There is a wide variety of disposable and reusable shoe covers available in the marketplace for use in cleanrooms and other types of controlled environments.
Shoe covers are worn in order to prevent contaminants on outside/street shoes from being tracked into these areas as well as for reasons like increasing traction in order to prevent slips and falls. Other contamination prevention methods include using sticky mats, chemical baths, dedicated shoes, or a combination thereof.
Standard shoe cover materials include non-woven spunbond polypropylene (PP) fabric, polyethylene (PE) plastic, cast polyethylene (CPE), and others; variations come in the form of different thicknesses, combinations, traction patterns, etc. With so many available options, how does a cleanroom/facility manager select the right shoe cover? The best course of action is to determine answers to the following three basic criteria and rank the criteria in order of importance:
Traction/slip resistance: what is the primary characteristic of the flooring the shoe covers will be worn on? Is it smooth and slippery, rough and abrasive, or somewhere in between?
Durability: how long will they be worn?
Waterproof: do they need to be waterproof? The entire shoe cover or just the bottom?
With rankings and answers to those questions in hand, the manager can compare the characteristics of various shoe covers to see how they match up and perform. For example, if the most important criterion is slip resistance, then focusing on shoe covers with excellent traction is foremost. Perhaps the most important criterion is being waterproof, in which case a plastic shoe cover would fit the bill. Be careful, however, as some plastic shoe covers are quite slippery while others have incredible traction, depending on the type of plastic used. As you can see, a variety of factors must be taken into account simultaneously, and consulting with a qualified shoe cover representative will be helpful.
When it comes to proper donning procedures for shoe covers, the traditional method is to sit on a gowning bench or chair and put them on as one would a pair of shoes. Leaning against a wall or balancing on one leg while trying to put a shoe cover on the other foot are shortcut methods that will inevitably lead to some kind of workplace injury.
Over the last several years, automatic shoe cover dispensers have started to proliferate as companies recognize that these dispensers make putting shoe covers on faster, easier and safer, thereby increasing efficiency and productivity and reducing potential worker’s comp claims.