The electrical safety PPE industry landscape is evolving rapidly as workplace safety and wellbeing take centre stage. Over the past decade, there have been countless instances of accidents and injuries to electrical workers. To reduce the risk of such incidents, respective governments, regulatory bodies, and private organisations are taking active measures.
The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) reports that more than 166 electrical fatalities were recorded in the U.S. in 2019, the highest since 2011. As part of the National Electrical Safety Month, ESFI rolled out its annual effort in May to reduce the number of electricity-related injuries, fatalities, and property losses. The theme for this year’s campaign is Connected to Safety, which is aimed at educating the workforce about solar energy and temporary power related safety precautions. The initiative also aims to help businesses prepare the workforce for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
“the global electrical safety PPE market size is predicted to reach US$21.5 billion by the end of 2027”
In addition to electrical and automotive applications, PPE demand is expanding across construction, mining, machinery, and oil and gas sectors. With changing regulatory scenarios pertaining to electrical worker safety, the global electrical safety PPE market size is predicted to reach US$21.5 billion by the end of 20271. Explained below are some key factors influencing the demand for different types of personal protective equipment used in electrical applications.
Head protection gear is among the most important lines of defence against electrical hazards in numerous applications including power line maintenance, mining, construction, and others. It protects workers and linemen from falling or flying objects, electrical shocks, spills, drips, and splashes. Strict regulations mandating their use will boost head protection demand in the electrical safety PPE industry.
As per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers must enforce head protection for workers whose heads may come into contact with electrical hazards. OSHA recommends that head protection products such as hard hats, protective hoods, and arc rated hoods should be kept free of paints and certain cleaning agents that can impact their electrical resistance and durability.
Eye and Face Protection
Eye and face protection are critically important for electrical workers and linemen to prevent hazards such as shocks, burns, and exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Face shields and safety glasses help protect workers against flying objects and fragments that can cause eye or face damage.
Eye injuries are highly common in industrial environments, and many of those are preventable. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that nearly 2,000 eye injuries requiring medical attention take place in the U.S. each year. NIOSH also reports that 90% of these injuries can be prevented using eye and face protection.
The introduction of strict government regulations to reduce the burden of eye injuries will boost the demand for eye and face protection equipment in the electrical safety PPE industry.
When it comes to workers facing electrical risks, most injuries occur when proper hand protection is not employed. Fire-resistant apparel such as insulating rubber gloves, insulating rubber sleeves, and leather protective gloves play an important role in protecting workers, not just from shocks but also against cuts, tears, and punctures.
OSHA recommends that appropriate gloves and other protective equipment must be used by workers to protect themselves from cuts burns, shocks, absorption of chemicals, and amputation.
Arc Rated Clothing
Speaking of fire-resistant apparel, arc rated clothing has gained much attention in the electrical industry landscape over the past few years. This is mainly due to the rise in arc flash events that can result in electrical explosions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about five to 10 arc fault incidents occur per day in the U.S. Due to this reason, strict regulations are being undertaken.
Modern electrical safety regulations require workers operating in potential arc flash environments to wear specialised PPE to protect themselves. Owing to these factors, the electrical safety PPE market is witnessing a steady rise in the demand for arc rated clothing.
“the electrical safety PPE market is witnessing a steady rise in the demand for arc rated clothing”
Just as it is important for workers to protect any other body part from electrical hazards, protective footwear plays a crucial role in protecting the workers’ feet. According to OSHA, employers must provide workers with protective footwear in environments that possess a risk of electric shocks, static discharge, or electrical explosions.
Step potential is a significant safety hazard that electrical workers may face. It refers to the injury or electrocution caused due to stepping near an energised, grounded object. To protect against such hazards, dielectric footwear is gaining considerable traction in the electrical safety PPE industry.
As industrial activities gain momentum post-COVID-19, the demand for electrical safety gear is bound to go up. Leading companies are anticipated to expand their product offerings to cater to this demand. These factors combined with the continuously evolving regulatory landscape will transform the electrical safety PPE market outlook in the next
Growth Amid Digitalisation
The need for secure work environments, particularly in healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic, will bring industrial protective clothing to the forefront as a key response measure.
Even with Industry 4.0 becoming increasingly prevalent across the globe, the need for secure and sustainable working conditions has driven leading organisations to adopt next-generation workplace safety solutions. The increasing usage of industrial protective clothing is a key part of this trend, enabling workers to protect themselves against hazards like contaminant exposure, cuts, blasts, heat, dirt, chemical splashes, and more across sectors like healthcare, metal, and chemical.
“the focus on physical safety of employees has not taken a back seat, fostering significant developments worldwide”
As the emphasis on personal protection becomes stronger, the introduction of stringent health and safety norms will create a positive growth trajectory for the global industrial protective clothing market, which is expected to exceed $22.5 billion in valuation by 2026, according to a Global Market Insights Inc. report2.
While clothing in general offers protection to a certain degree, the scope of protective clothing for industrial application is aimed at safeguarding wearers from potentially damaging or life-threatening situations in the workplace. Protective apparel provides safety against various workplace situations, from weather conditions like wind, snow, or heat to occupational threats like exposure to nuclear, chemical, electrical, or biological hazards.
Regulatory Focus Drives Innovation
Regardless of the industry, the possibility of employees falling victim to an accident in the workplace is ever-present. Studies from major institutions like WHO and ILO (International Labour Organization) corroborate this.
For instance, according to WHO, unhealthy working conditions are a cause of almost 1.6% of the disease burden in the European Region. Similarly, ILO estimates suggest that over 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million cases of work-related illnesses are reported annually. In light of such statistics, it has become legally mandated for most industries to put strict safety measures in place to safeguard employees, including protective apparel designed to adapt to the wearer’s working environment.
PPE creates a final barrier between the wearer and potential hazards in their place of work. Protective garments for industrial applications are a subset of PPE, which gives workers protection against hazards that may not have been adequately addressed by other control measures. Durable as well as disposable protective clothing is found in various types, such as chemical and radiation defending products, flame retardant apparel, clean room clothing, mechanical protection gear, among many others.
In order to help industrial organisations comply with the strict safety mandates put into effect by authorities like OSHA, protective apparel manufacturers have started to develop specialised and durable industrial protective clothing for workers in various industries. In an era where technologies like additive manufacturing and digital twins are widely used, the focus on physical safety of employees has not taken a back seat, fostering significant developments worldwide.
The Demand for Specialised Protective Clothing
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly impacted the industrial sector to a great extent, with the disease overrunning hospitals worldwide and putting an immense burden on healthcare systems. To combat the spread of the virus, healthcare facilities have started to focus increasingly on improving their contamination control procedures. Apart from HEPA filters, which are a prevalent part of hospitals and healthcare systems already, another technology emerging as a key tool in containing the illness and protecting staff is the cleanroom.
Aside from the burden on medical institutions, the crisis has also amplified demand for various healthcare products, medications, and vaccines, as part of the persistent response to the COVID-19 disease. Since several classes of these products require sterile and contamination-free environments for effective development, authorities and manufacturers alike have made cleanroom production a priority.
Undoubtedly, to cater to the demand from leading medical applications where cleanrooms are essential, the consumption of both disposable and durable protective clothing will keep surging, for example chemical resistant and radiation protection apparel.
The scope of these protective apparel is vast, from providing protection against contamination in controlled environments to protecting occupants of the cleanroom spaces against hazardous particles or liquids. Regulatory bodies like OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) have put into effect mandates like 29 CFR 1910, which require employers to provide suitable PPE (personal protective equipment) such as respirators and goggles in cleanrooms wherever necessary.
Given the rising prevalence of cleanroom technology during the coronavirus pandemic, it is apparent that cleanroom consumables are emerging as major contributors to the industrial protective clothing industry growth. Demand for products such as gloves, gowns, and surgical masks, in particular, has been increasing at a breakneck pace, as the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries in both developed and emerging economies persist in their fight against the coronavirus.
Innovations by Manufacturers
In recent years, manufacturers of protective garments for industrial applications are also making efforts to boost their market presence through innovations in materials and products. From the manufacturing of more sustainable industrial protective apparel, in keeping with the burgeoning need for an eco-conscious industrial landscape to tech-enabled garments for increased security, the scope of innovation being explored by these entities is vast.
To cite an example, in October 2021, a research team from Northwestern University, Il, USA, created a new composite fabric material, with an aim to transform the industrial protective clothing industry. The material, which works similar to how a sponge soaks up water, contains catalysts present in its cavities that can capture and deactivate various threats such as viruses, bacteria, and toxic chemicals, providing protection against chemicals as well as biological threats.
“innovative fabrics and embedded technologies such as IoT will open new doors”
With concerns regarding safety for industrial workers becoming more urgent than ever, the selection and use of top-quality protective apparel are becoming a priority for organisations worldwide. From the perspective of employees, the demand for protective wear that can resist common hazards like wounds, chemicals etc., whilst maintaining user comfort is growing steadily, something that manufacturers have started to pick up on and implement. The development of safety gear with innovative fabrics and embedded technologies such as IoT will therefore open new doors for the industrial protective clothing market over the years, paving the way for more secure work environments in the future.