Keeping up with the ever-accelerating pace of technological advancements can be difficult. This article will look at some of the latest advancements in respiratory PPE, then analyze principles that underpin effective PPE (whether it be the latest technology or otherwise) and give your company a competitive advantage.

Padded respirators

These have been around for decades in some industries, but are very new in others. For example, the first-ever padded welding respirator was launched just this year. Padded respirators are beneficial because they are comfortable, absorb impact, ensure a snug fit so that they move easily with your head and distribute the weight over your head and shoulders to eliminate pressure points and make it feel lighter.

Helmet lights

While head-lamps have been around for years, lights that are compatible with respirators have only been introduced in the last 2-3 years. The key feature with helmet lights is that they move with your head, lighting up your field of vision.

In-helmet communication

This is a radio system that allows your employees to safely communicate among their team, especially in noisy environments where communication is otherwise difficult. It is also beneficial for communicating with employees in remote locations that are difficult to access such as in tanks or shipyards.

Multi-purpose respirators

If your employees perform a range of tasks, these can save switching between respirators, which reduces downtime and increases productivity. An example of this is a welder/grinder where you can lift the welding visor and instantly begin grinding.

Air conditioning and climate control

For supplied-air respirators, there is a wide range of air conditioning options available to ensure your employees can operate at a comfortable temperature. Options include cold and hot air devices which cool or heat the air by a nominal amount or climate control devices which allow you to adjust the temperature to suit your preference and environment.

Comfort in PPE

One of the benefits common among many of the items mentioned above is comfort. It is important to realize that employee comfort is not about giving them luxury, but minimizing fatigue to allow them to operate at maximum efficiency. Many employees who use PPE do physical hard work, often in harsh conditions which are two of the leading causes of fatigue. Research has found that fatigue results in more errors and slower reaction time, which will reduce productivity. Therefore, in order to minimize physical strain and maximize productivity, your employees need comfortable PPE.

This brings us to one key point about how to ensure your investments in any new PPE are worthwhile: Ask yourself (or your employee), will this improve your comfort? Comfort in PPE doesn’t just include technological advancements, it can come down to small details such as protective clothing that fits well and is made from quality materials that not only provide protection, but allow easy maneuverability, respirators that are lightweight, clothing and equipment that is lightweight or the weight is evenly distributed to eliminate pressure points.

Many benefits of comfort

Employee comfort also increases their safety which reduces accidents, reduces business disruptions and increases productivity. While there are laws that largely ensure safety, comfort is difficult to mandate because it is very individual, yet vital to ensuring your employees are safe. It has already been mentioned that that fatigue results in more errors. Some examples of this are not following a process correctly (further detriment to productivity) or acting in an unsafe manner. The result is lost productivity at best, but could also involve significant expense and damage to the company’s reputation.

PPE is generally used in manufacturing or service and maintenance work, so the most obvious competitive advantage are productivity. Other less obvious advantages include employee safety, and increased employee morale. The good news is that these advantages are connected and result from one primary factor: comfort. 

Our advice to companies or individuals considering new PPE, especially with new products on the market that are unfamiliar, is consider the effect on employee comfort. While the benefits of comfort are difficult to quantify, any improvement in employee comfort will always result in increased productivity, safety and employee morale. Research what products are available and give them trials when possible. Comfortable PPE will always pay off.