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All safety workwear isn’t the same

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One Australian safety workwear supplier is bringing a range of assurances and innovations to the industry in its updated workwear range. We spoke with Blackwoods on what makes their workwear range unique.

When it comes to safety workwear and safety clothing for the mining and resource industry there are subtle differences that make one brand’s range unique to the Australian market.

While many suppliers have sourced a generic range of safety clothing from overseas suppliers, leading Australian company Blackwoods has been finely crafting a range of quality safety workwear that is uniquely suited to Australian conditions.

This year, the 142-year-old Australian company has taken an opportunity to update its range of safety workwear to bring about improved comfort and safety across its extensive workwear range.

Blackwoods originally created its own range of safety workwear products under the Workhorse workwear brand in 2014 and has recently been focussed on bringing more customer-driven innovations to the market. 

Its unique focus on quality processes through its independent accreditation to the requirements of ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System, has resulted in enhancements to its’ range that include improved visibility at night, stretch fabrics, reduced heat retention and the incorporation of a range of sun protection initiatives that make the products stand out from others in the Australian market.

But the Blackwoods brand has also gone further, ensuring that it is continually improving quality ethical and social compliance practices with its manufacturing base.

Quality proposition focuses on supply chain sustainability

Quality, compliance and responsible sourcing manager for Blackwoods, Sarnia Hobson told AMSJ that the business has initiated a range of initiatives to ensure that the company can not only mitigate risks from manufacturing sources but also ensure ethical sourcing considerations are met.

“Understanding supplier commitments and performance across multiple operational areas such as responsible business practices, quality and compliance and sustainability, allows us to better support our customer expectations and coupled with our in-house technical expertise and site visits, delivers on our customer objective,” Hobson said.

“Blackwoods also opposes the use of modern slavery practices and are committed to the ongoing journey of reducing and eradicating the risk of modern slavery practices in our supply chains,” Hobson said.  

Safety clothing Australia
Safety Clothing Australia

As part of its quality assurance practices the company also conducts surveillance audits of factories producing its branded safety workwear.

“KPI’s such as independent audit frequency, timely assessment/remedy of compliance criticalities and training deliverables are reported annually and published via the Wesfarmers Sustainability Report which is independently audited Hobson told AMSJ.

Innovations designed to support Australian conditions

Apparel program manager at Blackwoods, Cahal Callanan, said the company wanted to provide a “real value proposition” to large industrial businesses who needed safety workwear to protect their employees from Australia’s harsh conditions at the same time ensuring that employees embraced the use of the workwear.

As part of the new range, the team at Blackwoods is developing new products with a stretch element.

“One of the main factors in the new range was to add in more stretch fabric, so it fits workers bodies and allows more movement for people on-site doing these active jobs. They are working eight to ten hours each day of really solid works so if their uniform can fit and move with them it makes them more comfortable and efficient,” Callanan said. 

High visibility initiatives

While the brand also maintains a range of clothing in compliance with AS/NZS 4602.1:2011/Amdt 2:2020 High visibility safety garments – garments for high-risk applications, it has also recently launched new initiatives in the high visibility clothing arena.

Blackwood’s Workhorse Workwear high visibility clothing range will extend to white coloured clothing which has been identified as the most naturally luminescent colour that contrasts well in darker working environments. Instead of using day-time high-visibility colours, such as yellow or orange, the new range is made from white fabrics.

National category and sourcing manager of Apparel and Footwear, Leigh Eam, told AMSJ that the inherent safety considerations within the designs across the Workhorse range are what makes it unique. 

“White really does stand out in a dark environment and in addition with our biometric tape applied to the garments a person is really visible,” she said.

To add to improved visibility in low light conditions the company has added Bio-motion retro-reflective technology that increases the probability of identification of workers. The Biomotion principle recognises that people have an inbuilt intuitive characteristic to recognize the movement of other living things. We recognise by particular motions. 

Research shows that when arms and legs joints are lit up through effective reflective technology, we are more likely to recognise a person based on their movements over that of a fixed sign or other reflective material.

 “Usually you may only get one band of tape around the leg and arm for visibility. But to increase this, with our new range we added two bands on either side of the joint on the leg and arm and this makes it easier to identify which direction the person is moving in,” Eam said.

She told AMSJ that there is also an ‘X’ configuration across the back of the uniform so machine operators can easily identify which way a person is facing. 

“With two bands featured on the arms and legs of the clothing, each band moves when a person is walking, and people can clearly see the motion of that person.”

Combatting heat and sun

The Australian environment presents a range of challenges for safety workwear including ensuring that workers are protected from the suns UV rays while providing adequate ventilation to mitigate the effects of heat stress and heat stroke.

Blackwood’s Workhorse range has incorporated direct feedback from customers showing that Australian mining and resources workers show a strong desire for cotton-based fabrics in safety workwear.

Apparel program manager at Blackwoods, Cahal Callanan told AMSJ that “Australians love wearing 100 per cent cotton and we know that the Australian high-visibility standard has been modified to allow workwear ranges to use the natural cotton that Australians want,” 

The company has also created a range of other initiatives that combat the effects from the sun and heat including UV resistant fabrics, collars that can be pulled up around the neck and vents to allow heat to escape from key locations within the clothing.  They’re all aimed at keeping workers protected from heat stress and exposure to the sun. 

“We created clothing with these elements, and they are intrinsic to our workwear range,” Cahal Callanan said.

Point of difference is the key when selecting safety clothing and safety workwear

The revelation that all safety clothing and workwear isn’t the same is often discovered when organisations select clothing for workforces based solely on cost comparisons rather than the conditions faced by the workforce.

By selecting a brand like Blackwood’s Workhorse range, mining and resource companies have the assurance that the product is ethically sourced, meets some of the industries strictest quality standards and ultimately that the workwear will work effectively in mitigating the hazards that workers are exposed to. 

It’s an assurance that’s backed by Australia’s oldest and largest provider of industrial and safety supplies.

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