Electrical Contracting News (ECN) May 2017 - Page 42

SPECIAL FEATURE TOOLS & WORKWEAR SAFE AND SMART David Clark, managing director of the Hultafors Group UK, which owns Snickers Workwear, looks at how health and safety issues on site are influencing the development of ‘smarter’ working clothes and heralding a revolution in wearable technology. E ven though modern working clothes were invented back in the 1970s by a Swedish electrician called Matti Viio, the most significant technical development in workwear before that was way back in the 1850s. Jacob Davis, a Latvian Jewish immigrant living in San Francisco started buying bolts of denim cloth from Levi Strauss to reinforce and repair denim clothing. After one of Davis’ customers kept purchasing cloth to reinforce torn trousers, he had an idea to use copper rivets to reinforce the points of strain on trousers, such as on the pocket corners and at the base of the button fly. He and Strauss went into business with a patented rivet design that is now part of clothing history. It was a significant development in clothing design at the time – a product development that was influenced by functionality and durability needs of their customers. Now, 160 years on, workwear design and development is still being driven by the need for functionality, durability and comfort, but perhaps more so now by the demands of health and safety on site. Do workers care about their own wellbeing at work? Our working lives are governed by occupational health and safety legislation, but while such laws act as a framework for ensuring employees’ wellbeing at work, it’s often the workers themselves who tend not to take enough care of their health on site. Workplace injuries are commonplace. But while employers have an obligation to ensure health and safety at work, some responsibility for overcoming occupational injuries does require a change in the behavior among workers themselves. They ought to be more attentive and perhaps prioritise their own health and personal safety on site. A recent survey among professional craftsmen in Scandinavia* reveals that six out of 10 suffered an injury at their workplace in the past year. So 60 per cent have or are suffering from physical health issues or pain as a result. However, the same survey shows that more than one in two workers agree that personal protection equipment is not used on site as often as it should be. Surprisingly, given that most of the respondents work in environments where 42 | May 2017 The most common ongoing pain a worker suffers is in the knees and back. ‘More than one in two workers agree that personal protection equipment is not used on site as often as it should be.’