Which element is more important in protective clothing: safety or comfort? “Safety” seems to be the logical answer. After all, it is your job as a Health & Safety Manager to create and maintain a strong safety culture. However, when it comes to protective clothing, comfort and safety go hand in hand. If workers feel that their garments are uncomfortable to wear, the consequences for their safety might be bigger than meets the eye.
The 4 essential characteristics of comfortable fabrics
To understand the meaning of ‘comfort’ when it comes to protective fabrics, we wrote a blog that explains how certain characteristics of fabrics contribute to an enjoyable and comfortable work experience. Those characteristics are:
- The weight of the fabric: fabrics that are heavier are often denser, thicker and thus less flexible. More heat can build up inside of the garment. Also, the stiffness of the fabric can restrict your movement.
- Moisture absorption: workers are often exposed to extreme temperatures. If breathability, sweat-uptake and release are not properly managed by the garment it can lead to water vapour and ultimately liquid sweat. This leads to workers experiencing a wet and unpleasant feeling in their protective clothing.
- Breathability: high breathability levels of fabric means quick heat transmittance through the material, which will give workers a more pleasant feeling while wearing the garment.
- Softness on the skin: how does the fabric feel on the skin? Does it feel rough or soft and is the touch cool or not? This is determined by the type and blend of fibres, construction and the finish of the fabric.
You can image that protective clothing is less comfortable to wear if it does not meet the above mentioned characteristics. Many years of experience have taught us that this directly results in people not wearing their protective clothing properly, or worse: not wearing parts of the garment at all. The saying “the chain is as strong as its weakest link” is highly appropriate in this case. If an accident does occur, the garment is not capable of offering sufficient protection.
Comfort: an indirect, but crucial requirement for any protective clothing
Characteristics like weight, breathability, softness on the skin and moisture absorption have a big impact on the comfort levels of the garment, and therefore have a big impact on safety. The wear trial, which we thoroughly describe in this blog, is by far the most effective way to harmonize theory and practice. Always be sure to make comfort a big, if not the biggest priority in any wear trial you execute. In fact, many of the elements in a wear trial are not based on features and specs – but on emotions.
At TenCate Protective Fabrics, many years of experience have helped us find harmony in combining theory and practice; ratio and emotion; safety and comfort when it comes to protective fabrics. Do not hesitate to contact us for expert advice; schedule an appointment with an end user expert.