What should I look for in rainwear if I work with chemicals?

Q:

I work outdoors with harsh chemicals. What do I need to look for when I'm choosing rain gear?

A:

Working outdoors means you have to strike an important balance. You need to be able to keep yourself comfortable in any kind of weather, but you can't do it in a way that compromises your safety. Not every raincoat is suitable as PPE, so it's important to assess the chemical hazards you face on the work site and select rainwear in light of these.

OSHA has no specific PPE guidelines for working in the rain, but there are some best practices you can follow to ensure that protecting yourself from the elements doesn't mean exposing yourself to chemical hazards.

The first thing to remember is that waterproof does not always equal chemical proof. Many waterproof garments will keep you dry in a downpour but might be compromised by certain chemicals.

Non-breathable, waterproof materials are the best option when your team is likely to encounter harsh chemicals while working in the rain. Since air cannot flow freely through the material, neither can water or chemicals. Rainwear made from these materials also use heat-welding instead of stitching to ensure the strength of the garment and to prevent chemicals from being absorbed into stitches (learn more in Choosing the Right Rainwear for the Right Application).

Keep in mind that rainy conditions call for more than just keeping yourself dry. Be sure to select footwear that will give you good traction over wet surfaces while also protecting your feet from any chemical splashes or spills. Gloves with extra grip are also recommended for rainy conditions. When handling chemical agents, the last thing you want is to drop a container that got slippery from the rain.

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Written by Joyce Wooley
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Joyce Wooley has more than two decades of experience in the apparel industry. She is recognized as an executive with vast experience in raw materials, product development, global sourcing, production management, factory standards, social compliance and supply chain management.

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