Manufacturers are continually improving industrial safety products, and this includes PPE (personal protective equipment). Always looking for ways to upgrade workplace safety equipment, safety professionals research new materials and better technology while end-users provide feedback from the field for a practical point of view.
Some key considerations when it comes to wearables are comfort, fit, and, yes, even good fashion.
Fashionable Industrial Safety Equipment
Fashion may sound trivial when it comes to the serious business of safety at work. But, then again, no one enjoys looking bad. Traditional safety clothing and shoes are clunky and ill-fitting. Typical safety eyewear? It’s unflattering on anyone.
The reality is, workers are more likely to wear PPE that they look good in. This is especially true for workers who work out in public.
“Employees in environments where PPE is issued for thermal insulation or cut and impact protection,” says Chris Rochester in “Is Fashionable PPE Effective?”, “may ‘forget’ to don uncomfortable or unattractive protective wear. This is especially true of younger workers, who are likely to be more fashion conscious and less risk averse.”
Couple that last statement with the fact that, according to EU-OSHA, “statistics show that 18- to 24-year-olds are more likely to have a serious accident at work than older adults… New to the workplace, young people may lack experience and often lack both physical and psychological maturity. They may not take seriously enough the risks that they face.”
Any way you can entice employees into being safer is worth the effort. Check out this crew embracing their nicer PPE in a self-styled fashion show:
While fashion-forward wearable safety equipment may not be making an appearance on the catwalks of Paris or New York any time soon, several manufacturers are creating nicer-looking gear for men and women. Looks are often inspired by urban streetwear or athletic wear.
And note that this isn’t a particularly new trend, as Rochester points out. Levi Strauss started making his ever-popular denim work pants in 1853, and industrial safety products manufacturers’ clothes like Timberland, Caterpillar, and Carhartt are commonly seen on the street.
Personal Safety Equipment Fit Is Critical
PPE that doesn’t fit well is not only uncomfortable, it may actually be a hazard. Gloves that don’t allow a worker to adequately grip a box cutter or utility knife increase the chances of slippage or dropping the tool. Clothes and shoes that are big and bulky may snag on equipment or cause a tripping hazard, or they may simply make it tough to move freely.
This is especially relevant when it comes to women’s PPE. Many industrial safety products suppliers typically offer PPE that is designed to fit the male frame, since men make up the bulk of the industrial workforce. Women are typically smaller than their male colleagues, and they are definitely shaped differently. As a common refrain about PPE goes, one size doesn’t fit all.
Addressing fit should be a key consideration for any management’s safety equipment list. Also, keep in mind that you may be asked to outfit people outside your workforce. If you have to provide safety gear for visitors, it’s always a nice gesture to offer options that fit well.
The Importance of Choosing the Right Fabric
A major contributor to comfort is the type of fabric your staff’s PPE is made of. Key fabric features to consider include some or all of the following:
- Waterproof or water resistant
- Hi-vis or reflective
- Cut or puncture resistant
- Fire resistant
What types of temperatures does your staff work in? In areas that experience all four seasons, you’ll likely need both winter gear and lighter summer gear. Fabric technology is always improving, so it’s important to stay apprised of new advances in materials that will contribute to employee comfort.
PPE That Workers Will Wish They Could Wear Off-Site
When choosing PPE, consider providing items your staff might choose to wear outside of work. If your workers’ wearable industrial safety products look nice, fit well, and are made of comfortable and protective materials, you’ll reduce (eliminate?) the need to remind them to put it on, ultimately keeping them safer.