The Evolution of Workplace PPE

Workplace safety in BC oil and gas

Millions of people across the globe go to work each day in environments that may result in workplace injuries or illnesses resulting from exposure to physical, chemical, electrical, mechanical or other job specific hazards. Workers in a wide range of industries are required to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in order to protect themselves against the health and safety risks associated with their job. PPE, such as steel-toed boots, gloves and coveralls, serve as the last line of defence between the wearer and the hazards they face. Since the Industrial Safety Act was enacted in Canada in 1964, researchers, designers and manufacturers have continued to look for improvements in their equipment, aiming to reduce physiological burdens, improve communication and enhance comfort.

Historically, soldiers have been wearing protective amour since ancient warriors used thick leather breast plates, shin protectors and forearm protectors. One of the first large scale and well documented uses of PPE was respiratory protection against chemical warfare during World War One. [1] As the need for personal protection from the dangers we face at work continued to surge, so did the evolution of PPE with the invention of critical protective wear such as coveralls, hard hats and flame-resistant (FR) clothing.

In the 1970’s, employers in the oil and gas industry began adopting FR clothing programs to protect workers from injuries caused by flash fires where large volumes of flammable liquids are present. By spraying or embedding FR fibers and fabrics in employees’ workwear, companies could greatly reduce the amount and severity of injuries or fatalities. Today’s FR garments protect against a plethora of hazards including flash fires, arc flash and molten metal splatter, by offering ignition prevention and self-extinguishing properties. With the evolution of FR fabrics, protective wear has become more fashionable in a wide range of colour choices and significantly more comfortable with new engineered materials that are lighter, sweat wicking and breathable. [2]

PPE requirements vary by industry and according to the materials being handled. The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (OH&S) mandates employers to conduct hazard assessments to determine which hazards are present, the necessary PPE for those hazards, as well as to train and require their employees to properly wear and maintain their PPE. The safety and wellbeing of our employees and contractors is our top priority at SureLine. We gave careful thought to selecting the coveralls we provide our workers with. The three sections of the OH&S Regulation we particularly focused on in making this selection are as follows:

  • Section 8.24 – High Visibility Apparel
  • Section 8.25 – Distinguishing Apparel
  • Section 8.31 – FR When Required

Our pipeline and facility construction projects typically involve heavy machinery operating in proximity to a skilled labour force on the ground, many times crossing or in parallel to a roadway. One of our top priorities in keeping our people safe, is to enhance their visibility to machinery and vehicle operators. The SureLine coverall is a durable FR orange colour, accentuated with high-visibility, reflective striping, regulation compliant fire resistance and distinctive branding. In our coverall selection process, we considered the following factors:

  • PERSONAL PROTECTION – FR coveralls are standard in the hydrocarbon industry, so we selected a brand that maintains the highest level of flash fire protection through repeated washings and extended wear.
  • VISIBILITY – To comply with OH&S visibility regulations, our team needs to stand out when in proximity to moving equipment and even more so when near a roadway.
  • DURABILITY – Built to last, our coveralls are quality made to ensure long term resilience.
  • BRAND DISTINCTION – Bright orange is not a common coverall colour in our industry, and we love the idea of “standing out in the crowd.”

Good quality, well maintained PPE is critical to the success of our safety culture at SureLine. Nothing in our business is more important than safety. We firmly believe our efforts to provide the best PPE available for our employees is critical in preventing occupational injuries and illnesses and integral in enabling our safe work environment.

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