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A new standard for public order boots

Recent revisions to the British standard for footwear designed to offer protection against violent attack.

by Peter Doughty

Image © Mediaimagephotoigraphy |

There are a number of occupations where there is a significant risk of being attacked. These include front-line police force personnel, prison officers, bullion handlers, bodyguards and security staff. The risk of a violent confrontation can often be reduced by ensuring that members of staff are properly trained, but there will always be situations where it will not be possible to prevent a physical attack. Therefore, the wearing of appropriate protective equipment as a last line of defence may be necessary.

Image © Mediaimagephotography |

People in a variety of jobs face a significant risk of being attacked

In terms of national standards body publications, in the UK a series of standards (referenced BS 7971) was developed to cover the requirements and testing of suitable protective equipment (see box 1).
BS 7971-5 was originally published in 2004, and included requirements for two types of footwear – 'Type 1', which provided a lower level of protection intended for wearing every day and 'Type 2', which offered higher protection than Type 1 footwear, but often at the expense of comfort. This was generally worn only during times of increased tension, when the risk of attack was considered to be at its highest. The standard detailed tests to assess protection against physical injury, including the performance of toecaps and suitability of perforation-resistant sole inserts. Thermal hazards were also covered, including a burning behaviour test and contact heat assessment based on procedures used to assess industrial footwear, as detailed in the now superseded safety footwear standard EN ISO 20345:2004.

Box 1: The various parts of the original BS 7971 series of standards
Protective clothing and equipment for use in violent situations and training
Part 1: General requirements
Part 2: Guidance on risk assessment and on the selection, use, cleaning and maintenance of protective clothing and equipment
Requirements and test methods for the following products:
Part 3: Personal defence shields
Part 4: Limb protectors
Part 5: Footwear
Part 6: Gloves for protection against mechanical, thermal and chemical hazards
Part 7: Slash-resistant gloves
Part 8: Blunt trauma torso, shoulder, abdomen and genital protectors
Part 9: Training suits and equipment
Part 10: Coveralls
Part 11: Foot and ankle protectors and foot protectors

Image © Peopleimages

BS 7971-5 is applicable to a number of occupations

Revision of the standard

In recent years, a review has been carried out on all of the original parts of BS 7971. Following this, some parts are being withdrawn while others will be either revised or confirmed. In terms of footwear, BS 7971-5 is one of the parts that have been revised. This is now published as BS 7971-5:2016, which replaces the original 2004 version of the standard.


Assessing water resistance by the dynamic machine method

What are the main differences between the 2004 and 2016 versions of BS 7971-5? Firstly, references to other footwear standards (such as EN ISO 20345) have been updated, and both the lesser-protecting Type 1 'general duty' boot and requirements for classification II – that is, all rubber- or polymeric-moulded footwear – have been dropped. This leaves just classification I (footwear other than classification II), full 'riot' boots being the only variant specified.


Testing perforation resistance as outlined in BS 7971-5

In addition, test procedures for ergonomics have been simplified, and new ones developed for assessing resistance to penetration of chemicals and burning behaviour. This enables whole boots to be easily assessed under laboratory conditions that approximate what may be experienced in real use. The test procedures and requirements for laces in lace-up footwear that appeared in the 2004 standard have been deleted, as have the colour fastness tests on the lining. However, new requirements for heat transfer when exposed to radiant heat and cut resistance have been added. The requirements for electrically antistatic and cold insulation testing are now mandatory, whereas metatarsal protection still remains an option. A full list summarising all the properties from the 2016 standard is given in box 2.

Box 2: Summary of properties covered by BS 7971-5:2016

All basic requirements plus the following from BS EN ISO 20345:

  • upper height – design C or D
  • perforation resistance
  • electrical properties – antistatic
  • resistance to inimical environments – heat insulation
  • resistance to inimical environments – cold insulation
  • energy absorption of the seat region
  • water resistance (dynamic machine method)
  • ankle protection
  • resistance to hot contact
  • outsole resistance to fuel oil
  • cleated outsoles
  • additional requirements (not covered by BS EN ISO 20345)
  • maximum width of outsole
  • heel breast on outsole
  • tongue with internal or external bellows
  • seam strength of structural seams in stitched footwear
  • chemical resistance of the upper
  • resistance of the upper to radiant heat
  • additional ergonomics
  • burning behaviour
  • cut resistance of the upper.

There are no harmonised European standards or other member state national standards specifically for public order footwear, although individual European police forces have their own specifications. In the absence of a harmonised European standard, SATRA uses BS 7971-5 as the minimum required to satisfy the European PPE Directive when requested to carry out EC type-examination of such products.

How can we help?

SATRA has been involved with the development of BS 7971-5 and its revision. We are an active member of the technical committee responsible for its drafting, and also provide a full testing service to this standard. Please email our footwear testing team ( for assistance with the assessment and certification of public order footwear.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 8 of the October 2016 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

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