Product Focus: Protective clothing

Trends in ... protective clothing

‘Training is key’

Technology in the protective clothing industry just keeps getting better. “For 20 years you basically had two fabrics to choose from to manufacture PPE garments,” said Gary Zumstein, vice president, technical/development – protective segment for Glen Raven Technical Fabrics, based in Mills River, NC. Now, Zumstein said, “new fabrics and fabric technologies are being introduced almost every year.” He noted that fiber blends are now lighter and more comfortable, and more sophisticated garment designs include venting and layering options.

Zumstein also spoke of the need to properly maintain protective clothing. He recommends avoiding fabric softeners and DEET on protective clothing, as they are flammable, and warned against using bleach, saying it can damage the fabric of protective apparel.

Staying comfortable on the job means staying dry, and some manufacturers are focusing on moisture management in protective clothing, according to Cortlandt Minnich, business development for Greenville, SC-based TECGEN FR Garments. “By incorporating inherent fibers that have hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties, manufacturers are able to design flame-resistant garments that perform like sports and outdoor apparel,” Minnich said.

Avoid mistakes

Manufacturers stress the importance of employers educating both themselves and their workers about FR garments.

“We … find that a lack of understanding of the hazard the garment is intended to resolve is a serious problem,” said Bob Gates, product manager, clothing products, at Latham, NY-based Protective Industrial Products Inc. “Training is the key to resolving these issues so that workers understand that they must properly care for garments according to manufacturers’ instructions.”

Brian Nutt, senior product manager for Piscataway, NJ-based Tingley Rubber Corp., highlighted the challenges of understanding the differences in flame-resistant products. “Without truly understanding the differences in performance, workers are potentially wearing clothing that may not properly protect them,” Nutt said. “Conducting a hazard assessment and then purchasing clothing that protects to the assessed level of exposure will help ensure worker safety.”

Minnich agreed and recommended evaluating products through an employee wear trial. “Advertising claims are put to the ultimate test when employees actually wear the gear on the jobsite,” he said.

Coming next month … 
Eye protection

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association