The Safety & Health Expo was in full swing again this year, taking place from 13th to 15th May at the Birmingham NEC. The show, which features medical companies and safety specialists alongside workwear, PPE and safety footwear companies, was larger than ever, with over 350 exhibitors. Its continued popularity makes it unsurprising that many companies choose to launch their latest innovations at the show. So, for those who were unable to make the event - or whose directional capabilities failed to get them round the entirety of the gargantuan venue - here is a snapshot of some of the latest workwear and PPE innovations that were showcased.
With the summer fast approaching, Praybourne was at the Safety & Health Expo to remind us that working under the sun's glare can have serious consequences. UK sales director Stuart Jukes says: "Everyone is aware of the dangers of exposure to the sun - not least the increasing rates of skin cancer we keep hearing about. Protection whilst you're at work and exposed to the elements is vital." To combat this, the company has launched a hi-visibility polo range with sun protection. The long and short sleeve orange and yellow polo shirts from its Pulsar and Pulsarail collection are designed to keep employees safe from the sun's harmful rays for longer thanks to its certified SPF 50+ solar protection. "We have developed these polo shirts because people are more likely to wear them than the waistcoats, which are often wrapped around waists or worn without anything underneath, so wearers get burnt," Stuart says. "The whole point of hi-vis is for them to wear it - if they aren't going to wear it then there's no point in giving it to them."
Praybourne's polo shirts weren't the only hi-visibility garments attracting a lot of interest at the show. Fresh from publishing a new industry catalogue, the people at Sioen were keen to tell us about their brand-new range - Sio-Cool - which has been designed to keep the wearer fresh and cool all day. Its current collection of hi-visibility T-shirts and polos are made of multi-functional yarns, which combine the softness of cotton with the cool, easy care properties of polyester. The garments are quick drying, anti-microbial and anti-odour, thanks to the presence of nano-silver particles in the fibre.
Segmented reflective tape, which conforms to EN471, also plays an important role in wicking perspiration away from the skin. "If you put a standard hi-vis tape on a shirt-type fabric, which you always have to weld on, the problem is that you affect the garment's flexibility, movement and breathability," Tim Meakin, apparel division sales manager for Scotland and Northern England, says. "But with what we call 'segmented' tape, the cuts in the tape allow the garment to retain its flexibility and breathability, by moving moisture away from the skin to the outer layer of the fabric."
Now it's never been a case of 'ladies first' when it comes to workwear, but at this year's exhibition there was a concerted effort by a few companies to make sure they're not left out. One of these companies was Mascot International, which has expanded the MASCOT® FRONTLINE series to include stylish and comfortable products, specially designed for women in the services and transport industries.
The collection offers a variety of T-shirts, polos and shirts so that women no longer have to endure ill-fitting clothes that were made with men in mind. UK business development manager Deborah Davies says: "Even a small size in a men's workwear range can easily bury some petite females, so we thought it was time to develop a women's line. There is a big niche market for ladieswear at the moment as more and more women are coming to work in construction and as plumbers and electricians."
The tops are available in sizes XS to XXXL, and come in a number of colours including black, olive, anthracite and dark navy. They are made from 95% cotton and 5% elastan, which, Deborah tells me, is to prevent the garment losing its elasticity. These can be teamed with Mascot's new range of unisex trousers from its MASCOT® YOUNG workwear series, which was also on display at the show. To demonstrate this, Deborah dressed a mannequin in a fitted SKYROS ladies' top and unisex PINHEL trousers, which epitomise the company's distinct high engineering features.
The lightweight, three-quarter length craftsman's trousers are triple-stitched on the inner and outer side of the legs and at the crotch, and come in a special fit. Deborah says: "It is higher at the back so you don't get the builder's bum, and lower at the front to give you room." Features such as CORDURA® fabric holster pockets with magnets for nails and screws, special pockets for pens and phones and a removable knee pad facility are all included with a dual function in mind. "The unisex trousers are basically built for industry, and to last, but they are also designed to be stylish, so that you could put them on the high street if you wanted to," she adds. Mascot International's womenswear range is available from the end of May 2008.
All in one
An eye-catching catalogue, shot in the exotic Spanish city of Malaga, was the big news for another well-known name in workwear. CAT Apparel's catalogue was launched on the first day of the show and features the company's workwear range for 2008. Trousers, T-shirts, and outerwear are all included as well as much more, as managing director Paul Bond explains: "It's the first time ever that the footwear, glasses, gloves and accessories have all been in one catalogue so it's a big deal for us. We are the only company in the world that sells them all together so that's why we did the catalogue."
Moving from wovens to disposables, Dailys Ltd, which specialises in short-life clothing, unveiled its Candour FR™ Plus Coverall at the show. The coverall has the same FR treatment as the company's Candour FR™ Coverall, which meets standard EN533 Index 1, but has added alcohol and oil resistance. It's made from a combination of soft and breathable non-woven fabrics, and is also resistant to noxious dust and splash in accordance with CE Type 5 and 6. When worn over an Index 2 or 3 suit, it can provide extra protection from sparks and flames as well as extend the life of the suit. Product development assistant Katherine Smith says: "We really wanted to step it up a gear to make the product one of the most specialised Type 5/6 garments on the market and to give it a different edge." The Candour FR™ Plus Coverall will be officially launched in June/July.
When it comes to health and safety in the workplace, we all know how important it is to make sure that the correct garment is worn, but it is equally important that feet are just as well protected. That was the message coming from WL Gore's stand, which was dedicated to safety shoes. Henrietta Bryan from Gore's marketing team says: "People have to wear shoes for a minimum of eight hours a day, so they want to be comfortable and to be able to breathe. Workers who are outside obviously don't want to be working with wet feet either as they would be miserable."
Of course, an innovative product is one that passes all of the appropriate tests, and testing is something that Gore prides itself on. The company, which sells more than 20 million pairs of GORE-TEX footwear worldwide, carries out stringent quality management testing to ensure that its footwear is engineered to keep feet dry by being durably waterproof. Simon Lubacz, account manager for workwear at Gore, says: "We take testing and quality control very seriously at Gore. Our footwear products offer workers in the utilities and industrial sectors comfort and protection, meaning they can focus on the job in hand."
On the stand, staff at GORE explained what processes are put in place to ensure they produce a product of unquestionable quality. To overcome wet feet, for example, which are caused by an inability to evaporate the moisture that feet perspire, workers need shoes that are breathable and expel excess moisture from inside the shoe or boot to the outside. To test for this, Gore simulates the effect of a perspiring foot in a shoe, in a temperature-controlled microclimate. Climate comfort is determined inside the footwear based on water vapour diffusion and water vapour absorption. The shoes that pass the test offer complete breathability and climate comfort to the wearer.
The gloves are off
BM POLYCO Ltd's new seamless, ultra cut-resistant glove, Metallica, is currently going through extensive tests before it enters the market. Created from a combination of high technology fibres, the glove, which conforms to EN388, has been designed for foam cutting, cloth cutting, butchery, food processing, glass handling, industrial blade replacement and police and defence work.
John Lambeth, industrial technical manager, says: "We designed it to replace heavy, inflexible chain mail gloves. The unique Metallica yarn and knitted construction of the glove allows the wearer greater dexterity compared to standard chain mail gloves, as well as excellent abrasion resistance." A choice of liner on the inside and outside of the glove is also available to maximise comfort. Pictures of the glove dominated BM POLYCO's stand, but the product won't be officially launched until later in the year.
Also getting their first airing were Alpha Solway's colour-coded disposable respirators. Nicholas Moore, product manager, says the company is simply trying to take it one step further. "We're trying to move things along really to fit with the modern times. In the past, the straps or the bands have been colour coded, and from a distance it is difficult to determine which mask is which, so we actually decided to colour code the shell."
The colours, which include white, blue, grey and orange, correspond to the varying levels of protection or to specific manufacturing applications such as in the food industry. A new range of disposable masks called alphamesh 8000 have had this feature added. As the name suggests, the masks have an alpha-mesh shell on them to stop the mask collapsing onto the face and to maintain shape. The seal of the mask on the shell, a foam inlay and a nylon coated adjustable head strap have all been designed with a comfortable fit in mind.
Nicholas says: "We are encouraging simplicity and making it easier for people to actually wear it. There is no such thing as a comfortable mask, but if you can make it as comfortable as possible, then hopefully it will make it easier for people to use them."