In the first of a series of two articles, we introduce the research of Dr Ningtao Mao, Senior Lecturer in Performance Textiles at the University of Leeds. So informative and extensive was Dr Mao’s submission on the subject of workwear, we believe it will be a vital reference for readers and, as such, urge you also to read September’s edition of H&SI, where you will find further material that will help to inform your selection of this vital kind of PPE.

Serving a purpose

Workwear refers to the garment specifically designed to be worn in the workplace1 in relation to the wearer’s occupational job. The purposes of workwear can be grouped into the following two categories:

1. Conventional workwear: designed for mainly conveying the image of the organisation and boosting the confidence of the customer; or providing some conventional, lightly protection functions such as windproof, stainproof, rainproof or durability to protect people from their work environment, e.g. uniform and corporate clothing. 2. Specialist workwear: specially designed for the purpose of providing protection of job related occupational safety and health to the wearers, their products, customer, patient from environmental hazards and contamination, e.g. protective clothing, gloves, gowns, suits or aprons. The specialist workwear in the group discussed in this paper includes: • Protective workwear to protect wearer at workplace • Workwear designed to protect products, e.g. food, pharmaceutical/medical products, electronic products in cleanroom, to be processed in the workplace from damage, contamination, infection by environmental hazards and people • Workwear to protect both people and products, customers, patient, e.g. pharmaceutical, medical products and patients in hospitals

The market

Despite the impact of the recession, the growth of the workwear market is still strong. In the EU market, workwear expenditure in 2007 was about 4.4 billion Euros and, expected to be 5.8 billion2 by 2015, the workwear value accounted for around 43 percent of total PPE value in the EU market in 2007. Workwear value in the EU market can further be divided into 55 percent traditional workwear and 45 percent protective (CE-marked) clothing3. This might be due to the rigorous Health and Safety legislation and the expensive potential costs associated with injuries of employees, and the benefits of the workwear to their productivity/performance within EU. The other driving force might include the expanding overseas market such as India, China and Vietnam, where a large number of insufficiently protected workers in agricultural, energy (e.g. mining, electric, oil, petrochemical) and infrastructure (e.g. construction, steel, cement) industries offer additional market demand. This could be seen from the estimated distribution of PPE revenue in different industries in 2014-15 worldwide, as shown in Table 1. Interestingly, protective clothing – including protective workwear – accounted for about 22 percent of the total PPE marketvalue in 20084.


Protective workwear (not including the wear for the protection of head, eye and face, neck, hand, foot and knee, respiration and hearing protection) is a group of PPE intended to protect people from accidents or injuries when working under conditions involving cold, heat, flame, rain, reduced visibility, chemicals or moving parts. Its design and manufacture is regulated by the basic safety requirements set out in EC Directive 89/686/EEC (or CE marking regulation) and associated around 300 EN standards for EC Marking5, and the uses and selections of the clothing are regulated by various national/international directives, regulations and health and safety policy (e.g. in the EU/UK, Personal Protective Equipment (EC Directive) at Work Regulations 1992, Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002, The Noise at Work Regulations 1989, The Construction (Head Protection) Regulations 1989, Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), also 29 CFR Part 1910 (USA). Specialist workwear also includes garments designed to protect products from contaminations during the manufacture process. For example, any materials intended to come into contact with food in their finished state must be regulated according to European Regulation (EC) 1935/2004 and (EC) 2023/2006, and guided by EC Good Manufacture Practice (GMP) in food manufacture; Food Hygiene Directive (93/43/EEC), EU Regulation 852/2004 (Article 5) and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), in the USA, such legislation includes Code of Federal Legislation (CFR): 21 CFR 174 ~ 21 CFR 190 (USA). Some typical examples of the performance of specialist workwear set in the CE Marking scheme and defined by various associated BS EN ISO standards are summarised in Table 2. The requirements of the fabrics used in specialist workwear are usually set to maintain three functions of the clothing: protection, comfort and mobility. In addition, there are requirements for the fabrics designated for a garment to have certain degree of durability to stand harsh clean, wash, ageing and hazardous attack conditions. In some special cases workwear must not only protect the wearer from environmental hazards, but also protect the product from the contamination or cross-infection by the wearer – and the workwear itself. While the performance of the workwear depends on both the structural design of the clothing and the properties of the component fabrics, the latter is essential. In the engineering design of specific fabrics to meet those special performance requirements of clothing set in CE Marking scheme, together with other additional functions, the composition of fibres, membrane, coating and accessory materials (such as seals, tapes and zips) used in the garment, together with the microstructure of fabrics, yarns and fibres, employed to construct the clothing needs to correspond to the hazardous environment, the human physiological comfort, durability and other special requirements (e.g. product hygiene, environmental impact and toxicity). As shown in Table 2, all the standards for CE Marking clothing are based on the other EN and ISO standards for the examination of the fabric properties, which are decisive for the clothing functions mentioned above.


Regular readers of H&SI will know that it’s unusual for us to serialise articles, so it’s perhaps worth emphasising why we are in this instance. Firstly, while the depth of Dr Mao’s research is unquestionable, the sheer breadth of it quite literally prompted logistical considerations and, when faced with the decision to carve back the information he was willing to share with readers, it was unanimously agreed that it was too important to lose. As a result, we would urge readers to ensure that they read September’s edition, in which Dr Mao reviews the properties of materials used – including traditional fibres and high performance fibres – in existing specialist workwear, and compares those properties against the requirements for the fabric materials set in the CE marking standards. It promises to be another powerful submission.

Published: 01st Jul 2012 in Health and Safety International