Archaeologists and safety shoes: survival manual


Today we are going to talk about a burning issue, one of those subjects that is common to all the archaeologists in the world and that puts them all (strangely) on the same side of the fence: the drama of the safety shoes.
Because, if it is true that work shoes, helmet, reflective jacket and gloves are essential for safety at the workplace, it is also undeniable that safety shoes are a blessing and a curse for every archaeologist. Yes, this is true because, on their first dig, any archaeologist would roll their eyes when categorically told: “you have to wear safety shoes to dig”, above all if, as almost always happens, the digs take place in the summer, when it is a thousand degrees in the shade.
At this stage, the archaeology student makes a face that is more or less

accompanied by the creeping thought “but did Indiana Jones ever go around with his feet squeezed into shoes that in summer make you sweat like you are in a rainforest and in winter are transformed into snow houses?”

Indy was not a true archaeologist though, he did not dig with the stratigraphic method and he did not have to look at the bulldozer. Professional archaeologists like us though need to protect our safety first of all: this is why we have to wear PPE on the site, this is not a new videogame but it stands for Personal Protective Equipment.

Explanatory box
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) allows the workers to operate in complete safety and is required to guarantee protection of an individual’s health, as reported by the regulations of Legislative Decree no. 81/2008, that is the Amalgamated Law on Occupational Safety and Health
For the purposes of this decree, personal protective equipment, hereafter called “PPE”, means any equipment which is meant to be worn and held by the worker in order to protect them against one or more risks which may threaten their safety or health at work, as well as any addition or accessory designed for this purpose. (Art. 74 of Legislative Decree 81/2008)
Whether it is a worksite school, a dig at the other end of the globe or archaeological supervision work, safety shoes should be worn from the moment you step over the boundary of the worksite to when you leave it, often therefore for eight or more hours per day.

This is precisely why the choice of shoes must be guided by some keywords that will help us to survive both the freezing cold and heat waves.

The first simple and innocuous word that may, however, make the difference between a state of partial death and safety is comfort. Choosing safety shoes, being guided by this magic word COMFORT (let us repeat it out loud when we are near the virtual or real check-out desk to pay our purchase) may prevent the archaeologist from having fits of hysterics that generally end up with “Who made me study archaeology? Couldn’t I have stayed in an office like all other sane human beings?”

Every morning, when we are about to lace up our safety shoes, it must be clear in our mind that safety shoes are what protect us on the site from the risk of falling heavy objects or from perforations of the sole caused by pointed objects, while also having a non-slip function.

Therefore, the other keyword when we choose the worksite shoes is utility, to be repeated like a mantra. Safety shoes must be compliant with the law, this means that we cannot wear Manolo Blahnik shoes with reinforced iron toecaps to feel protected. It would be nice, but it’s not possible.

However, this doesn’t mean to say that you have to completely sacrifice beauty and this is why there follows a model of safety shoes that combines our keywords to tackle an archaeological site in complete safety: comfort, utility and beauty.
We are talking about the PANDA SAFETY work shoes that I have tried in the MONVISO model.

Technically, the PANDA SAFETY safety shoes comply with all the legal criteria, starting with UNI EN ISO 20345 that specifically defines the features of safety shoes: equipped with a reinforced toecap capable of withstanding a weight of about 20 kilos dropping from 1 metre of height without breaking.

For an archaeologist’s work the most suitable safety shoe is the S3, suited specifically to the archaeological site. What are the characteristics of the S3 type?

  • Upper in leather, split leather or fabric
  • Antistatic properties
  • Energy absorption in the heel area
  • Closed shoes
  • Resistance of sole to hydrocarbons
  • Water penetration and water absorption resistance
  • Puncture resistant plate or insert
  • Moulded or anchored sole

However, as an archaeologist, what convinced me about MONVISO PANDA SAFETY shoes (apart from the fact that the company is called Panda, just like the car that takes me to the site every day and which I also use as an office and canteen for my lunch break ? link stories) is their appearance. Yes, ugliness is not the only thing you live on at the site!
As the website says, MONVISO is indeed, “a high laced shoe designed to last in time. The solid and durable features typical of a trekking boot have indeed been reflected in this model, made of true water-repellent leather and fitted with a steel toecap and puncture resistant plate. Comfort on the other hand is guaranteed by the padding of the collar and of the tongue that also ensure a better wearability and fit”.

In a nutshell, this means not only having a protected foot, but every morning you look into the mirror you will have the impression that you are about to go for a walk in the countryside and so the site will be less difficult to endure.