Plant safety is an important facet to any cold food and beverage processor. But, beyond plant safety is employee comfort.

Gone are the days of oversized coats made of stiff fabric and thin gloves that easily tear. Fast forward to today where protective clothing isn’t just about safeguarding the food. That’s because many of today’s uniforms, gloves and face masks deliver on quality, safety and comfort.

“Uniform designs, especially for food-related industries, are not just for show—they also serve to help address critical safety functions, such as protecting workers from potential hazards that may arise in the workplace, as well as safeguarding the public from potential food contamination,” says Adam Soreff, director of marketing and communications for UniFirst Corp., Wilmington, Mass. “It is important that food-related businesses work with food industry uniform providers who understand their specific needs and industry requirement and whose garment designs are HACCP/GFSI conscious. The latest advances in fabric technology, along with the use of specialized protective fabrics, have made it possible for today’s food industry uniforms to help keep workers safe and comfortable.”

When it comes to comfort, today’s personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers are keeping women in mind.

“All industries are realizing that women’s PPE isn’t just about smaller sizes available in pink. Too often women workers are faced with ill-fitting PPE and forced to make it work, and that can compromise their safety as well as the safety of others. PPE needs to conform to each employee’s body dimensions to be effective, otherwise it can be a safety hazard itself. PPE that’s too loose can get caught in machinery and cause injury while PPE that’s too tight can be uncomfortable, which discourages its use. Employers must make every effort to purchase the sizes needed,” says Abby Ferri, vice president of the national construction practice for Hays Cos., Minneapolis, and administrator at Women in Safety Excellence (WISE) at the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), Park Ridge, Ill.


UniFirst’s new line of MIMIX OilBlok chef coats feature a lightweight and breathable ripstop fabric, and is engineered with OilBlok technology to repel cooking oils, so coats remain stain free and colorfast.

New solutions offer employee comfort

The PPE market is projected to reach $70 billion by 2024, according to research presented by Global Market Insights, Inc., Selbyville, Del., thanks in part to increased awareness regarding workers’ safety. Likewise, PPE manufacturers are providing proper fitting equipment in compliance with regulatory norms.

For example, UniFirst unveiled a new line of MIMIX OilBlok chef coats, designed to dramatically improve mobility and comfort with strategically placed wicking mesh stretch panels built right into the garment. These coats also feature a lightweight and breathable ripstop fabric, and are engineered with OilBlok technology to repel cooking oils, so coats remain stain free and colorfast.

“If a uniform is not comfortable, a worker could be distracted from doing his or her job properly, which can obviously affect performance. In fact, new ‘mobility’ garments, such as the chef coats UniFirst is launching, are becoming more and more popular in the marketplace because they provide superior performance and ‘true’ freedom of movement without sacrificing durability,” adds Soreff. “Breathable, lightweight moisture-wicking fabric like poly/cotton blends continue to be a favorite to help keep workers cool, dry and comfortable when working in the food industry.”

Meanwhile, ColdAvenger’s new Outlaw Face Mask is dubbed the do-it-all cold weather face mask. The versatile bandana-like design, inspired by heroes and villains from the American Wild West, helps employees avoid breathing in cold weather dry air when inside refrigerated food facilities.


ColdAvenger’s new Outlaw Face Mask helps employees avoid breathing in cold weather dry air when inside refrigerated food facilities.

“We have always stuck with our original idea of helping people breath freely while protecting employees’ lungs by breathing in warm humidified air when doing aerobic movements outside in harsh cold weather degrees or inside cold temperatures of refrigeration systems,” says Austin Pray, chief marketing officer of ColdAvenger, Missoula, Mont.

Likewise, NiroflexUSA, Northbrook, Ill., developed new styles of its metal mesh gloves and garments, which feature a secure, stainless-steel closure for hygienic, safe and easy cleaning.

“Previously, all metal mesh gloves had a fabric strap closure at the wrist,” says Loren Rivkin, executive vice president of Niroflex. “By switching to a stainless-steel solution, we removed a location where bacteria can form, thus eliminating a cross contamination risk.

Thankfully oversized uniforms and thin-layered gloves are a thing of the past. Gone are the days of stiff fabrics and materials that easily tear. The future of PPE entails comfort, quality and safety.

Click here to learn more about these and other hygiene protective clothing products.