A new year requires new gear

A new year requires new gear

Personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers continue to develop better, stronger and more reliable equipment. ANLERIE DE WET takes a look at the focus of the PPE industry in 2017

In an era where technology is the order of the day, it is no surprise that wearable technology is being incorporated into PPE. Big companies, including PPE manufacturers, around the world are investing in wearable technology to track employees and measure their movements in order to help keep them safe.

Insurance company American International Group (AIG) and IBM invested in a start-up company, Human Condition Safety, to develop PPE for workers in dangerous occupations by using artificial intelligence and building information modelling (BIM) to bring the virtual and physical world together.

Typically hidden under, or worn on top of, PPE clothing, wearable technology can detect when a worker carries too much weight, takes a wrong turn, enters an environmentally risky area, or gets too close to dangerous equipment. The device captures the data and redirects it to the user.

The Frost & Sullivan research study (entitled: Wearables and smart technologies for industrial environment − A PPE perspective) shows that “wearable technologies are slowly entering the PPE market, with the promise of improving worker productivity, better safety and long-term cost savings through active prevention of accidents”.

The study says that PPE manufacturers will eventually have no option but to provide wearable technologies to their customers in the industrial sector. Although there are not many options for PPE that incorporates wearable technology currently entering the market, most of the innovators are conducting final trials on their devices, which may be available only later in the year, or at the beginning of 2018.

PPE manufacturers are also looking at enhancing their products to be more comfortable and stylish. Although the primary focus of PPE should be to keep workers safe, more and more customers are requesting safety features together with comfort and style in PPE products.

A survey, conducted at the 2008 National Safety Council (NSC) in the United States (US) Congress and Expo, showed that 89 percent of safety professionals said they had observed workers failing to wear PPE.

Workers − who have to wear PPE for at least eight hours per day – often complain that it is uncomfortable and doesn’t look appealing. Manufacturers have recently been working on making their PPE fit better, while making the materials lighter and the styles more appealing.

PPE will always have to develop with the times, while taking the preferences of the workers into account. PPE manufacturers will continue to look for better ways to keep workers safe, while also making equipment that is attractive and comfortable.

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