To meet the demands of their customers, many distributors and manufacturers of personal protective equipment now provide round-the-clock support above and beyond the typical product specs and material safety data sheets. Is your supplier keeping pace? This article will tell you what to look for in a PPE supplier.

An emergency situation

This scenario demonstrates why on-the-spot support is becoming more important. A crash involving a semi-trailer hauling hazardous industrial chemicals on California’s busy I-60 freeway, about 40 miles outside Los Angeles, forced the highway to be shut down and heavy weekend traffic re-routed in order for the spill to be cleaned up.

The truck involved in the crash carried a mixed load of hazardous chemicals, and the cleanup contractor had an immediate need to find out what type of garments would best protect his crew against all of the chemicals that were involved.

From an Internet site maintained by DuPont Protective Apparel, the contractor’s industrial safety equipment supplier obtained information on the garment fabrics and types that would provide the best chemical protection for the cleanup crew. Using a laptop computer and a cell phone, the information was transferred directly to the cleanup contractor at the site of the spill, and the proper garments were quickly selected from the contractor’s inventory.

The cleanup was completed safely within 26 hours from the time of the incident.

This emergency response action typifies the instant access available to protective apparel data in today’s electronic information age.

A new set of values

Emergencies like this illustrate the change in customer expectations observed by manufacturers and distributors of personal protective equipment. Neil Avison, president, DuPont Protective Apparel Marketing Company, explains what’s behind this change in customer values and why it’s important for suppliers and manufacturers to keep up.

“What’s highly valued by PPE users is a total product and service package that focuses on information and knowledge, and is keyed to today’s fast-moving electronic communications thoroughfare,” says Avison.

“We’re in the information age and the era of 24/7 service, and users of protective apparel are looking for support that keeps pace with today’s demanding industrial marketplace,” he says.

Finding a full-service supplier

According to Avison, protective apparel users should look for the following support services from suppliers of personal protective equipment:

In-depth information available instantly via multi-media. While mail-delivered data sheets, MSDS inserts, product catalogs, and other printed literature are still important, users should expect faster access to detailed product selection information through electronic communications media.

Service-oriented manufacturers are making this in-depth information accessible through Internet sites, fax-on-demand, and 24/7 hotlines that provide around-the-clock technical support 365 days a year.

Expert assistance in product selection and use. To cope with today’s diverse environmental and industrial hazards, customers often need assistance with the specifics of selecting and using personal protective equipment. Look for a PPE supplier that offers a dependable central source of application-specific technical information that is accessible around-the-clock.

Knowledgeable field support and training assistance. Customer-oriented suppliers and manufacturers know that there is no substitute for a cadre of well-trained field representatives. You should expect your PPE supplier to provide expert problem-solving assistance and offer help with training workers on the proper use of the equipment you purchase. Look for a high level of personal involvement by technical specialists as part of the protective apparel package that you buy.

Experience in worker protection. Equipment manufacturers and distributors who have a history of using safety products possess the most thorough understanding of customer needs and are the most credible source of guidance. Find a supplier who has kept pace with the electronic age and who has walked in the shoes of the user.

Information provided by the DuPont Protective Apparel Marketing Company, Wilmington, Del. For more information about DuPont Protective Apparel, call (800) 44-TYVEK® or visit DuPont’s Web site at