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Adapting for Safety: The New Era of Personal Protective Equipment in the Workplace

In the UK, the approach to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is undergoing a significant transformation, driven by technological advances and the diversification of the workforce. Traditional one-size-fits-all PPE models are becoming obsolete, with a pressing need for gear that accommodates various body types, particularly for women and those who don’t fit the average male physique.

Bethany Holroyd CMIOSH, a prominent figure in health and safety at WSP and among the Top 100 Most Influential Women in Construction in 2023, highlights the challenges women face with ill-fitting PPE. Hong Kong-based workwear designer Mei Sze Tsang addresses this by creating lighter, more comfortable clothing suitable for extreme temperatures, which also makes construction sites more fashionable.

Technological advancements are introducing smart PPE, equipped with materials like Kevlar and nanofibers for improved safety and comfort. These innovations include wearable tech that detects toxic chemicals and unsafe areas, though they must be regulated to ensure privacy under GDPR data protection rules.

Adel Lawson CMIOSH the managing directors at Demoura Lawson Consulting emphasises the balance between safety and privacy, highlighting the benefits of wearable tech in remote work situations. Exoskeletons are another innovation, proven effective in reducing injury incidents and strain in tasks requiring heavy lifting or overhead manipulation.

As PPE evolves, so must the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) culture, shifting from a controlling approach to one that emphasizes training, awareness, and individual responsibility. This evolution in PPE points towards a future where safety gear is not just protective but also adaptive, comfortable, and conducive to a diverse and changing workforce.

For more information on Adapting for Safety: The New Era of Personal Protective Equipment in the Workplace talk to Altruisk Risk Management

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