Comfort Inspires Compliance
One of the best ways to motivate employees to wear their PPE consistently and correctly is to ensure it is as comfortable as possible. However, selecting comfortable PPE is not always as straightforward as it may seem. Comfort is largely subjective, and the best way to find PPE that addresses wearers’ preferences is to work with a manufacturer to conduct a wear trial. Through a wear trial, employees can try various PPE options on the job to determine which items work best for them.
One of the primary factors that contribute to comfort is fit
PPE that is too loose or too tight is likely to be uncomfortable and, in some cases, even can endanger the wearer by failing to provide effective protection. To ensure the best fit possible, consider the individual needs of the various employees who will be using the PPE. When choosing products for female workers, look for styles developed specifically for women. And if employees do not fit into stock sizes, work with a manufacturer that offers customization options.
As you work to identify the most comfortable PPE for your work environment, be sure to consider the types of work being performed, the environment the work is performed in, and, of course, the hazards that may be present.
Convenience Is Key
Even if PPE is relatively comfortable, employees may still choose to forgo protection in favor of convenience. If putting on the appropriate PPE is time consuming and cumbersome, the temptation to skip it becomes much stronger.
Let’s go back to the example of employees working in a laboratory where a separate chemical-barrier apron must be worn over their lab coats. If, in addition to the challenge of remembering to put on the aprons, the employees also had to walk into a different room to get them, the combined discomfort of the stiff aprons and inconvenience of wearing them would be a recipe for noncompliance.
Fortunately, in this particular scenario, as well as many others, resolving the issue is as simple as taking advantage of new product innovations. New lab coats offering chemical-splash protection (CP) are now available, eliminating the need to put on two separate protective garments. Furthermore, these lightweight, breathable lab coats are significantly more comfortable than chemical-barrier aprons and disposable protective lab coats.
Multi-Hazard Makes a Difference
One way to reduce the quantity of PPE components that employees will need is to choose products that offer multi-hazard protection. According to Frost and Sullivan’s North American Industrial Protective Clothing Market Forecast to 2020, apparel with multiple protective functionalities is becoming increasingly popular. This isn’t surprising, considering that many occupations involve more than one hazard.
Consider an environment that faces both chemical-splash hazards and thermal hazards, such as arc flash and flash fire. This exact scenario can be found in many laboratories, chemical-processing plants, pharmaceutical companies, and manufacturing facilities where paints, cleaners, coatings, batteries, agricultural chemicals, or LEDs are used. Until recently, workers in these environments would have needed both an FR garment and a garment that protects against chemical splash. But now, protection against these two hazards can be found in lab coats and coveralls that offer FR properties combined with chemical-splash protection (CP). Not only do these FR/CP products provide multi-hazard protection, but they are also comfortable and designed to be worn as all-day attire—all of which supports increased wearer compliance.
Multi-hazard protection extends beyond FR/CP products, as well. For example, some products offer simultaneous protection against flash fire, arc flash, and molten metal splatter. Other products combine high visibility with FR protection. When evaluating your multi-hazard protection options, be sure to consult all of the safety standards that apply to your industry to ensure the items you choose offer the necessary level of protection.
Inspiring wearer compliance is far from an exact science, but optimizing comfort and convenience can go a long way toward encouraging proper PPE use. And with recent innovations, such as multi-hazard protection products, finding PPE that employees will want to wear is easier than ever.
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