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Making Rail PPE Sustainable

Hi-visibility weatherproof safety clothing was first introduced to UK rail sector workers back in 1964. Since then, its essential contribution to PPE has enabled rail workers to be clearly visible in poor light and to work safely in foul weather conditions during everyday trackside working environments.

Science has made huge advances in fabric technology and construction over the past four decades. Here, Jonas Andersson, GORE-TEX Professional Sales Associates explores how PPE can be sustainable at a time when awareness of environmental stewardship is increasing.

The new fast fashion: inexpensive PPE which doesn’t last

A core feature of sustainability is finding ways to avoid throw-away cheap clothing. While the fast-fashion industry has been making headway by encouraging recycling fabrics and a more circular approach, so too the workwear sector has an important part to play. NGO’s are pushing for garments to be worn for longer, as long use is the biggest factor in reducing environmental impact.

Whilst the UK workwear market makes up less than 2% of the UK clothing sector, it can help bring about change. According to the Professional Clothing Industry Association Worldwide (PCIAW): “90% of used workwear is sent to landfill and incineration, compared to around one-third for clothing overall.” Using products and materials that are designed to be long lasting, that can be repaired, reused, and then recycled is a firm step in the right direction.

Durability for sustainability

The best way of achieving a sustainable approach and reducing environmental impact in the workwear sector is the production, procurement and use of products which offer durability and longevity. According to the life cycle assessment, the longer clothing and footwear products are in use, the lower the environmental footprint will be.

Gore not only tests its product technologies in strict laboratory conditions to ensure durable, protective performance is achieved but enlists the help and feedback of rail engineers to trial prototypes in their everyday working environments during wearer trials. Only when the PPE reaches Gore’s own challenging standards is a green light given for bulk production. In most cases, Gore’s rail garments and footwear actually exceed RIS, EN, UKCA, and CE accreditations required for rail-specific PPE.

Ensuring Products Are Fit for end use

The current Check/Select/Protect campaign by the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) urges PPE buyers and end users to avoid wastage from procuring lower quality, unfit-for-purpose products.

Check: that suppliers are BSIF registered. Audited suppliers comply with all industry standards and are competent and trustworthy.

Select: BSIF Registered Safety Suppliers support product selection, ensuring certified, compliant products are procured. For environmental stewardship, social and environmental processes are in place.

Protect: workforce protection and safety is key to protecting and developing business.

The message is: Rail PPE can be truly sustainable by following these few simple suggestions.


Gore Invites You To Join A Guided Virtual Lab Tour.

Rail Staff readers are invited to join a guided virtual lab tour to experience at first hand the in-depth scientific tests performed in the GORE-TEX labs around the world to ensure its fabrics and laminates are durable and fit for purpose. You’ll get guided through the US and German Gore test labs and witness the different test methods in a 360° view. The experience consists of 20 lab rooms and 97 test apparatus spanning from waterproofness and breathability to durability testing and analysis and comfort science test methods.”

To book your 30 minute slot for a Guided Virtual Lab Tour hosted by Jonas Andersson please email: [email protected] or call +44 777 400 5746