Here’s a question: have you ever put yourself in your workers’ shoes, or rather, in their protective workwear? As a busy Health & Safety Manager, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger context in which the protective clothing you select is worn — climate! Whether you’re working in the heat or the cold, in this blog we’ll reveal why climate-specific protective clothing contributes not only to a safer and more productive work environment, but happier workers, too.
Too hot! Too cold!
Maintaining a comfortable body temperature is essential to being able to work comfortably, safely, and productively, but it can represent a big challenge in climates or work environments where temperatures soar or plunge. Take the metal industry, for instance, where steel workers are exposed to extremely high temperatures day in and day out. Or the operators carrying out physically strenuous work in humid Singapore or blazing hot Qatar. Without the proper protective workwear, it doesn’t take much for overheated workers in these environments to experience heat stress in the form of fatigue, cramps, or heat stroke.
On the other end of the climate spectrum, prolonged exposure to cold can be equally dangerous, causing loss of sensation in the extremities, frostbite, or hypothermia. Needless to say, selecting the right protective clothing plays a crucial role in sufficiently protecting your workers from high or low temperatures.
Custom-made for climate
With so many different protective fabrics on the market these days, there are a variety of woven, knits, fleeces, and soft shells available to mix and match when it comes to providing your employees with climate-sensitive garment options. Companies in moderate climates, for example, may choose for a single all-season garment set, perhaps with an extra jacket for colder days. In other regions with distinct seasons, companies often make the conscious choice for two sets: summer protective clothing, made from lighter fabrics designed for excellent moisture management; and winter protective clothing, made from thicker fabrics that wick away sweat yet also insulate the body from the cold.
In regions such as Southeast Asia or the Middle East where high temperatures are a year-round phenomenon, companies often invest in inherent FR fabrics that offer the best lightweight protection. That said, it’s impossible to ignore the increasingly warmer summers everywhere, as global temperatures rise as a result of climate change. This makes inherent FR solutions an attractive option for any company wanting to keep their workers cool and comfortable.
Comfort is serious business
No matter where you’re located, climate control is an essential piece in the safety-comfort puzzle. Taking worker requests for more comfortable protective garments seriously will always result in a better safety culture with fewer accidents. Uncomfortable (read: overheated) workers are much more likely to lose focus, make unsafe decisions, and risk harming themselves by wearing their workwear incorrectly — for instance, by failing to completely zip their jacket or wearing just half of their protective suit.
Get involved, get specific
It’s common for large organizations to select protective clothing at the global HQ, then roll out this generic solution regionally. Outposts may understandably try to find a local protective workwear solution that’s better tailored to their climate, but this can come at a cost to safety compliance. That’s why it’s smartest to get all global stakeholders involved in your protective clothing tender from the beginning, in order to fully assess your workers’ safety and comfort needs across all different seasons and climates.
When “one size fits all” doesn’t apply
Ultimately, everyone experiences temperature differently, so give your workers the chance to decide their ideal climate protective clothing for themselves. Not only does this signal that you value and hear them, it empowers them to take responsibility for their own safety on the job by wearing their workwear correctly. Thanks to the many types of protective fabrics available these days, you’re sure to find a solution that ticks all the boxes when it comes to climate- and temperature-related end user needs. We recommend consulting your protective fabric supplier or garment maker directly to discover what your options are.