Good workwear fosters a sense of professionalism, work engagement, and unity on your team. It can even be a brand representation of your company. For more specialised industries, however, the importance of safety cannot be overstated. It is the fundamental factor in choosing your workwear. Construction workers, emergency responders, heavy equipment operators, and similar professions follow safety standards in apparel.
The right safety clothing provides protection and visibility for workers in these industries. They come as overalls, sleeves, pants and coats. They can be jackets and vests that reflect light. And depending on the specific job, they are supplemented with gloves, hats, goggles, masks, harnesses, steel-toe boots, and other safety gear.
Comfort and Utility
Comfort and durability are the primary considerations when choosing safety workwear. Other essential features include breathability, high visibility, resistance to moisture and chemicals and retardant to fire. It should be discernible in day and night and should be compliant to the safety standards.
The type of material largely affects the quality of workwear. For instance, thicker fabric tends to be more durable. This applies to safety clothing which is prone to contact with rough surfaces and equipment. Lighter materials are suitable for work with lesser risks, especially when workers prefer more comfort and casual movement. This rule of thumb leads us to the two general types of fabric for workwear.
Cotton vs. Polyester
Cotton provides comfort and breathability. It is a natural material which makes it soft and pleasant to wear. Cotton workwear is preferred for types of work near embers.
Polyester is a synthetic fabric usually obtained from petroleum and other plant-based fibres. It is breathable like cotton yet more lightweight and water-resistant.
Cotton and polyester are general types. Textile manufacturing had seen many variations and improvements, bringing better choices for workwear fabric.
Blended and Alternative Fabrics
Blended fibres increase the life expectancy of garments. Cotton and polyester blends have less shrinkage, more strength, and more abrasion resistance. They are also available in different weights and commonly used for cold weather PPE.
Canvas, also called cotton duck, is a weaved fabric with a rough texture and a bit of stretch. It can be made from both cotton and polyester. This was the fabric used for sailor clothing, as with sails, tents and other rugged uses.
Another combination of cotton and polyester is the twill fabric. It is a strong fabric that maintains its form even after repeated washing. Denim is a cotton twill fabric more comfortable than canvas. This indigo-dyed fabric is so durable that it has been the symbol of workwear for decades.
Synthetic fibres are becoming popular for safety clothing since they provide features that natural fibres can’t. They are resistant to heat, water, tear, and abrasion. Polyamide fibres are made of nylon which is known for its strength and longevity. Carbon fibre is heat resistant like cotton. Acrylic can be coloured in fluorescent orange, green, or yellow for visibility purposes. Latex, neoprene, and nitrile polymers are typically used for chemical-resistant clothing.
Consider the strengths and weaknesses of each material and the type of work you do. If you move around a lot, softer fabrics might be more comfortable. Opt for harder fabrics when you have more surface contact. Overall, the nature of your work determines the best type of fabric for your workwear.