Welcome to the New Year and beginning of new decade. It sure started off as a cold year, at least in the Northeast and Midwest. It’s good we have warm clothing to wear. Speaking of clothing it’s also time to write my first column of the year. It’s been my tradition to write about new developments in protective clothing testing, standardization and regulations, however the past year has been relatively subdued primarily due to the slow economy, lack of research money for testing and support for regulatory initiatives. As the New Year begins with tight budgets and funding for protective clothing programs, I have decided to write about what you could be doing to improve your protective clothing programs given the current economic climate.

As a safety professional you are obligated to select, train, provide and maintain a protective clothing program for your workers regardless of the economic climate. So now as the New Year begins you have an opportunity to review your program and take a look at how well your program is doing. Are the gloves, suits and other items of clothing performing as they should and being maintained? Have you asked workers if the clothing is providing protection or are there problems with it tearing or getting contaminated? What about cleaning reusable protective clothing or should you consider disposable clothing as an alternative? Going “green” is the word today, so maybe you need to consider newer products made with less energy and waste or that can be easily decontaminated? Whatever the situation you have an obligation to evaluate the current status of your program. This also means evaluating new products, checking for updates in protective clothing standards and any new regulatory requirements, particularly for new chemicals or technologies that your workers may be using in the workplace. While you may not be able to participate in technical ASTM or AIHA protective clothing committees, you can still access information from the internet on their activities and track OSHA regulations and NIOSH research publications. You can also refer to the latest publication of the “Quick Guide to Chemical Resistance of Protective Clothing” published by John Wiley & Son, by Krister Forsberg and Zack Mansdorf soon to be released this year.

If you can not find the information you need, you may need to consider doing your own testing and that’s where Pesce Lab Sales and I can help you set up a permeation testing system, provide test cells and guidance on how to do the testing. As a service to you, you are welcome to contact us for information. I have been involved with testing protective clothing for a number years both as a committee member of ASTM F-23 On Protective Clothing and actually doing tests as a certified industrial hygienist (CIH). Rich Pesce, on the other hand, has been supplying permeation test cells since the first test cell was accepted as a standard in 1983. We are available to help and at least point you in the right direction to improve your program. So give us call and start the New Year off by checking your protective clothing program.

Norm Henry