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Outdoor workwear and the importance of protection

19 January 2018

Keeping workers safe, warm, dry, comfortable and able to carry out the tasks they need to practically and physically are some of the fundamental questions that have to be answered when it comes to making the right outdoor workwear choices. HSM takes a whistle-stop tour from head to toe to look at some of the key things to consider when choosing outdoor workwear – and what some of the key safety, performance and legislative standards you need to work into those decisions.

1) Head

According to the HSE, there were 26 fatal injuries and 3170 non-fatal major injuries to workers in the UK in 2016/17 as a result of being struck on the head, including 832 concussions.


Where hard hats are required ensure they are EN397:2012 compliant.


Comfort. Enhanced protection such as crash zones. Ventilation, suspension, energy absorption performance, weight and correct chin strapping. For extreme temperatures consider low and high temperature tested products. Also ensure head protection integrates with other forms of above the neck PPE.

2) Eye/Face

With 1970 major non-fatal injuries to the eyes and face in 2016/17 including 134 incidences of lost or reduced sight protecting workers’ eyes is vital.


Ensure all safety eyewear – glasses or goggles or full face protection - provided is EN166 compliant, ideally with scratch resistant and anti-fog lenses (look for specialist coatings).


Comfort and fitting – will they sit comfortably on the face and stay in place when carrying out work for long periods? Ensure they provide the right UV Protection levels. Lightweight. If workers require prescription glasses ensure their safety glasses are.

Ensure integration between other above the neck PPE (eg – arms of safety glasses must not impact on the close fit of ear defenders on the ears).

3) Hearing

According to the HSE Some 17,000 people in the UK suffer deafness, ringing in the ears or other ear conditions caused by excessive noise at work. Any worker exposed to noise levels that are regularly above 85 decibels is at risk of damaging their hearing unless they have adequate protection.


Ensure hearing protection – whether ear plugs or ear defenders - are fully compliant with EN352-1:2002.


Comfort – vital to ensure that workers keep their hearing protection in place even on long shifts given the risk of taking them off. Integration with safety eyewear and safety helmets to ensure proper fit is maintained. Fully adjustable headbands, enabling the wearer to make easy, on-head adjustments to suit their own individual requirements even when they are being worn.

The choice of hearing protectors is a very personal one and depends on a number of factors including level of noise, comfort and the suitability of the hearing protector for both the worker and their environment.

4) Hands

With 17,521 injuries to the fingers, hands or wrists or workers in the UK in 2016/17 protecting the hands of workers is extremely important.


For mechanical protection gloves must conform to EN388: 2016. Ensure the gloves selected are able to provide the right abrasion, puncture and cut resistance required. For chemical protection gloves must conform to EN374 – 2004 – identify the main chemical risk/risks and ensure the glove material will protect against the chemical/chemicals used for duration required. EN420: 2003 is the general requirement for safety gloves.


Comfort, flexibility, fit and dexterity are vital. For outdoor workers you will also need to consider warmth in the winter and ventilation in the summer. Grip and keeping hands dry are also likely to be significant factors in determining the right hand protection. Chemcial protection may also be a requirement. If impact protection is required look at gloves with an enhanced exterior protective shell.

5) Clothing

Clothing will be an extremely diverse issue depending on the requirements of the workers. There were more than 16,000 non-fatal upper and lower limb injuries suffered in 2016/17 (not including hand or feet injuries) so consider the hazard areas for specific workers and tasks and ensure workwear provides the right levels of protection required.


There are a number of EN Standards to consider depending upon the hazard safety required:

  • EN342 - Protection against the cold: Products are tested by measuring the insulation for an ensemble (jacket, trouser) worn. Air permeability and breathability are also measured
  • EN 343 - Protection against foul weather: These garments are intended to protect against weather conditions with combinations of precipitation, rain, fog, humidity and wind at temperatures down to 5°C.There are two categories for this standard
  • EN 20471: High visibility clothing
  • BS EN 14605:2005+A1:2009: Protective clothing against liquid chemicals.


Comfort, free movement, flexibility, durability and specific areas of safety required. Warmth and the ability to stay dry in extreme weather conditions. Specific areas of comfort such as knee pads for those workers often on their knees. Durability including enhanced stitching on trousers and jackets. Practical issues such as location and number of pockets, depth and style of pockets.

6) Feet

Vital not just to protect workers but keep them safe and secure whilst on their feet at work and to help avoid slip, trip and fall injuries there were more than 9000 specific injuries to the feet and ankles in 2016/17. Of the non-fatal reported injuries in the UK, 29% were as a result of a slip trip or fall.


Safety footwear provided must conform to EN ISO 20345:2011 which includes toe protection to 200 joule impact.
Midsole penetration resistance.


Comfort, grip, ankle protection. Water proof requirements. Ventilation (foot must be able to breathe). Type of sole unit for the environment being worked in- flat, greasy surface, rough, muddy uneven surface. Risk of penetration from under the foot, impact hazards above the foot.

There are a wealth of things to consider when selecting the right outdoor workwear. Leading manufacturers are often on hand to provide advice and information to help you make the right decisions based on the needs of the workers, environments and working requirements/tasks being undertaken.