In the aftermath of a workplace accident, you’re likely to ask yourself what you could have done differently. Let’s take a look at one scenario that is all too common: Your company has been working diligently on a new project for the past month, and everything is running smoothly until a spilled solvent gets on the hands and sleeve of an employee. Your employees react instantly, removing the individual's lab coat, washing off the chemicals, and turning off all burners and heating elements—a serious incident is avoided.
After the incident, employees begin to reconsider their safety precautions. Many considerations relate back to the garments the employee was wearing: Was the employee fully protected by their uniform? Could the event have been prevented with better fitted clothing? Are there less absorbent materials to wear when working with chemicals?
If your workers are in an environment prone to injuries and accidents, investing in initiatives to prevent work injuries is always important. Uniforms play a direct role in preventing employee accidents. Maybe you haven’t instituted protective uniforms at all, or maybe you need to update the safety of your current uniforms. Here are some ways your uniforms can help prevent work accidents:
Protective clothing can keep employees safe from various hazards
OSHA and industry-specific regulations often require certain protective clothing in dangerous work environments. Your uniform design will depend on the hazards of your workplace. The following are examples of clothing solutions for employees who work with hazards:
- Velcro wrists: In an environment dealing with dangerous chemicals, velcro wrists can prevent liquids from getting under sleeves or gloves.
- Fitted clothing: Baggy clothing can cause chemical spills and get caught in running machinery resulting in injury. Uniform designs that fit close to the body, sleeves that aren’t too long, or have elastic wrists can help avoid these types of accidents.
- Thermal gloves: Allow workers to safely handle heated objects. Some thermal gloves have added chemical resistance.
- Flame Resistant (FR) clothing: In many industries, open flames, chemicals, and electronics pose threats of fire danger. Flame resistant clothing is not just for firefighters; from lab technicians to utility workers, all employees in direct contact with fire hazards should have flame resistant clothing.
Flame resistant uniforms can keep employees safe from electrical hazards
Based on the requirements of NFPA 70E, employers must provide workers with flame resistant clothing for protection if they come into contact with electrical hazards. Fire and electric hazards cause thousands of injuries every year and can cost companies hundreds of thousands in lawsuits if not handled properly.
Industries that often need to follow NFPA 70E include:
- Pharmaceutical plants
- Industrial plants
- Electric utility companies
- Food processing plants
- Chemical laboratories
Making sure your employee uniforms are up to code is imperative for the safety of your employees’ lives. Arc flash fires, combustible dust, and reactive chemicals are just a few of the hazards that workers should be aware of—and that employers should consistently be considering when suiting their employees with the right protective uniforms.
Uniforms can keep your employees visible
High visibility uniforms and reflective gear help prevent accidents, exposures, and injuries. Whether you are working in a warehouse or outdoors, having high visibility uniforms is a necessary precaution when working around large machinery. Indoor facilities with employees and heavy machines on the floor at the same time need to have their employees stand out. Providing employees with bright vests helps machine operators keep track of where employees are walking. Outdoor jobs like roadwork construction, traffic directing, and utility work should all have bright reflective uniforms for their employees.
Create a uniform program that protects against hazards in your industry
There are various ways uniforms can help you prevent accidents, exposures, and injuries, and the right uniform design depends on your industry and work environment. A 2014 study by the Connecticut Department of Labor revealed that arc flashes and relative hazards occur 5-10 times a day and cause over 2,000 injuries a year. Laboratory accidents may be less common, but they can still be fatal. With safety in mind, it’s a good idea to find a uniform provider that understands your industry and will help you design employee uniforms to prevent accidents. This will enable you to both follow regulations and keep your employees’ lives safe.