060 HPM 0517

HPM May 2017

60 TOOLS & EQUIPMENT Smarter workwear preventing injuries David Clark, managing director of the Hultafors Group UK, which owns Snickers Workwear, looks at how health and safety issues on site are influencing the development of ‘smarter’ working clothes and heralding a revolution in wearable technology Even though modern working clothes were invented back in the 1970’s by a Swedish electrician called Matti Viio, the most significant technical development in workwear before that was way back in the 1850’s. Jacob Davis, a Latvian Jewish immigrant living in San Francisco started buying bolts of denim cloth from Levi Strauss to reinforce and repair denim clothing. After one of Davis' customers kept purchasing cloth to reinforce torn trousers, he had an idea to use copper rivets to reinforce the points of strain on trousers, such as on the pocket corners and at the base of the button fly. Davis and Strauss then went into business with a patented rivet design that is now part of clothing history. It was a significant development in clothing design at the time – a product development that was influenced by functionality and durability needs of their customers. One-hundred-and-sixty years on, workwear design and development is still being driven by the needs for functionality, durability and comfort, but perhaps more so now by the demands of health and safety on site. Our working lives are governed by occupational health and safety legislation, but while such laws act as a framework for ensuring employees wellbeing at work, it’s often the workers themselves who tend not to take enough care of their health on site. Workplace injuries are commonplace. But while employers have an obligation to ensure health and safety at work, some responsibility for overcoming occupational injuries does require a change in the behaviour among workers themselves. They ought to be more attentive and perhaps prioritise their own health and personal safety on site. A recent survey among professional craftsmen in Scandinavia reveals that six out of ten suffered an injury at their workplace in the past year. So 60% have or are suffering from physical health issues or pain as a result. However, the same survey shows that more than one in two workers agree that personal protection equipment (PPE) is not used on site as often as it should be. Surprisingly, given that most of the respondents work in environments where they are exposed to loud noise and dust as well as doing heavy lifting and a lot of kneeling, the use of PPE such as face masks, kneepads, protective goggles, helmets and ear defenders are disregarded the most. Aside from the immediate effect of an injury at work, the most common ongoing pain a worker suffers is in the knees and back. Yet over a third of the respondents in the survey never change their kneepads. Personal attitudes in the workplace are drivers as to why available protective equipment is not used, with many crasftsmen saying that laziness is one of the reasons behind the lack of personal protection. They say that time constraints and efficiency demands often underly such carelessness with half of the people interviewed believing that too much protective equipment impedes them in their work. Yet the survey also reveals that more than one in five workers in Scandinavia say that their employer does not always provide them with the equipment and work clothing they need. What’s more four out of ten believe that the employer does not always support them with information or procedures concerning the protection or the right workwear to use – an issue that’s particularly prevalent in smaller companies with four to ten employees. Fewer accidents In Scandinavia, the number of occupational diseases and work accidents among manual workers is in decline with far fewer accidents than the European average. Despite this, much work remains for creating good conditions and a safer work environment for every single craftsman and woman. As product developers, workers, legislators and employers – we have a collective responsibility. Given that the majority of respondents in the Scandinavian survey are in favour of new, smart protection solutions, ‘Wearable Technology’ in workwear is the next logical step in the evolution of working clothes for professional craftsmen and women. www.hpmmag.com May 2017 enquiry number 138 A survey has found that personal protection equipment is not used on site as often as it should be “While employers have an obligation to ensure health and safety at work, some responsibility for overcoming occupational injuries does require a change in the behaviour among workers themselves”


HPM May 2017
To see the actual publication please follow the link above