person wearing hard hat, face shield, face mask, gloves and protective shirt while holding a clipboard in a factory

Choosing the Right Protective Workwear for Your Manufacturing Facility

What factors do you need to consider when selecting workwear?

Safety is a top priority in any manufacturing facility. In fact, safety acts as the foundation to help you achieve the desired profits and productivity.

Due to the different settings in the manufacturing environment, employees can come into contact with harsh objects and substances that can harm them in different ways. Therefore, the right protective workwear comes in handy for keeping workers safe from potential contamination and hazards in their everyday operations. Below are more details on the different types of protective clothing and the factors to consider when selecting them.

Types of Protective Clothing

Employees need different protective clothing depending on the hazards in their environment. Here are the essentials that workers in manufacturing plants should have.

Eyewear. Statistics show that over 2,000 individuals suffer eye injuries daily in the workplace, and up to 90 percent of these injuries are preventable with eye protection. In many manufacturing environments, there is a high risk of airborne particles, chemical gasses, molten metal, vapors and other flying debris getting into your eyes.

Workers should wear eyewear that fits comfortably and is close to the eye to prevent injuries that can cause temporary or permanent loss of vision. Some protective eyewear can include welding shields, spectacles and safety goggles.

Breathing masks. Many manufacturing facilities deal with toxic substances in different processes, and the air may contain contaminants such as dust, sprays and fumes. Workers should wear breathing masks to prevent possible respiratory problems. Workers may need simple paper masks or more complex respirators, depending on a specific facility or process.

Gloves. Workers' hands and fingers are often at a higher risk of coming into contact with corrosive substances and toxic chemicals used in manufacturing. Depending on the environment, gloves offer protection against bacteriological risks, splashes from chemicals, thermal burns, vibrations and cuts by sharp objects.

Hard hats. Although hard hats are common in construction, they are essential in manufacturing plants. They protect workers from getting hit by something heavy falling on their head, causing injury, concussion, or even brain damage. Nowadays, you can find different designs and even select several options, such as a comfortable sweatband and an adjustable interior harness.

According to OSHA regulations, workers should cover and protect long hair to prevent machinery parts like belts from catching it. Also, hard hats should be shock, penetration and water resistant. If headgear sustains impact or damage, make sure you replace it.

Earplugs. Working in a high-sound-level facility can lead to long-term hearing damage, migraines, tinnitus and other harmful effects. Therefore, workers in the manufacturing industry should use specially molded earplugs to minimize noise levels.

Body shields. Workers also need to protect their entire bodies against hazardous conditions in the workplace. Full body protection can come in the form of lab coats, ESD clothing, full-body suits, jackets and aprons. Body shields such as ESD clothing help prevent static charges from passing to the skin.

Safety shoes. Employees in the manufacturing sector also need to safeguard their feet from hazards such as sharp objects, electrical hazards and hot, damp or slippery surfaces. There is a range of special-purpose safety shoes recommended for different purposes. For instance, shoes with an anti-skid sole are ideal for working on slippery surfaces.

Factors to Consider When Selecting Protective Workwear

Selecting specific clothing for workers is not all about getting an outfit that offers FR protection and looks nice. Always remember the following considerations to ensure you choose the right protective workwear.

Hazard Identification. Manufacturing facilities have different hazards. The right protective workwear depends on the work environment of each employee. Employers should conduct a hazard identification on each employee to know the necessary PPE they need. For instance, you can know a chemical's solvent or corrosive nature, which helps you decide on the proper footwear.

Risk Assessment. Another important factor to consider is the level of risk a worker faces on the job. You have to consider how dangerous a specific manufacturing process will be to an individual. Generally, the higher the risk level, the higher the protection level required. Workers in high-risk environments, such as processes involving high-annealed glass, need highly protective workwear. If annealed glass breaks, it can pose a significant threat to employees.

Protective Apparel Selection. An employee's workwear should have the capacity to provide an acceptable level of protection. Therefore, careful selection of the right clothing material is vital for the use, care and performance of protective workwear. Clearly comprehending the performance requirements and work environment is vital in decision-making.

Comfort. If protective clothing isn't comfortable, workers may neglect to wear it properly, exposing their bodies to harmful conditions. This is because they will likely restrict a person's movement or breathability.

You can ensure that protective clothing is comfortable by considering the following elements:

  • The breathability of the material helps prevent excessive sweating or overheating.
  • Clothing isn't loose so that it doesn't cause tripping.
  • Depending on the nature of the work, consider including multifunctional pockets.
  • It should be easy to put on and take off.
  • The fabric's weight shouldn't restrict a worker's normal movement.

Note that choosing comfortable workwear doesn't mean jeopardizing safety. Today's protective clothing manufacturers have mastered the art of striking a balance between comfort and protection.

Durability and Quality. Employees need high-quality clothing that makes them feel safe and secure in the workplace. This way, they feel confident about their protective gear's ability to protect them from potential hazards. Also, good quality garments are durable enough to withstand challenging work conditions for a long time.

Climate. The climate in a worker's environment is another factor worth considering. If an employee has protective clothing that is too heavy in a hot climate, they will get fatigued quickly, increasing the risk of accidents. On the other hand, workwear that is too light in a cold environment is uncomfortable and can easily impair coordination.

Workers in a climate-controlled facility enjoy some degree of comfort, which gives them various options. Experts recommend pullovers in a climate-controlled environment because they don't have gangling zippers or loose ends.

Bottom Line

Always consider the above six essential factors when selecting protective workwear in the workplace. This way, workplace hazards will significantly reduce, and you'll remain compliant with the set industry standards. Increasing employee protection is critical to improving their well-being, which substantially increases morale, productivity and performance.

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