Uniform Choices Impact Safety and Security
If you have ever found it challenging to develop a uniform program that met your company’s requirements, while enabling your employees to work comfortably, you’re not alone.
Today, however, uniforms are less constricting, more breathable, and soils are much more easily removed, thanks to a variety of new fabric options available for uniform programs. A uniform program also can be popular with employees and beneficial to your company if it is developed to enhance security for employees and guests, and to provide an increased level of safety for employees whose jobs expose them to electrical systems.
Uniform service companies (those who rent, lease, and sell uniforms) provide assistance to customers that goes beyond simply providing garments, picking up dirty uniforms, washing them, and delivering clean ones. These companies also consult with clients to make sure they are choosing the uniform fabrics that best meet their objectives, offering advice on how uniform design can enhance safety and security and how to make selections from the latest textile technologies for workwear.
The Uniform and Textile Service Association (UTSA) is an international trade organization that represents these companies and works to convey information about new uniform textile options.
New Uniform Technologies and Safety Needs
If you operate several restaurants or manage a chain and hire your own maintenance personnel, some of these workers may need uniforms that have flame-resistant properties.
The National Fire Protection Association has introduced NFPA 70E, a voluntary standard that employers are encouraged to implement to increase worker safety. The standard covers workers in a variety of occupations, including maintenance personnel who install, maintain or repair electrical systems.
The standard includes five risk categories based on worker tasks, requiring varying combinations of flame-resistant and protective wear depending on the risk category. (Flameresistant clothing is ranked using Arc Thermal Performance Values (ATPVs). Alternatively, employers can choose to use a two-category compilation of flame-resistant clothing recommendations for daily work attire, which covers many types of jobs.
Until recently, flame-resistant garments have frequently been the subject of complaints from employees who became too warm while working in them. However, today’s flameresistant fabrics are more breathable and comfortable than those of the past. Alternatives include a flame-resistant finish that can be added to cotton garments, with the finish also increasing the fabric’s color retention; Nomex ®, an inherently flame-resistant textile, available for production of uniforms and heavyweight denim, which can be adapted to meet some flame-resistance standards.
Enhance Security with Uniforms
Having your maintenance personnel in easy-to-identify uniforms enhances both actual security, and the feeling of security, among personnel in your restaurants, who may not know the maintenance crew. If the HVAC technician’s uniform shows that he clearly works for your company, the new assistant manager who has never met him can go on about her duties feeling fairly certain that she, her staff, customers and any valuables in the restaurant are not in danger.
Strategies for making a uniform program a strong contributor to overall security include:
- Design uniforms for personnel in all positions that would be difficult for anyone to copy exactly. Use of company logos, colors, slogans and other design elements should be as precise and consistent as possible across all job functions:
- Logos and other unique, identifiable business elements, such as slogans, should be incorporated into all possible employee wear items:
- Store uniforms collected for laundering in a secure location:
- Make certain that managers collect all uniforms distributed to employees who resign or who are terminated;
- Make certain that managers and staff members can easily identify uniforms of vendors who service your facilities, and that they understand the need for caution if there is any question regarding a worker’s identity.
Overall, a textile industry specialist can help select fabrics and plan your uniform design to enhance safety and security, as well as function and visual effectiveness.
Mary Anne Dolbeare is director of public affairs and marketing at the Uniform Textile and Service Association. She can be contacted at Dolbeare@utsa.com.