Safety has two aspects: the safety of the wearer, and the safety or integrity of the products and processes that the wearer is employed on (although many design features have implications for both). Many companies will have to operate within safety parameters laid down by their customers, as well as by relevant legislation – civil engineering contractors, for example, may find safety aspects of staff clothing specified in contract documentation.Each situation needs to be looked at individually. Whether the organization is to manage the procurement itself or decides to outsource, a detailed design brief and/or specification is obviously essential. This will be prepared using input from the users of the industrial uniforms functional heads, and safety representatives and where external image is a consideration, the marketing function.
The design of industrial uniform likely to be worn by any employee whose work takes him or her near to machinery, especially rotating machinery, should eliminate any loose or trailing elements that could get caught up. Cuffs should be tight, skirts should not ‘flow’ excessively, and accessories such as scarves should not be used. If employees with long hair are to be close to machinery, thought should be given to some form of restraining head cover (both for males and females). Care should be given to the design and position of pockets, turn ups, reversed cuffs and so on to ensure that they do not catch on switches and other projections.
Visibility is an issue particularly, but not exclusively, for staff working outdoors after dark. In such situations, try to incorporate significant areas of lighter colour in the design. High visibility clothing may be specified – this is typically applied to coats and other outer garments, but the requirements of staff working, for example, in the dusk of a summer evening when a coat is unlikely to be worn should also be borne in mind. Industrial uniforms must be tailored to allow wearers to perform their tasks safely, to bend, lift, and stretch and so on. Restrictive or ill-designed industrial uniforms may induce employees to act unsafely – short and/or tight skirts can have this effect. Clothing that can be caught by the wind can be both embarrassing and hazardous.
Footwear deserves particular attention. In some cases safety footwear will be provided. Where employees are wearing their own shoes, policies should be introduced to ensure that these do not introduce a hazard – excessively high heels, open toed sandals, and slip-on styles that are not securely attached to the feet should be discouraged. Various hazards may affect the choice of textile to be used. Chemical hazards may indicate a requirement for resistant over-garments. Risks from sparks or flames will preclude the use of many man-made fibers, particularly those which tend to melt on heating (see EN 469). Flame-retardant fabrics that will withstand industrial cleaning are now available to standards EN470, EN531 and EN533.
Always remember that it is not only production operators who may be exposed to hazards. Offices can, for example, contain rotating machinery (shredders in particular are a hazard to those wearing scarves or loose ties). Clerical workers may need to visit production areas or to cross hazardous areas such as transport yards – their clothing must not expose them to hazard when doing this. As well as protecting the wearer from his or her environment, work clothing often has the task of protecting the environment from the wearer.