Trends in ... Protective clothing

New technologies, best practices and tips

By Tracy Haas, editorial assistant

From full-body coveralls and lab coats, to shoe and boot covers, sleeves, and smocks, protective clothing comes in a variety of forms, notes Tami Wenzel, apparel product manager at Roswell, GA-based Kimberly-Clark Professional. But regardless of the type, she said, one goal remains clear: Protect the wearer from injury.

Personal protective equipment manufacturers are continually looking to instill better technology into their products. For example, Andrew Wirts, sales and marketing director for Washington, IN-based NASCO Industries Inc., touts new flash fire-resistant rainwear for the oil and gas market. “These are rain suits that can be exposed to a three-second hydrocarbon flash fire (ASTM F1930) and keep burn injury to the worker [at] less than 40 percent, which increases the survivability,” Wirts said. He warned that many products on the market claim to be flame-resistant but are not compliant with applicable standards. To prevent buying such items, Wirts recommends end-user education.

Steve Misiano, president of Seattle-based DragonWear, points to the comfort aspect of protective clothing. “The continuing trend is protective fabrics becoming lighter and more comfortable while offering the same or better levels of protection,” he said. “When possible, the garment designs are following consumer fashion trends, which is resulting in protective clothing that fits and functions better. Plus, workers are more likely to want to wear it.”

Dangerous misuse

Although new technology is always striving to make workers safer, misuse of protective clothing continues to be a problem, said Linnette A. López, North America end-use marketing manager, industrial personal protection, for Richmond, VA-based DuPont Protection Technologies. “Misuse of protective clothing products and technologies could result from not performing a thorough hazard assessment,” López said. “This could lead to improper protective clothing selection.” López went on to say that protective clothing decisions should be based on “sound science and thorough testing.”

Helpful advice

Misiano recommended making sure your purchased item is third-party-certified to the relevant standards. “It’s the best way to ensure clothing will protect the health and safety of your employees,” he said. “There are so many protective clothing choices and you need a method to determine whether or not the garments will do what they claim to do,” Misiano said. And López stated that the protection of the wearer must always be the top priority for the person who makes the final selection. “Product comfort, availability, price, etc., are important, but should be considered secondary to the decision,” she said.

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Applicable voluntary standards

ANSI/ISEA 101-1996 (R2008): American National Standard for Limited-Use and Disposable Coveralls – Size and Labeling Requirements

This standard provides requirements for the performance, finished dimensions, labeling and packaging of limited-use and disposable coveralls. It includes a dynamic fit test protocol and wear-test report to be used in evaluating these products that are commonly used in applications such as paint spraying, mold remediation, environmental cleanup and fiberglass installation.

ANSI/ISEA 107-2010: American National Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel and Headwear

This standard provides a uniform, authoritative guide for the design, performance specifications and use of high-visibility and reflective apparel including vests, jackets, bib/jumpsuit coveralls, trousers and harnesses. It establishes three performance classes for high-visibility safety apparel based on the wearer’s activities, and determined by the total area of background and reflective materials used.

ANSI/ISEA 103-2010: American National Standard for Classification and Performance Requirements for Chemical Protective Clothing

This standard provides manufacturers, users and regulators with a way to match a protective garment to a hazard environment. It establishes a set of six hazard-based categories, and includes material and garment performance tests for each. Within each category are multiple performance levels for most properties.

Product information is provided by manufacturers. This publication has not independently tested manufacturers’ products and cannot assume responsibility for the validity of product claims.

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