Industrial safety workers are longing for lighter fabrics due to the improved comfort they offer. Global warming, alongside warm, long summers, have drastically strengthened this demand. At the same time, HSE managers are able to solve the major problem of heat stress through the use of lighter fabrics in protective garments. Thus, lighter fabrics allow the needs of both workers and HSE managers to go hand-in-hand. In this blog, we dive deeper into the global trend of lighter weight FR fabrics, and their impact on workers.
Balancing the needs of the worker with technological challenges
From carrying out our PROCLAUD® end-user assessment and auditing workers, we found out that many workers nowadays would like to have a ‘summer garment’ (as well as their winter garment) that is lighter in weight, and thus has less heat build-up.
As fabric manufacturers, of course we want to listen to the market and the needs of the wearer. Our challenge in this instance, however, is to create lighter garments which maintain the same high standards of protection and durability. Less mass and thickness, inevitably, means less protection and strength. However, by optimising fibre blends and constructions, it is possible to create fabrics that equally prioritise lightness, protection and durability — as we have done with a recent development of ours that will be launching very soon.
Lightweight but uncompromising on protection
The main concern when it comes to using lighter fabrics is that they will be less protective. At its core, this may be true — if you don’t compensate for the lesser amount of material used. As a counterbalance, you could add advanced fibres, like aramids that are extremely strong and protective, alongside other (mainly synthetic) content to double up on strength. This allows workers to enjoy a greater sense of ease in their garments, whilst still remaining protected. An additional benefit of lighter weight fabrics is that they lend themselves to greater wearer comfort due to a lessened chance of the build-up of heat stress. Overall, this allows protection and comfort to go hand-in-hand.
A trend across multiple industries
In certain parts of the world, such as warmer areas in Asia, lightweight fabrics for PPE garments are already common. The shift towards using lighter fabric solutions in Europe is a trend that is taking place across multiple industries. It’s particularly noticeable within companies that have an outdoor workforce: for instance, electricians, road and rail workers. But we are also seeing lighter solutions for indoor workers, too — for instance, in the chemical industry, where employees are exposed to equipment that gives off a lot of heat, yet still require PPE-clothing that properly protects against chemical splash. Commonly used fabrics we supply in these fields are around 160 - 200 g/m2. We recently introduced this fabric in East Europe, and being a global fabric supplier means we can introduce such trends into other parts of the world too.
And based on the feedback we’ve received from wear trials, these lighter weight solutions are a resounding success: allowing workers to feel much more comfortable and avoiding heat build-up, and in turn enhancing protection due to improved and more consistent wearability.
But this trend doesn’t stop at protective clothing. We’ve even observed manufacturers of aeroplanes and cars moving towards using lighter weight materials in their construction processes. This all points towards a trend that is very much here to stay.
Try it for yourself
Interested in learning more about what lightweight protective fabric options are available for your workforce? Feel free to contact one of our industrial safety experts, who will be happy to discuss this with you.