According to a report by Frost & Sullivan, the Western European personal protective equipment (PPE) market experienced many changes in 2006. The report noted several trends, indicating a shift in the focus of PPE toward worker safety, comfort and style over cost. It concluded that appealing to image conscious employees will be as important as appealing to the buyer's purse.

The report, available by e-mailing janina.hillgrub@frost.com, found that the Western European PPE Market earned revenues of €7.8 billion in 2006.

"2006 was a very successful year for the PPE industry in Western Europe," said Frost and Sullivan research analyst Paula Connor. "Manufacturers benefited from a time of stability and used that as a springboard to move into new territories such as Eastern Europe."

Despite the continuing shift of heavy manufacturing from Western Europe, the workers who remain are well-paid and highly valued. Employers are beginning to spend more to ensure worker comfort and safety.

However, the report said, there remains a great deal of demand for very cheap products imported from Asia. Certain regions in Europe are known for their exceptionally high price sensitivity and European manufacturers are suffering due to the competition from cheaper imports.

"The cheapest products available in the PPE market are of very poor quality, but are still in demand," said Connor. "Many people realize that the health and safety of workers is exceedingly important, but even in 2006, others see price as their first priority."