It’s easy to agree that working outdoors or in a factory during the Australian summer tends to be less than glamorous – high temperatures, high humidity, and high UV index ratings can be a brutal combination. Harsh summer climates are near impossible to control, but ensuring your staff uniforms and clothing are fit for the conditions, is a great step in the right direction.
When working in the heat, the clothing we wear is very important in managing how we stay cool. We want clothing that will protect us from radiant heat, allow evaporation of sweat, while also minimising losing too much heat – all things that assist the body to naturally regulate its temperature through thermoregulation. There are four ways the body regulates temperature: radiation, convection, evaporation, and conduction. These four mechanisms of thermoregulation are all designed to return the body to homeostasis, or a state of equilibrium (the sweet spot of temperature for the body). This process helps in controlling the loss or gain of heat, and maintaining an optimum temperature range. Which is why clothing plays a big part in thermal comfort – it helps protect us and assists with speeding up, or slowing down, thermoregulation.
However, there are many elements of a garment that need to be considered when choosing suitable workwear – each just as important as the next to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your staff:
- Climate zone
- Fabric weight
- SPF/UV protection
What to look for when choosing the right work wear for the job.
Australia is broken into 8 different climate zones. It is important to know what climate factors you’re dealing with before you begin developing a heat stress management plan and choosing appropriate workwear. For example, in hot humid climates workwear will need to be breathable and moisture wicking to allow air to pass over the body effectively and for sweat to evaporate to cool the body.
Questions to ask when looking for the right workwear start with the purpose of the clothing – What job do they do? Are they predominantly outside and need UV protection? Do they need to wear protective gear on top of their clothing? What are the safety requirements for the job (eg. long sleeves and pants to protect from sparks)?
These seem like common sense, but can play a great factor in personal cooling when it comes to the other elements to consider.
Material for clothing can be a really big factor in how well the garment keeps us cool. Natural fibers, like cotton, will be a lot more breathable, while polyester has great moisture wicking abilities.
Cotton and other organic materials such as bamboo or hemp, are all great for their breathability, you just need to check the GSM (grams per square meter) number of the item if it is intended for outside work. If it’s a low GSM number it will be a lighter weave and not as suitable for sun protection. Polyester is great for lightweight, moisture wicking, and sun protection capabilities, however it’s not as breathable.
There will always be pros and cons for each material, therefore a blend will most likely be the best option. A cotton and polyester blend helps create a breathable and moisture wicking garment, that also allows good airflow, and pulls the sweat away from the body.
The standard weight and quality of fabric is measured in grams per square meter (GSM). The higher the number, the thicker the material. The lower the number the lighter it will be.It’s recommended to look for a GSM number between 100 – 300, while still remembering each other factor. A lighter GSM material will be incredibly cool, however won’t allow for good UV protection, so it isn’t a good option for an outdoor worker.
One of the best things for working in hot conditions is to have ventilated clothing. Extra vents built into a garment allows more airflow around high heat stress areas of the body. Ventilated clothing lets airflow in, and helps heat escape – which lets the body’s process of thermoregulation to work quicker.
Keep an eye out for clothing with built in vents in the back yoke [across the shoulders], breast vents, underarm, upper arm, buttons, and lat vents. Each of these are areas of high heat stress, and it’s important to keep cool and regulated.
Look for clothing that states it is SPF and UV protection, especially for working outside. In general they are a tighter weave material so look for items that are well ventilated. Sun protection which can weigh the clothing down making it more likely to stick to your body when it’s wet limiting airflow and evaporation.
We mentioned safety before when thinking about the purpose and visibility is an important factor of many jobs. There are many brands that make great high vis workwear and it’s important to take into consideration the above factors when looking for the right piece.
Brands that have great workwear ranges:
There are a lot of workwear brands these days so we’ve had a look and these are the best we’ve found that have great options for hot work.
They have a Koolgear range with great venting and a good material blend. View their range here.
With a Workcool range and a vented high vis range they have a lot to offer. View their range here.
Possibly the best vented clothing workwear on the market with their XAirflow range, perfect for really hot conditions or if you just love feeling breezy. View their range here.
Comfortable and amazing quality workwear with a lightweight range. View their range here.
Great High Vis work shirts with a good cause. View their range here.