Personal protective equipment

Trends in personal protective equipment 2018

PPE manufacturers and industry insiders discuss technological advancements, what their customers want to know, and what's on the horizon

Reprints
PPEtrends.jpg
Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation/Flickr

From hard hats to steel toe boots, personal protective equipment covers workers from head to toe.

Safety+Health, with the help of the International Safety Equipment Association, recently reached out to PPE manufacturers with three questions: What PPE trends are happening, what challenges are your customers reaching out to you with, and what technological innovations are here or on the horizon?

1What recent PPE trends have you observed?

“In the light-duty manufacturing industries, we’ve seen an increased demand for seamless gloves with greater dexterity and increased cut-resistance. In addition, the pressure from purchasers to decrease costs on PPE seems to be higher than ever.”

– Ron Henion, director of product development, HexArmor, Grand Rapids, MI

 

“One of the most common trends we see at our clients’ locations is the lack of a formal hazard assessment. A hazard assessment, including a thorough PPE review, is the critical first step in the selection of the proper PPE for specific job tasks and the worksite.”

–Shirley Thomas, safety consultant, J. J. Keller & Associates Inc., Neenah, WI

 

“End-user demand for lighter protective apparel and equipment has been the driving force behind a significant number of innovations in textile, garment and faceshield design. The key is finding products that still provide the appropriate amount of protection but at a fraction of the weight.”

– Melissa Gerhardt, product manager, FR clothing and arc flash PPE, National Safety Apparel, Cleveland, OH

 

“In the molten metal sector, lighter-weight fabrics are keeping workers cooler and more comfortable while protecting them from molten metal splash. Instead of heavy, aluminized 16-plus-ounce fabric, which has been the industry standard for 30-plus years, the current trend is toward 10- to 12-ounce fabrics. These lighter-weight garments can offer the same protection and are more comfortable to wear.”

– Mark Stanley, president, Stanco Safety Products, Atlanta, TX

 

“As the dropped objects standard is nearing completion, PPE is being put under the microscope as a potential dropped object hazard. Companies nationwide are taking notice because the proposed standard is in its later stages and nearly prepared for ANSI adoption. While a lot of companies are seeing this upcoming standard as a way of improving tool safety, those who are really on the leading edge of safety are also taking note of PPE items and the effect they have on safety.”

– Matthew Moreau, vice president of marketing, Ty-Flot Inc., Manchester, NH

 

“We’re seeing significant advances in fabric technology to address these encounters in industry, namely by providing waterproof protection and chemical resistance – in a durable garment – while meeting or exceeding ASTM F2733-09 (flash fire) and ASTM F1891 (arc flash) standards.”

– Jason Rodriguez, marketing associate, Gore Workwear Division, W. L. Gore & Associates Inc., Newark, DE

2What PPE challenges are customers reaching out to you about?

“Worker training, especially in construction. Many new hires have not worked in construction and may have never worn PPE. While implementation of engineering controls is always preferred, the ever-changing, transient nature of construction leaves PPE as the only viable means to protect the worker. Training is essential to PPE functioning efficiently, being maintained properly and helping to keep the worker safe.”

– Don Garvey, technical service team, 3M, St. Paul, MN

 

“We’ve heard a growing need from customers for cut PPE that also incorporates chemical protection. In fact, our customers ranked cut protection as the most desired improvement to chemical gloves. These workers exposed to sharp objects when working in chemical applications are at an increased risk of injury and loss of productivity.”

– Mark Nicholls, chief commercial officer Americas, Ansell, Iselin, NJ

 

“We’ve had customers reach out to us about ‘flimsy’ safety glasses or lenses that seem ‘thinned out’ that they’ve received from other manufacturers, but are still marked with Z87+. When these products are measured against ANSI Z87.1 performance requirements, they frequently fail (optical quality and/or impact resistance). One way to steer clear of these products? Only provide employees with safety products that are independently, third-party tested by accredited laboratories. Third-party testing can be verified by checking the product markings for a testing body’s logo (for example, the UL logo on safety glasses). Or employers should call their manufacturer directly and inquire about their third-party testing procedures to verify product quality.”

– Katie Mielcarek, marketing manager, Gateway Safety Inc., Cleveland, OH

 

“We continue to hear the request to create high-dexterity solutions that provide back-of-hand impact resistance and keep harmful fluids off workers’ hands. We also hear requests for more meaningful testing data to help users compare back-of-hand impact resistance.”

– Ron Henion, director of product development, HexArmor, Grand Rapids, MI 

 

“We’ve heard over and over two things about tool tethering: 1) their company won’t adopt it unless OSHA mandates it, despite the overwhelming evidence that improved safety saves lives, prevents injury and, above all to some, lowers costs; 2) when it comes to [Dropped Object Prevention], we get pushback because of the fear that tool tether is inherently unsafe for the worker wearing the tether. We need to provide solutions that are safe for the worker wearing the tether, as well as the worker below.”

– Nicholas Voss, director of product management, Key-Bak, Ontario, CA

 

“Customers are looking for increased flexibility and breathability without compromising visibility. Less-reflective material or reflective surface area means lower reflectivity on a new unwashed garment. Garments with breaks in the continuity of the trim are closer to the minimum reflectivity requirements than similar garments with continuous trim, which are more highly reflective. Reflective material degrades and loses reflectivity with normal wear. Lower reflectivity can mean a shorter life span and increased replacement frequency for the garment.”

– Kelly Selander, personal safety market manager, ORAFOL Americas, Avon, CT

 

““We’re seeing trends for protective apparel that is lightweight and breathable. Workers are already carrying around a lot of gear, and the last thing they need is a hot, heavy coat that traps in moisture.”

– Jason Rodriguez, marketing associate, Gore Workwear Division, W. L. Gore & Associates Inc., Newark, DE

 

3What innovations and technologies are here or on the horizon?

“Virtual reality training, allowing a mobile crane operator (trainee) to experience how to pick and move a load virtually before handling the real thing, simultaneously letting a trainer ‘watch’ and coach the trainee from a remote location.”

– Don Garvey, technical service team, 3M, St. Paul, MN

 

“The national opioid crisis is impacting an array of work environments and, what many don’t realize is, drugs such as fentanyl are just as dangerous to the workers who may come into contact with them as they are for the victims themselves. ... PPE standards and offerings have historically struggled to keep up, but new innovations and technologies are offering higher standards of protection against possible fentanyl contact. New quality assurance practices test PPE in real-world situations to ensure products withstand specific exposure scenarios, and innovations in glove material allow for longer breakthrough threshold times. All of these innovations are critical to keeping workers at the front line of this epidemic safe.”

– Mark Nicholls, chief commercial officer Americas, Ansell, Iselin, NJ

 

“Innovations around wearability and user comfort will be a major focus in the coming years, in addition to smarter textiles and coating technology with increased breathability and moisture movement capabilities. Even more exciting, I believe, is that the use of 3D printing and knitting will soon alter the way components of PPE are constructed.”

– Ron Henion, director of product development, HexArmor, Grand Rapids, MI

 

“Safety shoes (composites and steel toe boots/shoes) continue to evolve as manufacturers develop shoes that provide comfort in addition to protection. The number of choices for styles far exceed previous designs of the safety shoe.”

–Shirley Thomas, safety consultant, J. J. Keller & Associates Inc., Neenah, WI 

 

“Companies are taking a broader look at all of their potential hazards. They want garments that can be multifunctional and provide a wider range of protective benefits.”

–Melissa Gerhardt, product manager, FR clothing and arc flash PPE, National Safety Apparel, Cleveland, OH

“Speaking in terms of the history of workplace safety, tool and object tethers have been around for a relatively short period of time. … Companies that think of dropped objects comprehensively, by including PPE in their plans, stand to benefit from being proactive.”

– Matthew Moreau, vice president of marketing, Ty-Flot Inc., Manchester, NH

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)