“Personal protective equipment” covers a wide range of ever-advancing products. Safety+Health, with help from the International Safety Equipment Association, recently reached out to PPE manufacturers with three questions: What trends are happening now, what challenges are your customers reaching out to you with, and what technological innovations are here or on the horizon?

Here are their responses:

1. What recent PPE trends have you observed?

“We are seeing a consolidation of suppliers as well as an emergence of private-label safety gear from large distributors who require more general purpose PPE. Innovations on specialized PPE are coming from the major manufacturers of safety equipment. One example is hand protection. The new ANSI/ISEA 138 impact standard for safety gloves went into effect recently, requiring a more stringent test method, classification and labeling for gloves that promise impact protection. Impact glove manufacturers are now held accountable for their claims, where in the past claims were made with very little to back them up.”

–Sofiane Laoussadi, vice president and general manager, global PPE, Honeywell Industrial Safety, Charlotte, NC

2. What are customers reaching out to you about? What challenges are they relaying?

“Style and comfort continue to be the two main features customers request in their PPE. The challenges are that while some styles look better than others, PPE must – first and foremost – keep the worker safe. Safety is always No. 1 when designing PPE, and sometimes that means forgoing style.”

– Stacey Simmons, product manager for industrial head and face protection, Bullard, Cynthiana, KY

3. What innovations and technologies are here or on the horizon?

“Leaders in the health and safety arena are beginning to turn to wearable technology. ‘Smart’ technology is being integrated into PPE and industrial apparel so that companies can help workers prevent injuries and improve worker productivity. Sensors in PPE are currently being developed to monitor things like fatigue, blood-alcohol levels, sweat levels and other vital signs.”

–Mark Stanley