2020 Protective Clothing

Trends in ... protective clothing

Attention to detail

Flame-resistant and arc flash clothing is effective only if worn correctly. This is a common refrain among insiders in the protective clothing field. Here, they discuss new technologies in the field, explain how workers can better use protective clothing and offer helpful tips.


Brad Sipe, business development manager for Decatur, AL-based Lakeland Industries Inc., said first-generation flame-resistant/arc-rated fabrics were treated with moisture-wicking properties, but eventually those features wear or wash out. “Now, some manufacturers are utilizing fabric technology, incorporating fiber blends that feature a 60/40 hydrophobic (repel water)/hydrophilic (attract water) fiber combination to develop garments that offer permanent, built-in moisture-wicking, which are effective for the life of the garment,” Sipe said.

Workers are layering FR clothing for great protection, said Scott Margolin, vice president of technical at Pipersville, PA-based Tyndale USA. He added, however, that it takes more than just adding up arc ratings. “New mobile apps allow wearers to tap into databases of layering test data to find clothing that has been tested and proven to provide a set level of protection when worn together in a specified configuration,” he said. “Better yet, these apps allow users to access layering data for garments they’re considering buying, as well as for garments they already own.”

Doing it right

Margolin stressed the importance of sourcing high-quality protective clothing from reputable sources. If the price is too good to be true, he said, it almost certainly is. “Not only do trustworthy vendors provide reliably protective products, they can help you sort through all the available options to find the ones that make the most sense for your work environment, image requirements and budget.”

Taking care of protective clothing is equally important. “Training employees on how to clean and maintain their garments help keep FR/AR properties intact, and can extend the serviceable life of the garment,” said Scott Francis, technical manager for Spartanburg, SC-based Westex by Milliken. “Going over best practices, such as mending garments with only FR/AR materials and avoiding bleach and dryer sheets, will help support ongoing maintenance efforts.”

Wearing protective clothing as it’s intended is critical to worker safety. “That means buttoning shirts to the neck and keeping sleeves rolled down, for example,” Margolin said. “It also means consulting the label on the garment and selecting only garments rated to protect against the hazard level identified during the mandatory risk assessment.”

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:

  • Eye protection
  • Safety signs/labels

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