By Jonas Andersson, GORE-TEX Professional Sales Associate
As with all elements of our current economic climate, the rail sector remains under pressure to tighten spending. But there are potential dangers to the health, visibility and protection of rail workers, should their employers opt for savings in the procurement of garments.
In April 2022, there was an amendment to the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations (PPER) 1992.
This extended the legal duty of all employers in Great Britain to provide PPE for all staff who may be exposed to risk of their health and safety at work, to now include casual or contract ‘limb’ workers.
This extension obviously carries additional costs for employers who hadn’t previously provided PPE for limb workers.
Providing legally compliant PPE to workers isn’t a straightforward transaction. It requires time and close scrutiny, so that garments procured ‘will do what they say they will do’ - durably protect the health and wellbeing of the worker.
Procuring or purchasing cheap PPE is false economy because they aren’t designed to be robust or durable and will need frequent replacement. This isn’t environmentally or financially smart.
Protective garments need to carry the correct RIS, EN, UKCA and CE accreditations, and be sourced from credible manufacturers who have a strong heritage and reputation for using technical fabrics/components which are tested for quality and durability.
The British Safety Industry Federation (BSiF) has a supplier verification scheme containing a list of credible and certified manufacturers who trade honestly and ethically, named The Registered Safety Supplier (RSS) scheme.
Four key elements for Rail Foul Weather Protection are:
Visibility: the garments must be fluorescent orange with reflective tape to allow the wearer to be safely seen in all weather conditions and at all times of the working day. Low-grade or cheap PPE fade and dull quickly, and hi-vis protection is diminished which means it’s no longer legal, is not protecting the worker, and will need to be replaced. Look for clothing labelled RIS 3279 TOM for high-visibility protective clothing (formerly GO/RT 3279) and equally important EN ISO 20471: Class 3 for the highly visible garment ensemble.
Waterproofness: to help maintain the physiological comfort and mental alertness of the wearer, garments need to keep the worker dry for an entire shift, regardless of weather conditions. Garments that leak or which aren’t completely weatherproof and breathable will cause the wearer discomfort, reduce their concentration levels, and ultimately result inlost man hours due to sick leave. The highest level of waterproofness and breathability is classified as EN 343 Class 4.4. Also important is EN 14360, which tests the whole garment construction for protection against rain and can be specified as an optional requirement in EN 343.
Breathability: for wearer comfort, it is important that the inside of garments allow moisture vapour to escape. This avoids the accumulation of sweat and a ‘boil in the bag’ scenario when physical exertion is increased.
Launderable: it’s important that garments can be cleaned professionally, as this will maintain high visibility, always ensuring a hygienic garment will maintain the water repellency. Durable garments withstand multiple wash cycles without any impact on the visibility, breathability and waterproofness of the garments.
Make the health, comfort and safety of rail workers a top priority through the provision of legally compliant and durable PPE.