Workers shouldn’t have to live in fear of workplace safety hazards. Safety concerns – for example, the potential of an arc flash or flash fire – can be both distracting and off-putting, leaving workers focused more on the potential for disaster than the work at hand. Enter textile industry innovators.
“Americans couldn’t perform in their daily lives without the use of innovative, special-use textiles,” said Rich Lippert, director of business development, protective market at Glen Raven. “As an industry, we look for opportunities to produce items that push the current level of technology, giving industrial workers an end product that is functional, safe and comfortable.”
Prior to 1973, workers in the utilities, oil and gas, and manufacturing industries typically wore cotton or polycotton uniforms, leaving them vulnerable to hazards like energized electrical equipment, combustible dust and active hydrocarbon zones. Once flame-resistant (FR) garments entered the picture, and were later required as personal protection equipment (PPE), worker safety was dramatically improved.
“When FR garments were initially introduced, arc flash-rated workwear provided minimum level protection and was not comfortable or durable,” said Lippert. “Now, the industry is able to provide superior protection with lighter-weight, longer-lasting materials that can withstand a 10-12 hour workday. The apparel is comfortable, breathable and abrasion resistant.”
One such product is Glen Raven’s GlenGuard FR 5.3 oz., a lightweight alternative to bulky PPE. GlenGuard is made with solution-dyed meta-aramid fibers that are fade-resistant and can withstand multiple runs through an industrial washing machine. This innovative solution is the foundation of FR apparel by Workrite Uniform Co., a subsidiary of the leading workwear provider Williamson-Dickie.
“In addition to durability and practicality, workers asked for more comfortable, transitional clothing – adaptable apparel that makes working in high temperatures and in a variety of settings easier,” said Lippert. “We understand those end user requirements, and we’ve produced something that’s indistinguishable from what people wear everyday. The clothing feels the same as what they would wear to watch a football game or play golf.”
In spring 2015, workers in Eagle Ford Shale, Texas, tested GlenGuard uniforms during a rig move. The apparel’s protection, flexibility and breathability helped them set up oil platforms and move enormous cranes across numerous platforms in 85-degree heat.
Lippert believes GlenGuard is only the beginning. Through innovative research and collaboration with firms like Workrite Uniform Co., Glen Raven hopes to push the envelope, in turn creating a ripple effect throughout the industry.
“At the end of the day, creating products that ensure the safety of hardworking Americans is what it’s all about,” Lippert said. “If we can create a product that better protects our friends, family and neighbors from potential workplace disasters, we’re going to do it.”