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Trends shaping the PPE landscape of tomorrow

24 April 2024

WORKWEAR SAFETY expert Arco reveals its predictions of the five top innovations influencing the future of personal protective equipment (PPE) over the next decade.

Technological advancements 

Over the years there has been an increasing rise in robotics, which has revolutionised manufacturing environments and how we produce goods. In 2023, the robotics industry generated £29 billion in revenue worldwide and is projected to hit £33 billion by 2027. 

As robots continue to develop to be more advanced and widespread, working safely and collaboratively alongside them is becoming crucially important.  

Dr Ian Pearson, a respected Futurologist commented, “We can anticipate a future where an increased number of robots operate on sites, which will mean that there is powerful equipment present in these areas. Augmented Reality (AR) and other technologies will play a crucial role in supporting individuals in adapting to these conditions.”

Sustainable materials

Manufacturers are striving to achieve a more sustainable production line, with consumer demand showing a growing interest in PPE made from recycled fibres, biodegradable/reusable options and alternatives to plastic. 

Leading safety brand Arco has expanded its Responsible Choice product range by 72 per cent over the last year. Jim Harbidge, Head of Sustainability at Arco, commented: "At Arco, we focus on durability and circularity: garments made from recycled materials, designed to be washed multiple times, and at the end of their life are ready to recycle again. These offer the best opportunity to reduce carbon and water usage."

Customisation and comfort

Achieving comfort in PPE involves a tricky balance between effective protection and user wellbeing. Selecting materials that offer both safety and comfort is key, requiring innovation in design and construction. 

Nick McLaren, head of range proposition at Arco said, “There is a sharp focus on developing breathable, flexible, and user-friendly materials to satisfy both safety and wearability. This ongoing effort reflects a commitment to safeguarding individuals in hazardous environments without compromising their comfort.”

The new world of AI, AR and VR

AI, AR, and VR are reshaping health, safety, and PPE in industries like construction and healthcare. Advanced AI-driven CCTV systems instantly monitor PPE use, inspect compliance and identify hazards using cutting-edge algorithms. This technology can help to eliminate human error, speed up processes and enhance overall site safety.

Post-pandemic preparedness

In August last year, the UK Government National Risk Register declared a 5-25% chance of another pandemic striking in the next five years. This month, Arco released its whitepaper on Emerging Disease Preparedness, which highlights key insight on pandemic planning, PPE stockpiling and PPE compliance.

Dr Pearson said, "In the years ahead, we may witness the emergence of more viruses, which will no doubt show the need for detection measures in workplaces with close human interaction. The integration of rapid testing, possibly within or in conjunction with PPE, will prove to be a valuable asset for organisations."

Find out more information about Arco’s Future of PPE research on its website here.