1 Health and Safety Laboratory for the Health and Safety Executive, Human factors that lead to non-compliance with standard operating procedures, 2012.
ANNEXE 6: COMFORT CONSIDERATIONS
KEY COMFORT FACTORS Comfort is a somewhat subjective and personal matter but some key comfort factors frequently cited in wearer trials include:
9 Garment design: ample freedom of movement when bending/stretching.
9 Breatheability: ability of the garment to allow sweat to evaporate and provide moisture vapour permeability.
9 Feel on the skin, softness. 9 Garment weight.
9 Wearing undergarments such as cotton that absorb sweat improves the feel on the skin.
9 Wearing long-legged and long-sleeved undergarments.
Garments with air and moisture vapour permeability will be more comfortable than non-breathable materials and coated fabrics but this is usually at the expense of particulate or chemical barrier properties.
THE NEED FOR COMFORT When it comes to day-in day-out health and safety compliance, operator comfort is one of the key human factors that govern the correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE). The importance of wear comfort and correct garment ﬁ tting cannot be overstated. A large proportion of observed PPE non-compliance occurrences are not due to an absence
of protection but are simply due to workers avoiding, misusing or abusing the protection provided. And even where staff are wearing the appropriate equipment, if it doesn t ﬁ t or if it isn t comfortable then it is often being worn incorrectly.1
DISCOMFORTING COSTS While providing necessary protection to the user, the wearing of PPE (personal protective equipment) invariably creates an impediment to worker performance, communications and comfort. In some cases the provision of personal protection comes at a high cost in terms of operator comfort and efﬁ ciency
and, unless carefully managed, these are conﬂ icts that can lead to ﬁ eld operators being exposed to further risks and for a tendency for otherwise effective workwear to be shunned, used incorrectly, or unofﬁ cially modiﬁ ed.
FINDING THE OPTIMUM BALANCE PPE misuse may just be just down to a momentary lapse of attention but that s all it takes for yet another casualty to be added to the workplace accident statistics. Fatigue, restricted movement, reduced dexterity, impeded vision, low tactile sensitivity and even annoying fabric rustle, are just some of the reasons that cause workers to shun, abandon or misuse protective equipment. The secret rests in ﬁ nding the optimum balance between comfort and protection, between safety and productivity, between ﬁ t and functionality.
High performance PPE ensembles, while providing effective chemical protection, can serve to introduce new risks relating to physiological and psychological stresses. For example the life-threatening dangers of hyperthermia (heat stress) from unventilated protective garments are well documented. Similarly, the psychological impacts associated with wearing constrictive, bulky and sometimes claustrophobic worksuits are perhaps less well documented but every bit as real. Anything which can negatively affect the judgement of an operative in a highly dangerous, highly stressful environment must be taken very seriously.