- While it seems that there is a clear desire to upgrade the protection assured by the spec, it’s not clear what that change will be.
- I suspect it will be at least 2 years before a more stringent specification is in place.
A Path Towards Improving Efficiency and Effectiveness
It’s my opinion that improving this (and other committee-determined standards) in a reasonable way shouldn’t be difficult. We do this kind of work all the time at the XRD Impact Institute.
The stated goal of the standard is to protect workers feet from a 50 pound hard weight dropped from the waist. It wouldn’t be hard to get some good data on the impact needed to break a metatarsal bone. Labs at Wayne State, University of Virginia, and USC specialize in getting this kind of data.
Then we simulate the 50 pound, 2.5 foot drop, and measure the force transmitted through a work boot, and correlate that to movement of clay, or wax, or perhaps something else.
At least in theory, this could be straight forward. It gets complicated because there are a lot of people and interests who need to agree to a fairly radical change. We have footwear manufacturers, testing facilities, wearers, and industrial hygienist who need to come to consensus. It takes time, but it can be done, and we’re on our way.
I was struck by how the ASTM meeting was like a microcosm of humanity, much like I’ve seen at Disneyland. Lots of activity and excitement, and some opposing forces of human nature as well. Members are really glad to reconnect with one another, often sharing baby pictures or old stories like one might at a family reunion. Folks are working to push their own feelings or agendas, but try to be careful not to step on any toes. There’s lots of excitement over improvements, but also a reluctance to change. There’s a desire to make testing replicate real life, but also be easy and inexpensive.
Over all, I’d say it was an E ticket.
Definitely an E ticket.