PPE & Workwear: Know what you’re buying / 5 Steps to Knowing your Workwear & PPE

As with almost everything consumers purchase, there is the chance that you might not receive what you request and pay for and safety gear such as PPE & Workwear used by you or your staff is no exception.

Dromex is one of many reputable PPE & Workwear providers in South Africa and whether you’ve been buying from the same supplier for a few years or you’re buying from a new one, it’s good to check on the quality you’re receiving.

We’re here to guide you with some helpful hints that will hopefully help you make the right choice by asking the right questions before you purchase and how to check what you receive.

  1. What work will the wearer be doing?

Workwear can be purchased for a few reasons 1) General Wear: employers often purchase entry-level garments so that staff don’t damage their clothes. These are often for low-risk industries such as gardening, warehousing etc. Preferences for these industries lean towards 80/20 Poly Cotton, 65/35 Polycotton & J54 100% Cotton Conti Suits and are generally based on budget, i.e. an 80/20 Polycotton Conti Suit is cheaper than a J54 100% cotton Conti Suit which is more expensive but more breathable & comfortable due to the cotton content.

2) Hazard Specific Protection: this workwear is bought to protect the user from an incident that will cause them bodily harm e.g. Petro Chemical, Electric Arc Flash, Mining, Fire, Chemicals, etc where Flame Acid, Arc Suits, J54, Nomex & Poly Viscose suits are required. This workwear is often governed by specific standards such as SABS, SANS, ISO & NFPA in the case of fire garments. For hazardous industries we offer a complimentary PPE Assessment to ensure the correct PPE & Workwear is used and safety requirements are met.

  • Be Specific

When requesting quotes for safety wear always try to be as precise as possible and include the following information:

  • Garment type / product:  e.g. D59 Flame Suit / Leather Welding Glove   
  • Nature of use / Industry:  e.g. Welding (whether you do or don’t know which garment or product you need, inserting this info will ensure that the supplier quotes you on a garment fit for purpose)
  • Number of employees or Quantity:  e.g. 500 staff – 3 suits per person or 1500 units

Including the above information will assist the supplier with providing you pricing that is accurate and workwear correctly required for your usage. 

  • Ask for a Size Chart

A SABS fit workwear garment from your chosen supplier could have different sizing in comparison to a branded in-house fit which could also be different to an eco/budget fit garment, which is commercially acceptable.  Ask your workwear supplier for a size chart pertaining to the specific garment and match with the wearer’s measurements to make sure the garment is a suitable fit. It’s important to note that under-sized PPE & workwear is uncomfortable for the wearer and can also be dangerous if it’s too big should there be the possibility of getting caught in machinery.

  • Get a copy of Certifications

In the case where you or your customer require products with specific standards, ask for the certifications from the supplier. Entry-level workwear garments such as an 80/20 Poly Cotton Conti Suit won’t have a certification however when there is a specific requirement such as a 65/35 Poly Cotton or J54 100% Cotton Conti Suit then insist on a fabric certification document.  Likewise, using PPE that has been approved EN standards is always the best way to ensure quality safety protection and the supplier should be able to provide you with the applicable certificates.

The check: when you receive your workwear check the label in the jacket. If you have specifically requested a 65/35 Poly Cotton Conti Suit and the label simply says “Poly Cotton” there is a chance it has been made with 80/20 Poly Cotton and not 65/35 Poly Cotton, which you’ve most likely been quoted on and paid for so revert to your supplier to verify from a test report.

For all other PPE items, check the stamp on the item and ensure you see the appropriate EN Standard printed on the item. An example of this is EN 166 for eyewear.

  • Why is the pricing so different for the same garment or safety item?

You’ve requested a price for the same SABS D59 Flame Acid Boiler Suit from different companies but the pricing you’ve received from them couldn’t be more different. Don’t just buy the cheapest one to save money – there are a few possibilities.

  1. Quoting Error

It could simply be a clerical error, which is easily resolved with a phone call or email.

  • The fabric or garment standards are not the same.

There is a possibility that the cheaper garment is marketed as a Flame Acid suit however the fabric is uncertified and hasn’t been produced at a SABS facility. Both standards are regulated so request the relevant certifications from both suppliers.

  • Check the reflective detail

When purchasing workwear with flame retardant properties, ensure that the Reflective Tape is also flame retardant. Standard reflective tape is cheaper, which can account for a price difference between garments but risking your employee’s safety just isn’t worth it.

If the tape is flame retardant, your supplier should be able to supply you with a copy of its certification.

  • Request a sample.

If you’ve followed the above steps and received the necessary paperwork, request a sample. Once you’ve seen both garments and you’re satisfied that they meet all the standards and that the quality is equal, only then make your decision based on price.

This process can be used for all safety wear including gloves, eyewear, hearing protection and even footwear.

At Dromex we believe that all that all employees are entitled to maximum safety protection and that employers should never have to compromise on the quality of the PPE they provide their staff. Feel free to contact our technical team for assistance with any PPE & Workwear queries our at our Durban, Cape Town or Johannesburg branches.

Know Safety. No Injury. Know Dromex.

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