Protective clothing

Trends in … protective clothing

A better understanding

“Personal protective equipment can be considered a tool used to perform one’s job. And when you’re using the wrong tool, it’s harder to perform your job correctly.”

That’s from Melanie Adams, founder of Embher Inc., in response to our question, “What do you wish employers and workers better understood about wearing protective clothing in the workplace?”

She added: “When people are forced to wear the wrong protective clothing, because it’s what was provided to them by their employer, they’re more likely to be less confident and may, in fact, be unsafely performing their task.”

That’s why it’s so important, she says, to provide employees – especially “women and others that may find themselves in oversized or ill-fitting employer-provided PPE” – with the right protective gear and ensure they wear it.

We posed the same question to representatives of several other leading manufacturers in the field:

  • Lucy Fallon, head of product design for Portwest
  • Jake Hirschi, general manager of CarbonX
  • Ben Julian, marketing channel manager, industrial, for PIP USA
  • Paul Slot, marketing manager of UniFirst First Aid + Safety
  • Conor Whelan, product marketing manager for Portwest

Here’s how they responded:

Fallon: “Workwear is often the last line of defense in keeping wearers safe. It’s important that workers take good care of their workwear and follow wash and care instructions, keeping garments clean and replacing them when soiled or damaged. For example, high-visibility clothing will only keep you visible if it’s clean and the reflective tape is still intact.”

Hirschi: “It may seem obvious: If protective apparel is comfortable, more workers are going to wear it. However, safety managers often select protective apparel that meets the highest level of protection required in their workplace at the lowest cost possible. Comfort is a secondary consideration. Greater comfort leads to increased compliance, which leads to fewer injuries and workers’ compensation claims, ultimately leading to greater cost savings and fewer onsite accidents.” 

Julian and Slot (who responded together): “Some protective clothing can cause more harm than good. If a garment doesn’t fit properly (oversized), it could get caught or snagged in machinery. If a garment is too bulky or woven too tightly, it could accelerate heat stress in hot environments. If a garment attracts or emits lint or dust particles in a controlled environment, it could harm expensive equipment. These are just a few examples of how understanding the hazards related to the environment and application is essential before making a protective clothing decision.”

Whelan: “Although advanced manufacturing techniques contribute to the quality of protective clothing, their effectiveness hinges on user understanding and compliance. A critical misconception often surrounds the discomfort associated with protective gear, leading to inconsistent use and potential safety lapses. Educating both employers and workers on the importance of consistent wear and timely replacement due to damage is paramount. By emphasizing the ergonomic design and comfort features of protective clothing, manufacturers can encourage a culture of safety where workers are more likely to view these garments as essential tools rather than burdens.”

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:

  • Ladders/lifts
  • Lighting/flashlights

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