Workwear buying guide

Workwear buying guide

Jeremy, Construction site supervisor, Cardiff

Guide written by:

Jeremy, Construction site supervisor, Cardiff

High vis clothing, boiler suits, aprons, jackets, vests and work coats are just a few examples of the types of safety and workwear you might need for your work. All personal protective equipment (PPE) must conform to certain standards and needs to be chosen according to usage, working conditions, size and material.

Important features

  • Material
  • Size
  • Use
  • Features
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How to choose the right workwear for your tasks

Picking appropriate PPE

You've probably noticed you don't come across many plumbers in three-piece suits and you won't catch many welders in shorts – and with good reason! Each job comes with its own risks and it is imperative to assess these risks properly in order to choose the right gear to protect yourself.

Protective clothing often comes under the collective term of safety and workwear or personal protective equipment (PPE). All decent safety and workwear will conform to the right standards and come with a CE marking as a guarantee of quality. Each job and every job site has its own set of risks.

In addition to how often you need to use the safety or workwear, you'll need to consider the type of work you're carrying out (e.g. gardening, DIY, log cutting), the conditions in which it will be performed (indoors, outdoors, in the rain, etc.) and the elements you need to protect yourself from (splashing, sparks, dirt, etc.).

Work clothes for summer

If you mainly do light work in the summer months, the best option for you will be cotton overalls.

Tear-resistant work clothes

Choose polyester and cotton overalls (65 and 35%) for any job where the likelihood of tearing your clothing is high (mechanics, etc.).

Working in the workshop

How to choose the right workwear for your tasks

A basic cotton work coat is a good fit for any DIY jobs in the workshop that don't involve a lot of mess.

Gardening work

Professional hedge trimmers

Cotton dungarees are ideal for working around the garden or vegetable patch.

Painting or cleaning

How to choose the right workwear for your tasks

It's often best to wear disposable overalls for painting especially for jobs where there's a high risk of paint spraying (e.g. when using a paint sprayer).

Working on roads and job sites

How to choose the right workwear for your tasks

Choose high vis jackets, trousers and overalls for any work on roads, work sites or any other environment shared with vehicles.

Workwear for winter use

How to choose the right workwear for your tasks

Wear waterproofs if you've got work to do outdoors whether it's raining, snowing or windy.

Specific tasks

How to choose the right workwear for your tasks

Wear padded trousers for log cutting, thick clothing for winter work and so on.

Size and materials

How to choose the right workwear for your tasks

No matter the type of safety or workwear you require, choose the right size and, most importantly, the best material to cover both your current needs and any potential requirements you have in the future! Gardening clothes, for example, are usually specific to the season.

Protective clothing like overalls and aprons mustn't impede your movements. Bear in mind that things like boiler suits will be used year-round so make sure you have room underneath for your thick winter clothes!

Safety and workwear

It's also important to remember that your workwear will often be worn with PPE like hard hats, safety goggles, masks, gloves and safety shoes.

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Safety and workwear

Hi vis clothes to make you stand out at work

Hi vis clothes to make you stand out at work

Whether you're working at a roadside or on a job site, the priority will be to avoid collisions with any vehicles passing through or working in the same environment (such as trucks, diggers, etc.). The solution for this can be found in the form of high vis clothing specially designed to make you more visible.

High vis clothing standards

From jackets and trousers to hard hats and caps, you can wear high vis from head to toe. This type of workwear is governed by the standard EN ISO 20471 which calls for two types of materials to be used.

Fluorescent and reflective materials

Hi vis clothes to make you stand out at work

A fluorescent material which can be yellow or orange. A reflective material in strategic spots to increase visibility. This standard also categorises high vis clothing according to the amount of reflective and high contrast material that makes up the clothing. For optimum visibility, go for class II or III high vis clothing.

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Hard hats and ear protection

Different types of protective clothing

If you're working in a workshop, indoors or anywhere else where you don't necessary need to stand out or be seen from afar, you won't need fluorescent gear! But you will need an outfit that is appropriate for the type of tasks you are carrying out. The workwear should be comfortable, shouldn't impede your movements and should provide the right type of protection.

Protective dungarees and trousers

Different types of protective clothing

Protective trousers or dungarees can be used for a range of tasks to protect your legs from dirt, cuts, mild impacts or burns. Ideally, you should go for trousers or dungarees made of a hardwearing material (such as a polyester/cotton blend) with several pockets to hold items like small hand tools or a tape measure. For more specific jobs like welding or woodworking, you can find special flame-resistant or cut-resistant trousers. But no matter what you are trying to accomplish, be sure to wear roomy trousers that won't restrict your movements. Trousers with knee pads are also very handy for anyone who often works – you've guessed it – on their knees.

Safety jackets and vests

Different types of protective clothing

Many of the same rules about protective trousers also apply here! The aim of a safety jacket or vest is to protect your torso and arms from dirt, cuts, flying debris and so on. A safety jacket must not be too big nor should it restrict movements such as lifting your arms.

Electricians should watch out for zips, poppers and any other metal accessories! Just like safety trousers, it is possible to find cut-resistant jackets. If you mainly work indoors, do not purchase a safety vest or jacket made of thick material as you will quickly overheat! Choose a breathable material instead.

Protective aprons and work jackets

Different types of protective clothing

Used in addition to other types of protective clothing, protective aprons and work coats are designed to add an extra layer of protection. Protective aprons should be chosen to match the tasks you commonly carry out. For example, they can be designed to protect you from chemicals, burns or spraying substances. It's best to look for aprons that can be adjusted around the neck and around the waist. If you are dealing with any hazardous products, don't forget to wear respiratory protection. To ensure you have adequate protection, make sure the apron is big enough. The best work coats are generally made of cotton which is a hardwearing and easy-to-wash material. A work coat, or lab coat, should cover your torso as well as your thighs. Pick a coat with lots of pockets as your clothes will be difficult to access beneath the coat! Buttons generally work better than a zip in a work coat and, if possible, choose a coat without any metal parts – especially if you work with electricity!

Boiler suits

Different types of protective clothing

A boiler suit provides almost complete protection! Ideal for dirty jobs, the advantage of a boiler suit is that it can be worn over your other clothes. A multitude of different types of boiler suit and coveralls is available with a design to match every task. Coveralls can be disposable (for working with chemicals, bacteria, etc.) and may or may not feature a hood. It's also possible to find fabric coveralls, but be sure to choose a breathable, durable and lightweight material. If you plan to take the coveralls on and off often, choose a pair that allows you to slip them on without having to take your shoes off; for example, coveralls with zips around the ankles. In any case, be sure to pick coveralls with plenty of room – bearing in mind you'll have clothes on underneath – so you are able to move freely as you work.

Finally, be sure to think about the changing temperatures and seasons when you make your choice. Quick tip: thermal underwear can offer a very effective extra layer of protection!

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Boiler suits and coveralls

Best-performing materials for protective clothing

Best-performing materials for protective clothing

Whether you're looking for overalls, protective trousers or a safety jacket, there is a huge selection of choice out there. To help you out, here's a quick look at some details on materials and other key points.

  • Polyester blends (minimum 65% / 270 g) will be more hardwearing than 100% cotton. However, cotton is a more breathable material. It's up to you to pick the right material to suit your needs.

  • Cordura knee and elbow pads are hardwearing and durable, and are recommended for any job that often leads to clothing wear around the knees or elbows.

  • Oxford cloth inserts make clothes even more hardwearing.

  • Two-way zips are usually a sign of high-quality manufacturing.

  • Elastic ankles and cuffs provide greater protection especially for coveralls designed to go over your clothes.

In short, choosing the right safety and workwear is absolutely essential. Since your protective clothing will be subject to a lot of wear, it is always best to look for high-quality items manufactured using reinforced stitching, lining and easy-to-wash materials.

Specially designed PPE to maximise safety

In addition to the more common workwear described above, you may want to invest in a few other safety accessories for less frequent tasks.

Arm protectors

Specially designed PPE to maximise safety

Arm protectors tend to be designed specifically for certain jobs and can provide an extra layer of protection for your forearms whether you are immersing them in liquid or need mechanical protection in the form of cut-resistant arm protectors.

Hair nets and shoe covers

Specially designed PPE to maximise safety

Used primarily in the food industry or in labs, hair nets are designed to protect the environment you are working in from contamination. Hair nets are disposable accessories. Similarly, shoe covers can be worn over your shoes.

Back supports

Specially designed PPE to maximise safety

Back supports or braces are highly practical and can be used for a range of different jobs. Considering back pain is one of the biggest health problems of our times, a back support is essential for any job that involves lifting or carrying heavy loads, bending over constantly or even just staying still for long periods of time. Back supports can be worn under or over your clothes. If you have a sensitive back, it's best to choose a wide, rigid back brace with additional straps for more postural support. No matter which type of back support you go for, it must be the right size, breathable and comfortable. Beware of dust and dirt build-up – if you don't clean the velcro regularly, it'll eventually stop sticking!

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Back supports

Job-specific safety and workwear

Job-specific safety and workwear
  • Of course, it's possible to find safety wear and workwear designed to provide specific types of protection such as fire- or chemical-resistant clothing.

  • For example, log cutting PPE should be tear-resistant, scratch-resistant, chemical-resistant and water-repellent.

  • This type of clothing will often be reinforced with materials like Kevlar and Amor-tex to provide the correct level of protection.

  • Some types of protective clothing are also designed to protect you from the rain or cold weather.

  • It's even possible to purchase a heated vest powered by Lithium-ion batteries which can provide heat for up to six hours at a time!

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Gardening trousers

More information

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Gardening trousers
 
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Guide written by:

Jeremy, Construction site supervisor, Cardiff

Jeremy, Construction site supervisor, Cardiff

Electrician by trade, I first worked in industrial estates where I installed, wired and fixed a large number of electrical installations. After this, I managed a team of electricians for this type of work. 10 years or so ago, I turned to building and construction. From the modest family home, to gyms and theatres, I have been able to coordinate, audit and organise all sorts of construction sites. For 4 years now, I am restoring and building an extension to a bungalow in the heart of the Welsh countryside. My experience in manual work and my knowledge means I am proud to be of service. Terraces, interior design, roofing, plumbing, electrics, anything goes! My wife, daughter and I, built almost everything we have from scratch! So to answer all of your questions and advise you on choosing your tools? Easy!

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