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Risk management for the best protective PPE-clothing and a strong safety culture

Why protective clothing risk assessments are your key to a stronger safety culture

Smarter risk management for PPE-clothing starts here

As a motivated Health & Safety Manager, you’re constantly looking for smarter ways to protect your workers on the job while improving your organisation’s overall safety culture.

In the page below, you’ll learn:

  • How you can strengthen your risk management strategy with the right protective clothing
  • Why performing risk assessments for your protective clothing solution is a key building block for your safety culture
  • How to prevent injuries from happening on your watch
  • How to make the best protective workwear decisions for your organisation

By following the steps below, you’ll be able to confidently perform a risk assessment and select the best protective clothing solution for your needs — which in turn will improve your safety culture.

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1. Risk assessments are your secret weapon for better PPE-clothing

As a crucial element of your risk management strategy as Health & Safety Manager, it’s your duty to provide your employees with protective clothing at work. Protective clothing is workwear that protects the user against health and safety risks on the job.

In combination with other PPE items such as safety helmets, safety footwear, safety goggles, and respiratory protective equipment, protective clothing plays an essential role in keeping your employees from bodily harm while making them feel safe and confident.

Good protective clothing is like insurance

You may not need it 99% of the time, but in the 1% chance that a safety incident occurs — you definitely want your workers to be guaranteed protection. Selecting which type of “insurance” to wear is a big decision to make, but once you’ve chosen your protective clothing, you’re protected for a long time to come.

Protective clothing shouldn’t come last on your list

It’s not a low-interest task to tick off in your long list of safety management priorities. How you approach your protective clothing sets the tone for how you build the culture around a safe workplace.

The million-dollar question you should be asking yourself:

“Which risks are my workers exposed to and what kind of protection would provide the best solution?”

As you can imagine, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the above question. Your answer will be based on your unique risk environment, safety norms, and the needs and preferences of the wearer.

 

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2. At a glance: 7 steps to your protective clothing risk assessment

Conducting a protective clothing risk assessment is the best way to tackle each piece of the purchasing puzzle and ensure that you choose the best protective clothing solution for your needs.

When performed correctly, a risk assessment is a systematic examination of all aspects of work, performed to help you consider what could cause injury or harm, whether the hazards can be eliminated, and if not, what preventive or protective measures can be made to control the risks.

You know you need to start somewhere, but where exactly should you begin? As any risk management professional will tell you, breaking your risk assessment down into bite-sized steps is crucial.

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Follow these 7 steps to form the road map for your risk assessment:

  1. Identify your potential risks
  2. Analyse and categorise your risks
  3. Review your current solution
  4. Know your protective clothing requirements
  5. Go beyond safety compliance
  6. Introduce your new protective clothing
  7. Review your protective clothing solution frequently

Want to ensure you feel confident approaching your next risk assessment? Keep reading to dive into each of these 7 steps.

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3. Start here for a better safety culture: identify your risks

With your protective clothing tender kick-off date approaching, it’s time to lay a good foundation for your selection process by performing a thorough risk assessment. It might feel like a time-saver to copy-paste your old protective clothing solution specs or renew an old tender verbatim, but it always pays to start with a fresh perspective.

The first and most obvious step of a risk assessment is all in the name: to begin, you’ll identify all possible risks in your work environment.

Here are some of the questions to ask yourself:

  • What are the potential dangers or hazards in my work environment?
  • Is protective clothing or other PPE necessary?
  • If so, what level of protection is necessary?
  • If so, in which type of work situations is protective clothing necessary?

Tip: get specific

Remember that every workstation and/or department in your company is unique, with unique risks that deserve to be addressed. So rather than doing a quick assessment of general risks, take the time to get as specific as possible. Take the time to identify your risks separately per workstation and/or department.

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4. Analyse and categorise your safety risks

Now that you’ve taken a magnifying glass to your work environment and identified all the potential risks in detail, what’s next? Just because you now have gathered a long list of risks, doesn’t mean you’re ready to choose a fitting protective clothing solution yet.

With the help of an outside professional, take your list of risks and prioritise them. By analysing your risks both quantitatively and qualitatively, you’ll be able to determine the magnitude of each risk.

Top 3 factors to consider in your risk analysis

  • The probability of exposure to the risk/hazard
  • The amount of exposure to the risk/hazard
  • The severity of injuries linked to the risk/hazard

By identifying which risks are the most pressing, you’ll have concrete guidance for selecting the protective clothing that covers the right mix of protection for these risks.

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5. Review your current protective clothing solution

Now that you’ve identified and analysed your workplace risks, it’s time to take a critical look at the protective clothing solutions you currently have in place.

What are your current safety protocols to protect workers?

  • Rather than blindly trust that the current protocols are sufficiently protecting your workers, take this opportunity to interrogate them thoroughly.
  • By laying the risks you’ve identified next to your current safety protocols, you’ll be able to identify any gaps in protection.

What kind(s) of protective clothing do your workers wear?

Different risks and tasks call for different garments, so take inventory of the different types of clothing you need for your various work stations.

  • Do your workers wear a jacket and trousers, or is a coverall more suitable?
  • What’s the protection offered by each of these garments?
  • Are they flame retardant (FR)?
  • Are they easy to move around in?
  • Are the fabrics breathable and comfortable?

Do your workers wear their garments correctly (ie. safely)?

  • Do you notice your workers wearing their own t-shirts underneath their jackets, rolling up their sleeves or leaving their garments unbuttoned?
  • Workers who wear their garments incorrectly are often uncomfortable, hot, or not sufficiently educated on the risks at hand.
  • Wearing protective clothing incorrectly can severely reduce the amount of protection offered by the garments, in the event of an accident.

“The chemicals go right through my garment! I didn’t even notice it.”

Reaction of wearer in the chemical industry

What kind of workplace environment do you have?

  • Don’t forget to take into account the fact that your unique work environment may sometimes fall outside of the standard environments.
  • Make sure to investigate the protective clothing you use in unusual situations or extreme weather conditions, as well as your “normal” day to day garments.

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6. Identify your protective clothing requirements

By now you’ve assessed the risks your workers face on the job, and drawn a clear picture of how you’re currently addressing these risks. What’s next? It’s time to look ahead and identify the requirements that your ideal protective clothing would meet. 


Different risks, different safety norms for PPE-clothing

Welding_clothing

Safety norm: EN ISO 11611

Protective clothing for welding

From high radiant heat to dangerous molten metal spatters, welders face many hazards on the job. Protective clothing that offers multi-risk FR protection is the way to go. But do you know which class of welding hazards you fall under?

Learn about protective clothing for welding
EN11612E_protective_clothing

Safety norm: EN ISO 11612

Flame retardant (FR) protective clothing

Professionals in many different work environments and industries face exposure to hazardous heat and flames. There’s a broad spectrum of flame resistant (FR) fabrics on the market, so how can you select the best FR protective clothing for your needs?

Learn about your FR protective clothing options
20190222-5D_L7266_bewerkt

Safety norm: EN 20471

High visibility protective clothing

The use of bright colours and reflective materials makes sure workers stand out in dark or crowded work environments. With high visibility protective clothing, they’re more likely to feel safe and confident performing their job - whatever the task at hand.

Learn about high visibility protective clothing
chemical protection

Safety norm: EN 13034

Chemical protective clothing

When working with chemicals, it’s extremely important to shield the body from contact with these hazardous substances. How can you ensure your workers’ skin is protected from serious burns?

Learn about chemical protective clothing
arc flash1

Safety norm: IEC 61482

Arc flash protective clothing

If you’re working with electrical panels or switchboards, it’s essential to protect yourself against fatal burn injuries in the event of an electric arc flash explosion. The right protective clothing can save your life.

Learn about arc flash protective clothing
anti-static_clothing

Safety norm: EN1149-5

Anti-static protective clothing

In many industrial work environments, workers face a build-up of static electricity and sparks that can easily cause explosions. How can you protect your workers against electrocution and static shock with anti-static clothing?

Learn about anti-static protective clothing

Do you have what it takes to select the best protective garments?

Take our Pre-Tender Protective Workwear Quiz to find out if you’re ready to start your tender process.




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7. Go beyond safety compliance

Once you’ve ticked off the safety norms your protective clothing must comply with by performing your risk assessment, don’t forget to consider the “soft” qualitative factors (sometimes called satisfiers or differentiators) that should also influence your protective clothing selection process. They matter, too!

  • Two garments may both offer the same level of protection, while each has a very different fit, feel, or shape due to the type of fabric it’s made from.

  • Instead of purchasing generic protective clothing, take the opportunity to choose a custom solution that meets your needs on all levels.

Comfort

It’s a common misconception that comfort and safety don’t go together, or that one must be sacrificed to achieve the other. The reality is that protective clothing doesn’t always have to be heavy or stiff in order to protect you from workplace hazards.

  • Thanks to new technology, the latest protective fabrics are lightweight and supple, allowing your garments to move with you throughout your day.

  • The more comfortable the garment, the more likely your employee is to wear it correctly and comply with safety regulations. Comfortable and happy employees are safe employees.

Freedom of movement

The new generation of industrial workers is more active, athletic, and health-conscious than ever before. Just as they use sports- and active-wear in their personal life, they expect the same level of ergonomics and good design in their professional protective clothing.

  • Inspired by sportswear technology, the latest protective garments are lightweight, stretchy and comfortable.

  • Sports-inspired PPE clothing feels soft on the skin and offers excellent moisture absorption and sweat uptake.

Sustainability

Around the world, more companies are committing to reduce their impact on the planet. Sustainability can be a broad goal that’s difficult to translate into action, so the smartest companies are breaking it down into more concrete goals such as greener protective clothing.

  • Adding momentum to this trend are protective fabrics suppliers like TenCate Protective Fabrics, who are intensifying their efforts to develop environmentally-responsible products that are more price-effective in the long run.

  • New sustainably-sourced fibres such as TENCEL™ Lyocell are far less water-intensive to grow than traditional fibres such as cotton.

  • Greener fabrics take less energy to produce — thus lowering your environmental footprint — and they also last longer, thanks to improved durability.
proclaud-transparant

Proclaud®

Aiming for a smooth and stress-free tender process?

If you’re struggling to find a balance between safety norms and wearer preferences, Proclaud® is for you. It’s a comprehensive audit tool used by companies across different industries to select a custom protective clothing solution that works for them.

Learn about Proclaud®
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8. Introduce your new protective clothing

It’s one thing to select protective clothing in theory, and another thing to put your potential garments through their paces in practice on the workfloor.

That’s what a wear trial is for: it’s a real-life try-out of your new protective clothing to help you finalize your selection choice. Besides having your workers present to test the garments, it can be smart to invite your garment maker to be present, as this can positively impact the final design (and better design means happier employees).


3 questions to ask during your wear trial

  1. Do the new garments offer an improvement compared to your current clothing in terms of safety, comfort, look and feel, and durability?
  2. Do the new garments meet all the technical specifications in your tender?
  3. Are your employees enthusiastic about wearing them?

“This is the first time I’ve ever been asked to give my opinion about my protective garment.”

Reaction of wearer in the chemical industry
Listening to your wearers’ insights is the best way to truly improve and innovate your company’s safety culture from the ground up.

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9. Review your protective clothing frequently

After you’ve selected the best protective clothing you can find, the story’s not over yet! Once your workers start wearing their new garments, it’s crucial to keep assessing the risks in your work environment periodically — to make sure your protective clothing still meets all your requirements.

Questions to ask in your periodic review

  • Has anything in your work environment changed recently?
  • Are new safety measures needed to keep your workers safe?
  • How is your protective clothing holding up under intensive use and frequent laundering?
  • Are there any product innovations on the market that could help increase the safety, comfort or durability of your garments?
Together with your team, determine a fixed period for your next protective clothing assessment, whether that’s once a year or bi-annually. You can use these reviews to stay up to date on potential innovation in the market, and assess if (and when) your protective clothing should be improved.
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10. Choose the right collaborators

A risk assessment and protective clothing tender is not a one-person job. But who else should get involved to collaborate with you through the journey of selecting new protective clothing?

1. Workers who’ll wear the new garments

Many companies get so caught up in the logistics of purchasing protective clothing that they forget to consult the end users who will be wearing the new solution. That’s a big mistake, as your workers have many valuable insights to bring to the table.

  • Personal feelings on safety
    Compliance to industry safety norms is only the first box that your protective clothing must check. Are you also taking the personal opinions and emotions of your workers into consideration? After all, they’re the ones who will be wearing the garments day in and day out. Do they feel safe when facing exposure to work-related hazards?
  • Feedback on comfort
    When asked to share their wishes and expectations, many wearers will have surprising feedback on the comfort, design, and sustainability aspects of your protective clothing. If you don’t ask, you won’t know what they think, so ask!
  • Technical insights
    Your workers can also be a source of valuable technical information as you draft the specs for your new protective clothing solution. Again, they’re the ones on the workfloor every day, so they’re typically highly aware of how a protective garment does or doesn’t keep them safe from workplace hazards.

2. Internal stakeholders

Early on, identify the key players in your company who need to be involved and invite them to collaborate with you. Aside from your workers (already addressed above), you’ll need buy-in from your own Health & Safety department, the Management team, and the Purchasing team.

Here are the benefits of getting stakeholder buy-in:

  • A better price-value balance
    Getting on the same page helps your purchasing department to understand the long-term financial value of choosing a high-quality protective fabric with a longer life cycle. Try shifting the focus from cost to value.
  • Less delay (and costly hold-ups) in the process
    Communicating your expectations clearly from the beginning helps to reduce surprises and stop frustrating delays from happening. A protective clothing tender is already a long process, so keep the communication lines clear!
  • Smoother & faster logistics
    Deciding on a realistic timeline together with your supply chain ahead of time will help them forecast successfully, which means that you’ll receive your protective clothing on time when you need it most.
  • No price tag shock later
    Getting a precise idea of what you’re paying for upfront can help get Management and Purchasing on board with your protective clothing selection. There shouldn’t be any surprises when it comes to pricing, so choose a supplier who’ll be transparent with you.

3. External industry experts

Finally, don’t forget that there are industry experts outside your organisation who can offer you objective advice and guidance. What are the benefits of getting external partners (ie. your protective fabrics supplier) more directly involved in your risk assessment and tender process?

  • More honest feedback from your workers
    You know your employees have valuable insights, but they may hesitate to share their honest opinion with you during your risk assessment and wear trial. A third-party protective clothing audit like PROCLAUD® can offer your workers a safe and anonymous space to share their real thoughts.
  • A tailor-made match for your protective clothing needs
    Why choose a generic protective clothing solution, when the whole point of a risk assessment is to pinpoint the solution that perfectly matches your needs? By working directly with your fabrics supplier, you’ll get access to the latest protective clothing technology and ensure the highest-quality garments for your company.
proclaud-transparant

Proclaud

Let an independent audit do the heavy lifting for you

Looking for a smarter way to assess your HSE risks and gather insights on your workers’ specific needs and wants? Proclaud® was designed for you.

Learn about Proclaud®
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11. Safety only works with teamwork

No matter which industry you’re in, conducting a risk assessment and selecting protective clothing doesn’t have to be stressful or difficult. You’re never alone!

5 ways teamwork can lighten your load

Safety compliance is in everyone’s best interest, so it’s worth doing everything you can to make PPE clothing selection a team effort.

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12. Key takeaways for risk assessments & protective clothing

On this page, we’ve explored many different aspects of risk management. From how to improve your risk management strategy around protective clothing, to boosting your company’s overall safety culture with a thorough risk assessment. Below are the essential insights you absolutely don’t want to forget.

7 key takeaways for an effective risk assessment

1. Identify your risks

Key takeaway:
Check your assumptions about what you know at the door. Instead of copy-pasting old data, start fresh and identify your current risks separately per workstation/department.

2. Analyse and categorise your risks
Key takeaway:
Exposure to certain risks may be more dangerous or have a higher chance of occurring than others, so analyse your risk list qualitatively and quantitatively to prioritise them correctly.

3. Review your current solution
Key takeaway:
Investigate the protective clothing your workers currently use for daily tasks, as well as in unusual/non-standard situations. Don’t forget to observe whether the garments are worn correctly (safely).

4. Know your protective clothing requirements
Key takeaway:
Identify exactly which safety standards apply to your work environment. These norms will guide your protective clothing selection.

5. Go beyond safety compliance

Key takeaway:
Gather “soft” input from the workers who wear the protective clothing. Their opinions and preferences are a very valuable complement to your technical safety requirements.

6. Introduce your new protective clothing

Key takeaway:
Always perform a wear trial to test out your potential protective clothing in “real life” conditions, with your workers and garment makers there to provide valuable insight.

7. Review your protective clothing solution frequently

Key takeaway:
Check in on your work environment and the state of your protective clothing periodically, so that they’re never out of date. Keep an eye on potential innovation in the market, too!

Providing your employees with the best protective clothing starts with a good roadmap. And as an HSE Manager, risk assessments are your secret weapon to help you confidently lead the way.

proclaud-transparant

Proclaud

Let an independent audit do the heavy lifting for you

Looking for a smarter way to assess your HSE risks and gather insights on your workers’ specific needs and wants? Proclaud® was designed for you.

Learn about Proclaud®