Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Safety Gloves for Mechanical and other Hazards

In a previous article we gave details of Safety Gloves for protecting against the risk of handling chemical and biological hazards, now we will give information on other types of safety gloves to protect against other hazards.

Safety Gloves should be issued and worn after undertaking a Risk Assessment for people who have to handle or come into contact with:
  • Materials with sharp or rough edges
  • Very hot or very cold materials
  • Fire
  • Electrical current
There are certain standards that have to be conformed to:
  • EN 388 is for gloves designed to provide protection against mechanical risks. It specifies requirements for resistance to damage from abrasion, perforation, tearing and cutting.
  • EN 407 is for gloves designed to provide protection against thermal hazards e.g. heat and or fire.
  • EN 511 is for gloves designed to protect from cold conditions.
  • EN 12477 is for gloves designed to give protection when using welding equipment.
Gloves for protection against mechanical hazards usually have a fabric base to provide resistance to damage. For years the outer fabric was leather but now the outer is made from a polymer that gives protection from water and chemicals. For resistance to cuts the outer is often made of synthetic high performance yarns e.g. Kevlar™. Generally these gloves are re-usable rather than disposable. However if the outer surface has been damaged they must be disposed of immediately, regular checks must therefore be made.

The types of materials most commonly in use are:
  • Latex natural rubber is a very elastic and flexible material depending on the formulation of a particular glove, natural rubber can offer abrasion, tear and cut resistance. However some people suffer allergic reactions to latex, so individual user requirements must be taken into account.
  • Nitrile gives excellent abrasion and puncture resistance whilst retaining flexibility and comfort. It is also less likely to cause allergic reactions.
  • Polyvinyl Chloride PVC can offer abrasion and puncture resistance, if thick enough it can afford some cut protection. Generally tear resistance is poor.
  • Leather a natural material can be modified during the tanning process to give different properties. Leather gloves come in a large range of thickness and styles and vary widely in protection given, from specialised to very basic general purpose gloves.
  • Kevlar™ brand fibre (Par Aramid fibre) a specialist artificial yarn from which gloves and sleeves can be knitted. These have excellent tear, abrasion and cut resistance.
For gloves tested against EN388 there should be a pictogram with numbers underneath to show the level of protection against from left to right; abrasion, cut, tear and puncture. The levels go between 0 and 4 for abrasion, tear and puncture and 0 and 5 for blade cut resistance. 0 means it has either not been tested or has failed.

4 2 3 1

There is also a pictogram for gloves that have a particular resistance to impact cuts

At no time should protective gloves be used as an alternative to the fitting and proper use of guards on machinery or tools.

Thermal Hazards

Gloves that are resistant to thermal hazards either heat or cold can be manufactured using a variety of materials.
  • Aluminised gloves help with the reflection of heat and are normally used where the main source of heat is radiant e.g. in a blast furnace. Materials often aluminised are Para Amid and leather.
  • Leather is a good protective material against cold as long as it does not get wet and often they are treated with waterproofing agents. Leather is also a good material for welding gloves as it does not melt or burn unlike many synthetic fibres.
  • Poly Viloft is a synthetic fibre that gives good thermal insulation properties against cold.
  • Para Aramid e.g. Kevlar™ developed for aerospace to give heat resistance for the extreme temperatures during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, is extremely good against flame, and convection heat.
  • Cotton has only moderate resistance to heat and cold, the main problem is that to be effective the material has to be thick which limits dexterity.
In the standards for resistance to cold the following categories are used:
a. Resistance to convective cold 0 to 4
b. Resistance to contact cold 0 to 4
c. Permeability to water 0 to 1

The Pictogram used to show that gloves are resistant to cold is

3 2 1

In the standards for resistance to heat the following categories are used:
a. Resistance to flammability 0 to 4
b. Resistance to contact heat 0 to 4
c. Resistance to convection heat 0 to 3
d. Resistance to radiant heat 0 to 4
e. Resistance to small pieces of molten metal 0 to 4
f. Resistance to large splashes of molten metal

The pictogram used to show the gloves resistance to heat is

4 3 2 3 2 1

There also standards applicable particularly to chainsaw protective gloves that have been covered in previous articles on the Granite Workwear web site see A Guide to Chainsaw Protective Clothing and Equipment published 11th June 2010.

In our range of gloves we have products that cover all aspects of protection.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Safety Gloves for Chemical and Biological Hazards

Safety Gloves should be issued and worn after undertaking a Risk Assessment for people who have to handle:
  • Hazardous materials
  • Toxic chemicals
  • Corrosive materials
No single glove will meet the needs of everyone. Gloves must be selected on the basis of the materials being handled and the type of work undertaken.

The use of protective gloves should be seen as a control measure of last resort and should always be used in conjunction with other measures. This is because:
  • Gloves only protect the wearer – they do not remove the contaminant from the workplace environment.
  • If protective gloves are used incorrectly, or badly maintained, the wearer may not be protected - when gloves fail they fail completely which then exposes the user to the hazard.
  • Gloves themselves can cause skin problems.
  • Wearing gloves interferes with the wearer’s sense of touch.
  • The extent of protection depends on good fit.
  • Some types of glove are inconvenient and interfere with the way people work.
However, by selecting the right glove for the task at hand, understanding the limits of the selected glove and by knowing how to correctly use them, gloves can help to remove dangerous exposures.

There are various standards that have to be achieved for different risks.

EN 374 is for gloves designed to protect from chemicals and micro-organisms. This standard specifies the requirements of gloves for protection against chemicals and/or micro-organisms. Specific Requirements are that gloves need to be:
  • Sealed against penetration of liquids according to method in EN 374-2. This test is a pass/fail test.
  • Permeation resistance to chemicals tested according to method EN 374-3. Each combination of glove/chemical is classified according to the time the glove resists to permeation of the chemical.
EN 455 is used to assess gloves intended for use in health care. A glove that conforms to this standard will provide adequate protection against infection risks, but chemical resistance will not have been assessed.

There are four factors to consider when deciding which glove is suitable for your work

(a) The type of hazard (chemical type, Bio-hazard)
(b) The task
(c) The user (size and fit, state of health, etc.)
(d) The workplace conditions (ergonomics, temperature, wet or dry, etc.),

They need to be considered together and not in isolation as it is the interaction of all these points that will determine the suitability of the glove.

In the Risk Assessment it is not enough to simply state that gloves are required, the type of glove must be specified along with any other control methods used to avoid or limit contact and also any special measures that must be taken to ensure that the protection of the glove is maintained, for example specifying when gloves should be changed.

Chemical Hazard

It is impossible for one glove material to offer complete protection from all substances/chemicals. All of them are liable to damage or failure by degradation or permeation by some chemicals. In most instances where there is need for protection against accidental contact, a nitrile glove will be the best choice.

Degradation is damage caused by changes in one or more of the physical properties after contact with the chemical, signs of degradation are normally visible with indications being swelling, loss of flexibility or areas of stickiness.

Permeation is where a chemical passes through the glove material by diffusion without damaging the actual glove, this is normally expressed as the ‘breakthrough time’, this is the measure of how quickly a chemical can permeate the glove and will be specific for the particular model of the glove.

Generally the thicker the glove, the longer the breakthrough time is. The breakthrough time is the maximum time that it can be used in contact with the hazard and must be changed at that time even if the task has not been completed. Breakthrough time can also be impacted adversely if the chemicals are warmer then the ambient temperature and also are of higher concentration.

If the task involves working with chemicals classed as toxic, harmful on skin contact or capable of absorption through the skin you should always consult the material safety data sheets for the chemicals used, or a chemical resistance chart to select the most suitable type of glove.

Examples of Chemical Hazards

AreaExample of Hazard
EngineeringMetalworking fluids, oils, solvents, degreasers, adhesives, cement, etc.
LaboratoryAcids, alkalis, oils, solvents, etc.
MaintenanceSolvents, oils, paint, epoxy resins, degreasers, cements, tar, etc.
PrintingProcessing chemicals, inks, plate cleaning solvents, adhesives, etc.
CateringDishwasher liquids, oven cleaners, surface cleaning agents, water, etc.
AgriculturePesticides, weed-killers, oils, solvents, etc.
CleaningBleaches, cleaning agents, detergents, water, etc.
JanitorialCleaning agents, solvents (i.e. bleach), etc.
OfficeSolvents, glues, cleaning agents, water, etc.

Whereas the thicker the material generally the more resistance the need for dexterity has to be taken into account in the selection of the glove. Also the cuff length must be taken into account; generally disposable gloves cover only a small area of the wrist, often leaving a gap between the glove and the sleeve of the protective clothing. There are longer gloves available to eliminate this.

Grip requirements also need to be taken into account, if working in wet and oily conditions gloves with a textured surface should be used.

Abrasion, puncture, tearing and snagging risks also have to be taken into account, generally disposable gloves do not offer good resistance to these hazards and therefore thicker re-usable gloves should be considered.

User requirements

Using the correct size of gloves is essential; gloves that are too small will restrict the hand and cause fatigue and rashes. Gloves that are too large are also uncomfortable, interfere with grip and can easily get snagged, a full range of sizes should be available.

Many people are allergic to latex and exposure can cause rashes, breathing problems and in very rare cases anaphylactic shock. In this case then nitrile gloves should be used.

Any cuts and abrasions on the hands should be covered with a waterproof dressing before donning the gloves.

If somebody has eczema they may need to use a cotton liner inside the gloves. Also they should use a moisturising cream after washing their hands after using the gloves.

Granite Workwear have a comprehensive range of safety gloves suitable for all uses on our website.

In a later article we will be looking at Safety Gloves for Mechanical and Other hazards.

Friday, 11 June 2010

A Guide to Chainsaw Protective Clothing and Equipment

Chainsaws are potentially one of the most dangerous tools in general use, the saw is made to cut easily through large branches and tree trunks so any part of the human body will have no resistance at all to the cutting power in use.

Therefore there are recognised standards for the PPE required to minimise the risks in the case of clothing these are the standards EN 381. These standards specify levels of protection related to the speed of the chain and also the amount of coverage of the protected areas.

Class 0 resists chains up to the speed of 16 metres per second
Class 1 resists chains up to the speed of 20 metres per second
Class 2 resists chains up to the speed of 24 metres per second
Class 3 resists chains up to the speed of 28 metres per second
Class 4 resists chains up to the speed of 34 metres per second

There are also different parts to the standards each of which covers a specific part of the body:

EN 381-5 Leg protection
This is split into 3 different levels A, B and C and the minimum requirement is Class 1
A protects the front and ride side rear to both legs
B gives additional protection to rear left side of the right leg
C gives all round protection to both legs

EN 381-7 Chainsaw Gloves
This is split into 2 Different Levels A and B
A gives protection to the left hand
B gives protection to both hands

EN 381-9 Chainsaw protective Gaiters
These are recommended for occasional chainsaw users when working on even ground with little risk of tripping or snagging, worn in combination with steel toecap safety boots

EN381-11 Upper part of Body
These garments are normally Class 0 as to achieve higher levels would involve so many layers of material that the garment will be too heavy and unwieldy, leading to lack of mobility and the increased risk of heat exhaustion, both of these will have a negative impact on Safety.

There is a separate standard for Footwear EN 17249:2004
These items cannot be Class 0, they can be Class 1, Class 2 or Class 3 and are the only items that can achieve Class 4 status.
They must be marked with the Year and Quarter of manufacture.

How does chainsaw protection work?

There is no flexible material that can be worn as clothing, gloves or boots that can be totally impervious to cuts from chainsaw blades. Therefore a number of layers of protection are the only way forward.

The outer layer normally comprises of a material that is tough and slippery, this is mainly to ensure that outer surface is resistant to minor damage from thorns and other snagging mediums, which could expose the under protective layers. Beneath this, long, loose fibres of ballistic nylon or Kevlar are layered. When a saw contacts the trousers, the outer layer is immediately cut and the nylon or Kevlar is drawn out and wraps around the saw's drive sprocket, locking it solid and halting the chain, thereby limiting damage to the operator's limb.

Once the item has been cut it must be scrapped as the protection has been totally compromised. The saw must be stripped down and the fibres fully removed before using it again.


All Chainsaw protective clothing, boots and gloves sold in the EU must carry a pictogram depicting a chainsaw and information of the Class and Design it is rated to, this pictogram must be a minimum of 30mm x 30mm. For example:

Other items that must be used when using a chainsaw are:
Safety Helmet to the minimum standard EN 397 but recommended to EN 12492 if involved in tree climbing operations.
Hearing Protection to EN 352-1 (noise levels are typically 115 dB)
Eye Protection Mesh Visor to EN 1731
Safety Glasses to EN 166
As these are used for protection in other activities not just for chainsaw work they do not have to be marked with the pictogram.

Granite Workwear has always kept up to date with the latest developments in Chainsaw Protective Clothing and Equipment and indeed have a specialist Forestry section on the web site which is subdivided into Clothing, Footwear and Tools and Accessories. New items are added on a regular basis as they become available, we are very happy to answer any questions you may have on what is the best solution for your particular needs.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Risk Assessment: A legal requirement and tool for the selection of PPE

If you have been reading some of our other articles, you will have seen that we regularly talk about the need for carrying out a Risk Assessment. In this article we will explain why Risk Assessments are so important and give you some pointers as to how to carry one out.

A risk assessment is a legal requirement and also provides for the effective management of health and safety within your workplace. This is to ensure that no-one gets hurt or becomes ill due to working. Illness or injury have consequences for the person, but also affects your business. Output is lost, machinery is damaged, insurance costs increased and you may have to go to court.

Even if you are self-employed and do not have employees, you still need to assess health and safety risks that may affect you and others such as fellow contractors, office staff and members of the public.

By identifying what hazards arise from your work, who may be harmed and how and what steps you need to take to protect yourself and others, you are complying with the legal requirement to assess risks and also maximising the potential of your business.

HSE inspectors have the power to enter your premises without prior notice, inspect and investigate, take measurements, samples and photographs as they see fit. They also have the power to prosecute employers who contravene the law and also serve Improvement Notices which you have 21 days to comply with and in extreme cases can issue a Prohibition Notice under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which means that the activity is closed down immediately and cannot be resumed until remedial action is taken.

A risk assessment helps you focus on the risks that really matter in your workplace; the ones with the potential to cause harm. In many instances, straightforward measures can readily control risks, for example, ensuring spillages are cleaned up promptly so people do not slip or there are no objects in the passages that people may trip over. Most of these actions are simple, cheap and effective measures to ensure your most valuable asset; your workforce is protected.

The law does not expect you to eliminate all risk as this would probably mean that you cannot carry out your business, but you are required to protect people as far as is ‘reasonably practicable’

What is risk assessment?

It is simply a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people, so that you can decide whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm by taking reasonable control measures.

How to assess the risks in your workplace

Many people are concerned that a Risk Assessment is difficult and requires long training, in most businesses in fact it is fairly simple and requires commonsense, simply follow the five steps below

Step 1 Identify the hazards

First step is to work out how people could be harmed. Working in the same place every day it is easy to overlook some hazards; here are some suggestions of ways of identifying ones that matter:

Walk around the workplace and look at what could reasonably be expected to cause harm. Ask your employees what they think they will often have noticed things that are not immediately obvious to you.

Visit the Health and Safety Executive website www.hse.gov.uk. Here you can find practical guidance on where hazards occur and how to control them.

If you are a member of a trade association, contact them. Many produce very helpful guidance.

Check manufacturers’ instructions or data sheets for chemicals and equipment as they can be very helpful in spelling out the hazards and putting them in their true perspective.

Analyse your accident and ill-health records these may help to identify the less obvious hazards. Remember to think about long-term hazards to health e.g. high levels of noise or exposure to harmful substances as well as immediate physical safety hazards.

Step 2 Decide who might be harmed and how

For each hazard clearly decide who might be harmed; it will help you identify the best way of managing the risk. Identify groups of people not individuals e.g. people working in the paint shop or people passing through.

For each group, identify how they might be harmed, i.e. what type of injury or ill health might occur. For example, welders may suffer eye damage from the welding arcs, or warehouse staff may risk foot damage by dropping boxes.

Remember that some workers have particular requirements, e.g. new and young workers and people with disabilities may be at particular risk. Extra thought will be needed for some hazards that may affect cleaners, visitors, contractors, maintenance workers etc, who may not be in the workplace all the time; members of the public, if they could be hurt by your activities; if you share your workplace, you will need to think about how your work affects other people present, as well as how their work affects your staff; talk to everybody who may be involved to see if they can think of anyone you may have missed.

Step 3 Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions

Having identified the hazards, a decision must be made about what to do minimise them. The law requires you to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm. You can work this out for yourself, comparing what you are doing with good practice.

So first, look at what you’re already doing; what controls you have in place and how the work is organised. Then compare this with the good practice using information from other companies, or using the internet and see if there other ways you should be moving yourself up to standard.

In asking yourself this, consider: Can I get rid of the hazard altogether? If not, how can I control the risks so that harm is unlikely?

When controlling risks, you should apply the principles below

· Try a less risky option e.g. change to using a less hazardous chemical

· Prevent access to the hazard by guarding or putting up barriers

· Issue personal protective equipment e.g. clothing, footwear, goggles helmets and gloves

· Ensure that all employees have the correct training to carry out the work safely

· Put up warning signs

· Provide welfare facilities e.g. first aid and washing facilities for removal of contamination

Step 4 Record your findings and implement them

Write down the results of your risk assessment, and share them with your staff. If you have fewer than five employees you do not under the law have to write anything down, however it is useful so that you can review it at a later date when changes have occurred as they always do.

When writing down your results keep it simple, for example; Risk of tripping over rubbish: bins provided, staff instructed, weekly housekeeping checks, or Fumes from printing: masks provided and exhaust ventilation used and regularly checked.

You need to be able to show that:

· A proper check was made

· You asked who might be affected

· You dealt with all the significant hazards, taking into account the number of people who could be involved

· The precautions are reasonable, and the remaining risk is low

· You involved your staff or their representatives in the process

If you determine that there are many improvements that need to be made, don’t try to do everything at once. Make a plan of action to deal with the most important things first. Health and Safety Inspectors will take into account that the problems have been identified and that you are working on a plan of action to improve.

A plan of action will include a mixture of different things such as:

· a few cheap or easy improvements that can be done quickly, perhaps as a temporary solution

· long-term solutions to those risks most likely to cause accidents or ill health

· arrangements for training employees on the main risks

· what regular checks must be made

· clear responsibilities for action and the time schedule

Remember, prioritise and tackle the most important things first. As you complete each action, tick it off your plan.

Step 5 Review your risk assessment and update if necessary

Few workplaces stay the same, new equipment, substances and procedures that could lead to risks happen. It is sensible therefore, to review what you are doing on an ongoing basis. At least every year review where you are, to make sure you are still improving, or at least not sliding back.

Look at your risk assessment again

· What has changed?

· Have you implemented all the improvements identified?

· Talk to the workers to see if they have thought of anything new.

· Have you had any accidents or near misses that could have been prevented?

· Make sure your risk assessment stays up to date.

During the year, if there is a significant change, don’t wait. Check your risk assessment and, where necessary, amend it. It is good practice to think about the risk assessment when you’re planning your change this gives you flexibility and can reduce cost at a later date.

Don’t overcomplicate the process. In many organisations, the risks are well known and the necessary control measures are easy to apply. You probably already know where some of the more obvious hazards are.

If you run a small organisation and you are confident you understand what’s involved, you can do the assessment yourself. You don’t have to be a health and safety expert.

If you are unsure about what PPE is required the Granite Workwear team is able to help you select the right items; those that will adequately do the job, not necessarily the most expensive or the highest specification, but exactly what it is you require to comply with the law, but most importantly what is right for you and your business

Friday, 30 April 2010

Moisture Management Garments

Moisture management is one of the key performance factors in today’s garment industry, particularly in the past in the performance market; it is also becoming very important in the workwear market as well.

Moisture Management is defined as the ability of a garment to transport moisture away from the skin to the garment’s outer surface, where it can be dissipated by evaporation. This action prevents perspiration from remaining next to the skin. In hot conditions, trapped moisture may heat up and lead to fatigue or diminished performance. In cold conditions, trapped moisture will drop in temperature and cause chilling and hypothermia. Excess moisture may also cause the garment to become heavy, as well as cause damage to the skin from chafing.

In some areas of workwear, particularly where utility vests or bullet proof vests are being worn i.e. armed forces or police, the use of wicking garments under the vests reduces the fatigue and stress that operating in high temperatures or high activity can cause. This also applies to firefighters who benefit from wearing high wicking shirts under their protective equipment.

Moisture is transported in fabrics by capillary action and is commonly known as wicking. In fabrics, the spaces between the fibres effectively form tubes, which act as capillaries, and transport the liquid away from the skin. As a rule, the narrower the spaces between the fibres in a fabric, the more effectively they will draw up moisture. For this reason, fabrics with many narrow capillaries, such as microfibre, are ideal for moisture transport. Cotton has the ability to wick moisture away but also has a relatively high absorbency level that leads to the perspiration being trapped in the fabric.

Cotton can be treated with chemicals in the finishing process to reduce the level of absorbency, but this treatment may not withstand repeated laundry processes. However cotton exhibits very similar drying times as that of many of the fabrics produced from artificial fibre of which the most common in moisture management garments is polyester. The drying rate of one of the leading branded fabrics is 0.028 grams of water per minute and cotton is 0.026 grams of water per minute.

Thickness of the fabric is a key and controlling variable when it comes to moisture management; the thicker the fabric, the more moisture it holds, Most of the synthetic fabrics, like those made from microfibre polyester, were considerably thinner than cotton fabrics. However if the cotton fabrics are knitted using fine yarns then the thickness is greatly reduced.

In terms of feel a polyester fabric can in fact feel damp and clammy after drying for 90 minutes, a cotton fabric feels dry after 60 minutes, this is due to the low moisture regain of polyester of about 0.5%; cotton has a moisture regain of 8%.

Bi-component fabrics composed of a non-absorbent fibre on the inside and an absorbent fibre on the outside, have proved to be an extremely efficient construction for moisture management fabrics. This is because the absorbent material on the outside draws the moisture away from the skin while the non-absorbent material keeps the skin dry.

With this in mind Granite Workwear feature a high wicking Polo shirt and a T shirt that was developed by Texline Ltd to incorporate the best properties of microfibre and cotton.

The shirts use an inner face of Tactel that is used as a moisture transport to remove the perspiration quickly into the outer layer of cotton where it evaporates. The fabric has a very soft feel next to the skin, looks appealing on the outside as it is cotton and therefore looks natural. It also holds its shape well and has a maximum shrinkage of 2% and a 0% spirality. These garments are used as standard issue in a number of Fire Brigades and Police Forces throughout the UK. They are also extremely cost effective compared to many of the garments made using branded fabrics.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Waterproof and Breathable Garments

Years ago waterproof clothes were just that. Waterproof! You put them on to keep out the rain. Unfortunately these mobile saunas soaked you in sweat as soon as you attempted any simple task. So, what is it all about? First, let us clear up the sweat bit, without sweat you're in trouble, a person performing tasks will naturally sweat to cool the body. The idea of a breathable garment is to allow the sweat to dissipate and keep the body dry while maintaining the body's "microclimate” i.e. the body's normal operating temperature and humidity.

These fabrics do not actually breathe. What they do is transfer body moisture vapour between its surfaces using the difference between the temperature and humidity next to the body and that of the cooler outdoors as a driving force. The sweat is picked up by your layering system which transports it to the surface away from your body. Here it evaporates to form a vapour. Because it is warmer and more humid inside your jacket than outside there is a difference in pressure across the fabric. In an attempt to equalise this difference vapour is driven across the fabric to the outside.

Garments which are waterproof and breathable help to provide wearers with greater comfort. This is obviously of benefit to the people wearing these whether for leisure activities or in their work. In terms of the provision of PPE by the employer it is also very important as this ensures that the safety of the wearer is not impacted by the introduction of excessive fatigue factors that have a negative impact on safety.

Waterproof garments are regulated by the safety standards of EN343. The standard is subdivided into three classes; Class 3 affords the highest level of foul weather protection, Class 2 provides intermediate foul weather protection and Class 1 provides the lowest level of foul weather protection. It is also divided into three classes of water vapour permeability (breathability) again Class 3 the highest to Class 1 the lowest.

The EN 343 Standard also has requirements for the tensile strength, tear strength, seam strength and resistance to dimensional change of the material. The mechanical strength requirements apply not only to the outer layer but also to all the layers that may be bonded to it. The dimensional stability is to ensure that the clothing does not lose its shape or fit.

The selection of the right Class of both water resistance and breathability can only be identified by a proper assessment of the conditions in which the garments will be used, the duration of the exposure and the precise activity involved.

Water resistance and water vapour permeability would appear to be mutually contradictory. It has proved to be a major challenge for manufacturers to produce a material which has both these properties. In the past, fabrics which offered protection from wind and rain did not breathe, and this made them uncomfortable to wear. Advances have been made in waterproof breathable technology over the past 30 years, there have been a number of fabrics developed using a laminate technology combined with close weaving techniques and coatings to achieve fabrics that exhibit the correct properties and also are light-weight and supple.

What is a laminate? A laminate is where a waterproof/breathable film is bonded by a special gluing process to a fabric. This could be to the outer fabric known as 2 layer and, in some cases, have a protective scrim bonded to the back of the film to create 3 layer lamination.

The introduction of these new waterproof breathable fabrics has greatly increased the range of choice for consumers. It has also led to greater market segmentation, as technologies have been developed for specific end uses and weather conditions.

In any garment there are areas that in construction can reduce the water resistance, for example the seams where the needle and thread puncture the fabric leaving small holes. In this case the seams are sealed using a special tape to eliminate this weakness. Also zips can leak water so it is important that to maintain integrity these be covered. The design of the hood and collar are also important to ensure that water cannot easily enter via the neck.

Staying dry is not just about keeping the rain out, it’s also about letting water vapour escape. The human body can expel over 4 litres of moisture a day; you just don’t notice it until you wear a significantly less breathable material over your skin. The best breathable yet waterproof barrier is perhaps human skin; it stops fluids getting in, yet opens up when fluid needs to get out. The higher the activity level and outside temperature the more the body sweats, so the more breathable your garment needs to be.

In this context, breathability is the ability of the fabric to transfer moisture vapour (not air) and is generally stated in terms of: Resistance to moisture vapour transfer (Ret) where the resistance is expressed as a number from a mathematical equation. The lower the value the less resistance there is and therefore the more breathable the garment is. Class 3 has a value of less than or equal to 20, Class 2 greater than 20 but less than or equal to 40, Class 1 greater than 40.

The standard also includes a summary table with recommended maximum wearing times, this takes account of the ambient temperature and a constant physical effort. It is required that the overview is reproduced in the manufacturers information leaflet for all garments with Class 1 protection. This is to inform the user about possible restrictions in the use of the garment; also marking in the garments must contain a restricted time warning.

For example at 10° C the time should be no longer than 4 hours, at 15°C 1.5 hours, at 20°C no longer than 1.25 hours and at 25°C no longer than 1 hour. As a comparison a Class 3 garment can be worn for 12 hours at 20°C.

Granite Workwear offer a range of garments in the Waterproof section manufactured in Flexothane ® these comply with EN 343 Class 3 waterproof and Class 2 breathable. In the Hi Viz Yellow Workwear and Orange Workwear sections garments of the Pulsar® and Pulsarail® ranges comply with EN 343 to both Class 3 waterproof and Class 3 breathability giving the maximum protection and comfort.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Forest and Woodland Firefighting

The UK is classed as a low fire risk area, as we have a fairly regular rainfall pattern and no designated dry season unlike many other countries, particularly those in the tropics. However in the event of a prolonged hot dry spell we do have the potential for wildfires and these can have drastic results.

Heather particularly has the potential to be combustible as it dries out rapidly in all seasons and is what is known as a “fine fuel”.

There are three types of fires that can occur in forest and heathland, these are:
  • Surface fires where the fuel burns at or near ground level, these are the most common fires in the UK.
  • Ground fires where in dry conditions the organic soil layers themselves catch fire, these are difficult to detect and extinguish.
  • Crown fires where the surface fires ascend into the tree canopy, which can move very quickly and become very intense, this is often caused where “ladder fuels“ which are vegetation linking the ground to the crown of the trees lets the fire spread upwards. These are not very common in the UK.
There are various ways of tackling the fires including the use of water and or chemical foams to put out the fire and also dampen the surrounding areas preventing the fire spreading. Also fire breaks can be made by using shovels or mechanical diggers to remove the vegetation and make a bare earth barrier across which the fire cannot spread. The oxygen supply can be interrupted by the use of beaters.

Beaters can be broken down into three basic classes; Short handled approximately 1.9m to 2.2 m with a belt head, the head is manufactured from conveyor belt material; Long handled approximately 2.8m with a wire mesh head and Long handled with a flat metal plate sometimes these have additional chains attached. The long handle obviously keeps the person further back from the heat, but can sometimes be difficult to handle and unwieldy to transport.


Firefighting is a strenuous activity which normally takes place in difficult conditions, and can lead to heat stress, heat exhaustion and possibly heat stroke.

Everyone involved should be aware of heat-induced illnesses and know how to treat the symptoms and call for help when necessary.

The symptoms of heat stress are weakness, dizziness and nausea. Where a firefighter is removed from the fire front and given water, rest and shade, recovery will usually take place quite quickly.

Medical treatment may be required for these heat-induced illnesses and the patient should be given water and kept cool. Often firefighters may fail to sufficiently replace body fluids even when they have drunk sufficient to quench their thirst.

The fluid replacement taken in may be only half of what is actually required. Plenty of water should be drunk as soon as sweating occurs, before fire suppression starts and often more than is felt necessary. The recommended amount is 1 litre of cool (not chilled) plain (sugar free) water per hour.

To reduce fatigue carbohydrate foods such as bread, pasta and cakes are recommended.

Managers should ensure that teams have sufficient suitable food and water on site during prolonged fire suppression.


When working in these conditions it is absolutely essential for all involved to remain aware of what is happening around them. Be particularly aware of moving around on terrain whilst visibility is reduced because of poor light smoke and water sprays.

Watch out for changes in conditions for example shifts of wind direction and speed, look out for the fire moving onto steep slopes or circling behind you, look out also for changes in the type of vegetation.

Always maintain line of sight and communication with your colleagues.

Remember the following safety aid “WATCH OUT” that can be found on the AFAG leaflet 803
Weather dominates fire behaviour
Actions must be based on current and expected fire behaviour
Try out at least two safe escape routes
Communications must be maintained with your crew leader and adjoining crews
Hazards to watch for are steep slopes and the amount of fuels
Observe changes in wind speed and direction, humidity and cloud
Understand your instructions
Think clearly be alert and act decisively before your situation becomes critical

Personal Protective Equipment

As with any activity where there are safety issues the correct PPE must be worn:
  • A brightly coloured Flame Retardant cotton boiler suit i.e. Proban complying with EN 531, is recommended do not use non FR synthetic clothing particularly nylon.
  • Also recommended is the use of a protective neck cloth.
  • Protective boots with good grip and ankle support complying with EN ISO 20345. It is suggested that these should also be heat resistant.
  • Suitable protective gloves, non-synthetic e.g. leather.
  • Safety helmet complying with EN 397.
  • Eye protection complying with EN 166, to prevent eye damage from particles and embers. Helmet mounted face shields can also protect from radiant heat.
  • Hearing protection complying with EN 352 where the noise level exceeds 85 dB.
  • Respiratory masks where there is a danger of dust or particles.
As well as these essential items each person should carry water for personal consumption and to wash any burns, also a personal first aid kit, not specifically for burns. A specialised burn first aid kit must be available on site.

Granite Workwear offer a number of items that are suitable for use in these conditions including Proban Cotton Overalls in Orange, Sip Protection Firefighters Chainsaw Protective Trousers, Peltor Hearing Protection, Fortec Boots that are Heat Resistant to 300° C, Hard hats, Venitex Respiratory Masks, Bolle Eye Protection, fire retardant neck tubes & balaclavas and Venitex gloves.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Rail Industry Standards for Personal Protective Equipment

PPE generally covers a wide range of clothing and equipment that can be worn by a person at work to protect them from one or more risks to their health and safety. PPE can include; eye protection, safety helmets, hi-vis vests or jackets, gloves or safety footwear.

For the Rail Industry however there are certain items that have specific requirements, for example Network Rail basic PPE Requirements for persons working on or near the track shall wear as a minimum:

• High visibility upper body clothing with reflective tape which complies with BS EN 471: 2003 class 2 and Railway Group Standard GO/RT3279.
• A safety helmet which complies with BS EN 397: 1995.
• Safety footwear which complies with BS EN ISO 20345: 2004, providing effective support to the ankle, mid-sole protection and a protective toe cap.
• Network Rail have also introduced a ’Full Orange Policy’ where high visibility trousers must also be worn.

Particular requirements

The outer layer of the upper body clothing must be clearly marked between the vertical retro-reflective bands on the back with the name or logo of the individual’s Sentinel sponsor or other name or logo agreed with Network Rail (e.g. project, sponsor’s parent company or trade association). This can be in colour or black and either screen-printed or incorporated within a panel, which may be retro-reflective although this is not mandatory.

Safety helmets shall be provided with chin straps where there is a risk of them falling off, short peak helmets may be provided where close or hot work is required.
Holders of a Track Visitors Permit (TVP), a person with a Track Safety (PTS) card with a ‘green square’ symbol on it, or those people involved in the Network Rail Standard Maintenance Procedure NR/PRC/MTC/SE0089, New Starters Mentoring (Passport Scheme) must wear a blue helmet so that all workers can see that they may be inexperienced. All other workers must wear white, any other colours are not allowed.

The name or logo of an individual’s Sentinel Sponsor (or other name or logo agreed with Network Rail) may be marked upon a safety helmet. These markings must not exceed 10% of the safety helmets visible surface area.

Rigger boots do not meet the requirements for ankle protection and must not be used.

In addition to the above, foul weather clothing must be provided to any person whose duties require them to hold Personal Track Safety certification and shall comprise at least the following:

• High visibility jacket or coat which meets the requirements of BS EN 471:2003 class 3 and GO/RT3279 for colour and visibility and of BS EN 343: 2003 class 3 for water vapour resistance and water penetration.
• High visibility over-trousers or leggings which meet the requirements of BS EN 471: 2003 and GO/RT3279 for colour and visibility and of BS EN 343: 2003 class 3 for water vapour resistance and water penetration.

General work wear and sunglasses

Any employee or contractor of Network Rail who goes on or near the line or on the lineside shall be required to wear full-length trousers to protect against the risks from lineside vegetation and the consequences of slips, trips and falls.

Upper body clothing must not be sleeveless, garments such as singlets or vests are prohibited. Full length sleeves are recommended to protect from risks of injury from vegetation and sunburn.

Sunglasses or photochromic lenses may be worn, but care should be taken when using photochromic lenses as they can take a long time to clear when going into darker conditions.
Heavily tinted lenses may reduce the ability to accurately distinguish colours.

Ear Defenders should be worn where there is any risk of noise that reaches levels that could cause damage to hearing.

In certain conditions that will be apparent from the Risk Assessment gloves to protect from chemicals, cold or vibration also need to be worn. Also where there is a danger of fumes or dust the correct respiratory masks are needed.

If operating chainsaws or brush cutters then the correct protective clothing must be worn, all these of course must conform to the GO/RT3279 standard. Also the safety boots worn must achieve the EN ISO 17249:2004 Class 1 standard as a minimum.


In certain situations there is a need for particular accessories for example; warning flags chequered and plain, rail incident armbands (8 different wordings), Lookout Bags and Rail Handsignal Bags.

Duties and responsibilities

Requirements for PPE and workwear shall be documented in work activity risk assessments and safe systems of work. Any PPE identified as necessary through work activity risk assessments must be provided by the employer, this may include hearing protection, eye protection, masks and gloves. They must also ensure that this equipment is worn.

Employees are responsible for using PPE and workwear as required, for keeping it clean and maintaining it in a reasonable condition and for requesting its replacement if it becomes ineffective.

A full range of the items mentioned above can be found on the Granite Workwear site, under the Hi Viz Railway (Orange), Safety Boots, Forestry Footwear, Hardhats, Safety Glasses, Ear Protection, Gloves and Respiration categories.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Chainsaw Boots from Arbortec

Granite Workwear has recently added a range of Arbortec® forestwear chainsaw protective boots. These boots have been designed to incorporate a number of technical and comfort features, that we believe make them an outstanding addition to our range.

They are designed to exceed CE standards in Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3 giving a full range of protection.

The range includes the brand new Lightning boot that importantly gives Class 2 protection all round the boot even at the back; this boot is especially good for heavy duty use but is also extremely comfortable thereby reducing fatigue which is important to improve safe working. This also comes in X Large sizes 13, 14 and 15.

Also in the range are the Aquafell® Xpert™, Hydrofell®, Fellsman® Xpert™, Fellsman® Basic and the Challenger™ which is a Class 3 Wellington boot.

The Fellsman® Basic is particularly aimed at the more casual user with a very competitive price but does not compromise safety still giving full Class 1 protection.

Chainsaw Protection Standards

The EN ISO Standard 17249:2004 is specifically designed for Forestry Footwear and tests for three levels of protection:

Class 1 - the footwear has to withstand a chainsaw blade moving at 20 metres per second.
Class 2 - the footwear can withstand a blade moving at 24 metres per second.
Class 3 - the footwear can withstand a blade moving at 28 metres per second.

This protection can be afforded in a number of ways; obviously if the boot has a steel toecap then this gives a very good protection in that particular area. On the rest of the boot there is normally a padding inside made up of multiple layers of synthetic fibres that when the blade touches them causes snagging that clogs the blade and stops it. In a number of the boots in the Arbortec® range these are made of polyester.

In the Aquafell® Xpert™ and the Fellsman® Xpert™ the clogging system is the use of six layers of Kevlar® fibre which has a very high strength and is often used in body armour.
Comfort and Safety

Comfort is a very important part of a quality boot as they are worn for long periods of time and often in less than ideal weather conditions. If the boots are not comfortable then fatigue will happen quickly and this then causes loss of concentration which significantly increases the risk of accidents.

The Arbortec® range has shock absorbing properties built in and the soles have an anti-twist steel insert so that there is less danger of damage to the foot. Apart from the Challenger™ which is made from rubber the range has breathable properties and in most cases moisture absorbance to reduce the build up of sweat. For ease of use they all have speed lacing systems and padded collars.

The soles all feature specially designed tread patterns to reduce the risk of slipping and all the leather boots have a specially defined heel to fit spikes.

All the boots have steel toecaps and conform to the EN ISO 20345:2004 standard for Safety Footwear.

We at Granite believe that these boots are of exceptional standard and worthy of inclusion in our Forestry range in line with our philosophy that we offer the best products that we can find for use by professionals who are discerning in their choice of equipment.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Slip Resistant Soles

Statistics show that slips, trips and falls on the same level are a major cause of workplace accidents in the UK - almost 11,000 are reported each year to the Health and Safety Executive, they account for 39% of non-fatal major injuries. It has been estimated that these accidents cost the UK economy as much as £750 million per annum, £300 million of which is directly attributable to UK employers.

Employers use a variety of control measures to reduce the risk of slips, however due to the working conditions there may be cases where a significant slip risk remains. Introducing footwear with slip-resistant properties may be the only effective way they can further reduce the risk.

There are many safety boots and shoes that claim to have slip resistant soles; however are they truly slip resistant and what standards are they tested to?

Footwear marketed as 'slip resistant' may not perform as well as expected, so care has to be taken when choosing footwear from brochure descriptions alone.

Although footwear may be marketed as 'slip resistant', some have not been tested for this. Check with your supplier if the footwear has actually been tested for slip resistance then request the test details and results. Although the footwear may have been tested, the results from the test may not be an accurate guide as to how footwear will perform in the conditions that you want to use it in.

BS EN 13287 is the current European standard for footwear slip resistance.
This standard is a simple pass/fail test. However most footwear tested will pass testing and can therefore be marked as slip resistant. But the marking system used does not distinguish between footwear with low slip resistance and very good slip resistance. Simply passing this standard does not guarantee that the footwear will be effective in a particular workplace.

Depending on the test conditions chosen, footwear tested according to the EN standards is now marked with one of the following codes, SRA, SRB, or SRC.

The codes indicate that the footwear has met the specified requirements when tested as follows:
SRA – tested on ceramic tile wetted with dilute soap solution
SRB – tested on smooth steel with glycerol
SRC – tested under both the above conditions

Footwear products once tested and certified are stamped with the CE mark. The manufacturer also provides user information indicating the applications for which the footwear is suitable.

To provide more detailed information, the Health and Safety Laboratory have carried out a series of tests for the Health and Safety Executive, on soles that are claimed to be slip resistant and those that don’t. They use a ramp test that does not give a pass/fail but classifies footwear as exhibiting poor, average or good slip resistance where there is a particular contaminant on a given surface.

The tests were carried out on five different surface/contaminant conditions; water on steel, glycerol on steel, glycerol on quarry tile, water on 5 bar aluminium chequer plate and glycerol on 5 bar aluminium chequer plate.

The feedback from the end users is that the footwear that performs well on the test also performs well in the workplace. The study also showed that some footwear marketed as slip resistant gave a high slip risk when tested on the HSL ramp, further demonstrating that no one product will be suitable in all situations - a risk assessment should always be carried out when selecting footwear.

The detailed results of this testing can be found in the Research Report RR780. This project is a continuation of previously published work by HSE. When significant new safety, protective or occupational footwear is marketed as slip resistant or becomes widely used in the work place, HSL procures and tests it in order to assess its slip potential. This combined report now includes 86 pieces of footwear as a further 30 items were tested.

The report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy. The HSE considers that by publishing this information there is an increased likelihood that buyers will obtain good slip-resistant footwear on the basis of informed choices.

This testing focuses on slip resistance on hard indoor flooring surfaces; it does not mean that these findings can be extrapolated to show the slip resistance of footwear on the variable outdoor surfaces that can be encountered, where other factors may come into play.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Safety Helmets

Every year, in the workplace, particularly in the construction industry, workers are killed and many others injured as a result of head injuries. If you wear a safety helmet your chances of being seriously hurt are greatly reduced. Wearing one could save your life.


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is always the last line of defence. Wherever possible, other measures should first be taken to reduce or control the risk.

HSE regulations require that suitable head protection i.e. safety helmets, must be provided and worn where there is a risk of injury. If you are in control of a site you need to assess the risks of head injury. There may be risks from falling materials or from knocking into low scaffolds or items of plant. If there is risk of injury you must provide your employees with safety helmets and decide when, where, and how they should be worn. Safety helmets must always be worn in designated "hard hat" areas.

Industrial safety helmets should be designed and manufactured to European Standard BS EN 397, and carry the CE mark. They are intended primarily to provide protection to the wearer against falling objects and are not intended to provide protection against off crown impacts. The mandatory requirements for these helmets includes for them to have flame resistant properties.

In addition to the mandatory requirements the helmets may have shock absorption properties at very low temperatures and very high temperatures, have electrical insulation properties, have lateral deformation properties, and provide protection against molten metal splash.
Helmets are tested to provide a wearer protection from a force roughly equivalent to a 16 oz. hammer dropping 40 feet.

Duties of Employees and the Self-Employed

Employees must wear their safety helmets properly and follow the instructions of the rules made by their employer. They should take care of their helmets and not misuse them. Any defects or problems should be reported promptly.

In the case of self-employed contractors if safety helmets are not provided on site, they must supply their own. They must wear them where there is a risk of head injury or when told to do so by someone in control. They also need to follow the rules made by the person in control of the site, and in addition, maintain and replace the safety helmet whenever necessary.

Selection of Suitable Safety Helmets

Helmets come in a variety of designs and it is important that the right type is provided for the work to be done. A properly fitting safety helmet should have the right shell size for the wearer and an easily adjustable headband, nape and chin strap.

The range of size adjustments should be large enough to accommodate thermal liners often used in cold weather.

The harness is an integral part of all helmets and works by stretching which absorbs some of the energy of the impact. The harness also spreads the force of an impact evenly over the head minimising the risk of harm to the user.

The helmet works rather like the crumple zone on a car. The force of the impact will be largely absorbed by the helmet shell, with the harness also absorbing some of the shock by stretching. The shell or harness may well crack, this is part of the design features.

The helmets should be as comfortable as possible, this helps reduce fatigue levels and to limit the risk of people not wearing them, because they find them uncomfortable.

Comfort is improved by the following:
• A flexible headband of adequate width and contoured both vertically and horizontally to fit the forehead.
• An absorbent sweatband that is easy to clean or replace.
• Textile cradle straps.
• Chin straps (when fitted) which:
o fit around the ears;
o are fitted with smooth, quick-release buckles which don’t dig into the skin;
o are made from non-irritant materials;
o can be stowed on the helmet when not in use.

Wherever possible, the helmet should not hinder the work being done. For example, a helmet with little or no peak is useful for a surveyor taking measurements, or to allow unrestricted upward vision for a scaffold erector. In other areas there may be need of a peak and even a visor.

Chin straps should be provided and used if a job involves work in windy conditions, especially at height, or repeated bending or constantly looking upwards. Helmets should be able to be used with any other PPE, e.g. ear defenders or eye protectors, without limiting the effectiveness or comfort of any of the items. Never attempt to modify existing helmets to take these fittings as this may weaken them.


Safety helmets must be maintained in good condition the following points must be implemented:
• Be stored in a safe place, e.g. on a peg or in a cupboard on site
• Not be stored in direct sunlight or in excessively hot, humid conditions because long-term exposure can weaken the shell.
• Be checked regularly for signs of damage or deterioration.
• Have defective parts replaced (if the model allows this). Parts from one model cannot normally be interchanged with those from another.
• Have the sweatband cleaned regularly or replaced.
Before the safety helmet is issued to another person, it should be inspected to ensure it is serviceable and thoroughly cleaned in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, e.g. using soap and water. The sweatband should always be cleaned or replaced.

Damage to the Shell

Damage to the shell of a helmet can occur when:
• Objects fall onto it.
• It strikes against a fixed object.
• It is dropped or thrown.
• Certain chemicals can weaken the plastic of the shell leading to rapid deterioration in shock absorption or penetration resistance. Chemicals which should be avoided include aggressive cleaning agents or solvent based adhesives and paints. Where names or other markings need to be applied using adhesives, advice should be sought from the helmet manufacturer.


Normally, helmets should be replaced at intervals recommended by the manufacturer. They will also need replacing when the harness is damaged or if it is likely that the shock absorption or penetration resistance has deteriorated i.e. when the shell has received a severe impact, or if deep scratches occur (i.e. to a depth greater than 25% of the shell thickness) or if the shell has any visible cracks.

Any helmet that has suffered an impact should be replaced whether damage is visible or not. The internal structure of the helmet may be damaged.

There is a lot of confusion as to what is considered to be an acceptable working life of a safety helmet. There are no hard and fast rules concerning this. There is no test in the European Standard to cover this as there are too many variables to be taken into account.

In use, head protection is generally treated with a lack of care, often being thrown or dropped, used for storing or carrying of all sorts of items, or carried on the rear window shelf of a vehicle. Any of these actions are likely to reduce performance.

It is unlikely that a helmet will be offering adequate protection five years after manufacture. With this in mind the European Standard requires the manufacturer to mark each helmet with the quarter or month and year of manufacture.

High Performance Standards

The EN 397 standard is for general use in Industry it may be that in specific tasks there is need to look at a higher standard.

High performance industrial helmets meeting the requirements of EN 14052 offer greater protection from falling objects, protection from off crown impacts and protection from penetration by a flat blade striker. The helmets also include a retention system that meets mandatory requirements for system release and system effectiveness properties. The helmets have the same flame resistant properties as the industrial safety helmets and offer the same optional protection against other risks with the exception of lateral deformation.

Helmets meeting the requirements of EN 12492 are primarily intended to protect the upper part of a wearer's head against hazards that might occur during activities carried out by people climbing. Although originally intended to protect the wearer against hazards that might occur during mountaineering activities, helmets CE marked to this standard are also being marketed for other uses, for example rescue work in hazardous environments and wild land fire-fighting, these are particularly useful for arborists.

They offer protection from falling objects, including front, rear and side impact, and offer protection from penetration. The helmets are ventilated and also include a retention system that meets mandatory requirements for system release and system effectiveness properties. These helmets have no requirements for flame resistance.

Granite Workwear offers helmets that comply to EN 397, EN 12492 and EN 14052, if you are unsure which would be suitable for you please contact us directly using the contact facility on our website.