Safety in European numbers

AUSTRALIA could benefit from aligning itself with Europe’s long-standing safety standards for protective clothing and keep up with worldwide trends in workplace safety, according to a specialised manufacturer.
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European safety expert … Kimberley Clark’s Dr Hugo Watts.

Emily Roberts

In the absence of any appropriate standards in Australia, safety product maker Kimberley Clark had to look overseas to benchmark its Kleenguard XP protective overalls. The product now meets the type 5 (particle protection) and type 6 (liquid splash protection) European standards for disposable protective clothing.

According to Kimberley Clark’s European category manager Dr Hugo Watts, most safety clothing in Europe has been manufactured to type 5 and 6 protection ratings for 20 years.

He said although the company’s XP overalls conformed to these standards, they were not a response to them.

“Europe is bigger than the United States and already has clearly established rules for protective clothing,” Watts said. “That’s why the European standards are very good ones for Australia to jump onto.”

Watts, who helped set up the European guidelines as a member of the European Committee for Standardisation, is a director of the British Safety Industry Federation. Through the European Committee for Normalisation, the European Union established uniform standards so products could be sold in all countries of the union.

“The 1986 European directive on safety clothing was a set of principles that all safety garments must conform to,” Watts said. “These principles included design standards, independent accreditation and regular quality audits.”

Several standards have evolved since that time, said Watts, taking into account the changes to fabric advances, heightened safety awareness, an increasingly litigious environment and user compliance.

“Acceptance drives compliance,” he said. “People must believe in the protective product. They won’t wear it if it makes them feel stupid or uncomfortable.

“Kimberley Clark’s Kleenguard XP protective overall has an advantage as the majority of users find it more wearable. This also makes the product acceptable to workplace managers who are responsible for site safety and for ensuring compliance with regulations.”