Industrial Uniforms

Industrial Uniforms

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/wearers of the apparel, functional heads, and safety representatives and, where external image is a consideration, the marketing function.

There are several separate areas where detail is required.

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 outfits specified in contract documentation.Each situation needs to be looked at individually:

The design of industrial uniforms 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, turnups, 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 industrial uniforms 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. The standard for high-visibility industrial uniforms is EN471.

So the uniforms must be tailored as such to allow wearers to perform their tasks safely, to bend, lift, and stretch and so on. Restrictive or ill-designed clothing may induce employees to act unsafely – short and/or tight skirts can have this effect. The dressthat 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.

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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.

In the chemical and electronic industries static electricity is a problem, in the former case because it forms a potential source of ignition, in the latter because static discharge can damage components and assemblies. Textiles should be specified which do not create a build-up of static through friction; footwear also can be selected for anti-static properties. Static can also be a problem for office workers, especially in air-conditioned premises with low humidity, and with some grades of carpet.

Management should be receptive to the employees’ views on aspects of safety and the fitness-for-purpose of proposed garments. Some additional issues, which may need to be considered.

Policies on headgear may need to take religious beliefs into account; the Sikh turban is an obvious example.

Provision of a ‘trouser’ alternative to the dress/skirt for female staff, and a ‘long sleeve’ alternative. Note that this is not only out of respect for certain religious beliefs; staff members may have a variety of reasons, from birthmarks and scar tissue to inappropriate tattoos, for not wishing to reveal arms and legs. Skirt lengths require sensitive consultation. More generally, remember that in most cases designs are going to have to be suitable for employees over a wide age-range. Older staff, for example, may not be entirely relaxed in T-shirts and baseball caps.

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It may be necessary or advisable to offer staff some (controlled) element of choice in the attire they wear – this will probably increase costs.

Colurs can be an issue. In some countries, particular colours may have political and cultural connotations. More generally, bear in mind that colour combination that work well for some skin types may not be so happy a choice with others.

The brief for designers and suppliers must contain a clear indication of the type of message that the industrial uniform is expected to deliver. Unfortunately, there will often be a number of messages, some being mutually contradictory. For example, an organization will generally wish to convey an image of competence, professionalism and efficiency, which might suggest a fairly formal style. This may, however, conflict with a desire to engage with younger customers, where a more informal approach might be indicated.

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