Health and Safety Event: NEC Birmingham

Here at the PCIAW, we like to keep up to date with all aspects of the apparel industry to remain well educated on any new developments.
That’s why we sent our team for a day out at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham on the first day of a three-day Health and Safety event. Through visiting these exhibitions, we can soak up all the knowledge various companies in our industry have to offer whilst staying aware of the key changes.
The NEC is a striking venue and the number of exhibitors housed within its walls was impressive. Included in the themes for this years’ event were Lone Working and Safer Logistics to ensure personal safety is promoted as a duty of care for employees working in these sectors.
One community focused talk given by Jonathan O’Neill, (OBE, CEO – Fire Protection Association) discussed the implications for fire safety management and future regulation Post-Grenfell, an issue close to all our hearts.
Other inspiring talks were held at the HSM Knowledge Exchange which was rebranded for this year’s event. The panel included experts taking part in an interactive question and answer session with the audience on all things health and safety related. The initiative was tirelessly sponsored and supported by Health and Safety Matters (HSM).
We spoke to multiple manufacturers who had stands at the event, including Fortress Distribution who are an influential supplier battling the prime issue of sustainability within professional clothing, specifically looking at single-use plastics. They offer YULEYS by HexArmour, a clean step system, as a reusable alternative to overshoes to work with all safety footwear to reduce the impact on landfills and provide better traction. This not only helps the environment but also reduces operational cost. Other products include the Du Rag, made from fast drying microfibre and natural minerals accelerates the cooling process through Garmatex technology which is moisture activated.
Another fantastic provider of performance protective footwear is Respirex who supply WORKMASTER: PVC free, lightweight, biodegradable footwear with the additional option of vulcanised rubber soles for better grip. They distribute different boots tailored to specific industry roles (emergency services, military, nuclear, and many more) but also provide chemical suits, gloves and accessories.
Brightboot, with their striking hi-vis footwear which comes in a range of sizes for different uses, is another stand we visited. The eye-catching colours drew us to their display immediately. This is a world first in the combination of hi-vis performance and protective footwear as, up until now, there has been a lack of development in increasing the visibility of safety footwear. The shoes are suitable for a range of sectors from construction to mining.
Moving from the feet to the hands, there were numerous stalls advertising protective gloves, such as Microlin Cooper. The gloves we saw were anti-vibration, anti-static heat and cut resistant, thermal, anti-impact, puncture resistant or waterproof as they have gloves for every possible professional purpose to prevent injuries on the job. The company caters to all employee requirements, keeping health and safety at the core of the designs.
As expected, the event was well attended with the venue busy from opening to closing.  There are several anecdotes on the windows as you approach and leave the halls where the exhibition was held. One of them announces that since the NEC opened its doors in 1976 the amount of people who have passed through is the equivalent of the entire population of this country.  Seeing the numbers at the event, that isn’t hard to believe!
The team spent their time visiting stall after stall, hearing information about masks, gloves, footwear and entire suits made specifically to provide life-saving protection to the men and women across a multitude of industries.
Sustainability was on everybody’s mind. With no single solution, the team saw first-hand how companies were figuring out their own solutions to the problem of single-use plastics, global warming and textile waste. This was where innovation, too often unnoticed by the rest of the world, that goes into the designs of PPE came to life.
It was remarkable to hear how companies plan to tackle the issue of sustainability, most of which left the team itching to learn more and write about the huge impact the professional clothing industry could have on ecological issues.
Although the team could not visit the Health & Safety Event for all three days (with the PCIAW® Summit and the Professional Clothing Awards taking place in June, we simply can’t afford to be away from our desks) but we have no doubt that the event brought not only education to those who attended, but an understanding of the passion and dedication that spurs the our industry and related business onwards.

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