Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Cooler, dryer clothing for factory personnel

Factory conditions of excessive heat and demanding physical labour cause thousands of heat-related illnesses every year. EU-funded scientists developed protective clothing fully compatible with EU standards to minimise the problem.
Cooler, dryer clothing for factory personnel
Personnel in many factories across Europe perform demanding physical work under conditions of very hot temperature or radiating heat. Inability of the body to regulate temperature under such demanding conditions for such long time intervals has led to thousands of cases of heat stress every year, some resulting in death.

Recognising the importance of the issue, the EU initiated two directives requiring employers to provide protective clothing to workers in such cases. The protective clothing market blossomed with almost all of the 20,000 European companies in the sector being small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

However, these SMEs faced and continue to face tremendous competition from Asia, with imports rising steadily over the years to reach 34 % of market share and resulting in a 14 % decrease in personnel in the EU.

European researchers initiated the Safe&Cool project to develop new and superior protective clothing that helps draw both heat and moisture away from the body and uses a liquid circulation system mimicking the natural function of the blood.

Scientists developed a thermal and moisture management layer based on weft-knitted (created by crosswise rows as opposed to lengthwise as in warp knit) flameproof three-dimensional (3D) spacer fabric coated with a hydrogel polymer.

The novelty consisted in the combination of hydrophobic (water-repelling) and hydrophilic (water-friendly) fibres in appropriate geometry. The hydrophobic thermal fibres were in contact with the body, repelling water to avoid a damp feeling. The hydrophilic fibres were interspersed in the 3D fabric to create channels facilitating the removal of repelled moisture from the vicinity of the body.

The entire Safe&cool system included a tubing system inserted in material cavities to draw away excess heat much as the body’s circulatory system does.

Safe&cool concepts have the potential to boost the EU economy while protecting factory workers and thus reducing insurance and healthcare costs. Commercialisation of the Safe&cool system should be welcomed by manufacturing SMEs working in the protective clothing market as well as by personnel working under conditions of prolonged heat and heavy labour.

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