You have an upcoming six month project and your team will be working through the end of summer through to the autumn, for example, what kind of outdoor workwear will they need to keep them safe through these seasons? When you’ve been assigned the job of choosing the right protective equipment for your team, it can be difficult to know where to start. Do you buy summer clothing, warm clothing, or waterproofs? Here’s how to choose the correct outdoor work clothes for your team.
What’s the weather like?
England isn’t known for its charming weather, so when you’re analysing what workwear is needed for an outdoor project, then you need to analyse what kind of weather you anticipate for that period of time. If the project is in summer, expect unseasonably hot temperatures or expect rain in spring and autumn. In winter, your team will need layers and warm, protective clothing. The weather will affect how you dress your workers. It’s also a good idea to consult your teams as well. What clothing do they feel will help them move and feel comfortable in so they can get the job done?
For most seasons, expect to buy some form of waterproof jackets and - possibly - trousers, and then use layers underneath. Perhaps purchase fleeces for layering over cooler clothes and under thinner waterproof gear, and then provide heavier waterproof jackets for winter. Your workers are most likely moving vigorously so they need to be protected from getting cold as they sweat so sweat wicking properties are a good idea. For summer, clothing should be as cool as possible, and should have close-knit fibres to prevent the sun from burning workers through clothing (it can happen) and/or buy shirts that have sun protection in the fabric.
Consider too the time of year and when it will get dark or have low visibility. For outdoor work on the roadside, for example, your team may need hi-vis gear to provide maximum protection.
What hazards do you need to protect against?
Another factor in choosing seasonal workwear is what you need to protect against. Have a look at your workplace health and safety policy, and if you haven’t completed an outdoor risk assessment for the new area, you need to do so. You cannot buy equipment before you’ve assessed the risks and hazards. A risk assessment will determine what PPE you’ll need to keep your workers protected. Of course, it’s best to consider how comfortable the PPE will be for your workers when working in the sun or working in the rain, for example, and if having that equipment is absolutely necessary if it’ll hinder your workers or if they decide not to wear it - but that’s where you have to encourage and manage your team’s PPE responsibilities - sometimes you’ll have to tell your team that, even if the equipment isn’t the most comfortable, the benefits outweigh the negatives.
What will your teams actually wear?
In 2015/2016, there were 144 workplace fatalities and over 600,000 non-fatal injuries, and - in most cases - workers were not wearing the right PPE - or any. You’d think that workers would gladly wear gear that protects them, but the truth is on site and when stuck into jobs, many workers don’t consider wearing protection if the equipment hinders what they’re doing. How many times have you driven by or walked by outdoor work sites, and the employees aren’t wearing their PPE properly - no harnesses for working at heights - or wearing hi-vis vests and no shirts in the sun - hopefully with suncream and their hard hat?
When buying workwear for your outdoor teams, you have to consider their thermal comfort, and what they will actually wear. There’s no point in buying one hundred heavyweight cotton polos, for example, if your workers will not wear them. Of course, it’s a balance. If your worker has an accident and you’ve provided the right PPE, then the responsibility is on their choice not to wear the provided PPE and not on you since you did provide equipment and educate your workers on its importance. Discover what your team needs and what they will actually wear by coming together for a meeting. Outline what you’ve discovered in your risk assessment, what equipment will protect them, and then discuss additional protective clothing and how they feel about wearing it - is it heavy, too hot, does it restrict movement and so forth?
The bottom line is choosing the right outdoor workwear is difficult and there’s a fine balance between real-world application and buying equipment that protects your workers from eventualities and potential dangers. The best way is when you do your outdoor risk assessment, make sure that you only provide PPE that absolutely, unequivocally protects your workers and educate your team as to which equipment they must always wear for their safety, and which additional equipment they have the option of having if they would like - that would provide additional protection.
Still having trouble what to buy for your outdoor team?
Make sure your outdoor work teams are PPE compliant by downloading our easy PPE checklist. Find out how to maintain, store, clean, and choose the right PPE for your team, and more.