GORE-TEX: The perception and science of comfort

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PCIAW News

GORE-TEX shares ideas on comfort science in relation to PPE and how this has made significant progress within this past decade.  For those end users who work with dangerous job hazards, they no longer must equate safety garment provision with feelings of discomfort.  So, what has changed and developed within PPE?

The Need for Protection and Comfort 
Comfort is absolutely necessary for safety at work. Especially when that work involves extreme conditions and/or specific risks. Laws relating to safety at work cover elements such as appropriate equipment and PPE.
 
This first step in obtaining the correct PPE will ensure protection, but historically, it has come at a price: comfort. In the past, to make PPE safe enough, garments have often been heavy, bulky, restricting movement, hot and frequently uncomfortable.

However, recent changes in research have focused on the experience of wearers of PPE. Comfort scientists and designers have been hard at work looking at ways to balance safety with wearer satisfaction.

GORE-TEX: The perception and science of comfort

What is Comfort? 
When the human body feels uncomfortable we are aware of this, however, if we are feeling comfortable then most of the time we don’t really notice. For the human body to function properly, the temperature of our vital organs, has to remain at approximately 37°C at all times.

Comfort has both a physical and a psychological or emotional element and they all interact. In other words, comfort combines human physiology and perception with physics and the environment.

Flexibility and Freedom of Movement
A garment that is flexible and fits well is more comfortable and should leave the worker unaware that they are being protected. Technical developments in PPE for electrical arc incidents must initially focus on safety, by considering the protective qualities of the fabric, such as multi-layering. Recent innovations, however, have improved comfort through a more comprehensive range of sizes and greater suppleness and movement in the fabrics used. This means better ergonomics that allow for smoother, easier freedom of movement. A more mobile worker is better protected and a safe worker is more productive.

GORE-TEX: The perception and science of comfort

How weight reduction impacts comfort
Alongside fit and mobility, weight is a very significant aspect of comfortable PPE. Major progress have been made recently in reducing the weight of garments designed for protection. GORE® PYRAD® technology is now able to make garments that are 50% lighter than previously available. As an added benefit, these garments are easier to look after, being machine washable and durable.

Getting comfort right
Workers in hazardous situations should not be impeded by the clothes they are wearing. Safety should never be compromised, but the fine balancing act of protection versus comfort no longer needs to be in tension. As well as complying with stringent safety standards, employers can now offer workers lighter, less restrictive and breathable clothing.

GORE-TEX: The perception and science of comfort

Importance of Breathability
For issues such as heat and cold, comfort science has much to tell us. Our bodies naturally adapt by sweating or shivering when we become too hot or too cold. Choosing clothing which incorporates wicking to take sweat away from the body and also protect from the effects of cold, is essential consideration for comfort in relation to temperature.

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