Employees who predominantly work outdoors must be made aware of the importance of protection against solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It is generally recommended that they should wear long clothing to protect themselves from the sun. UV protective clothing for workplace use is offered by a variety of manufacturers. A practical test has recently been conducted by the German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the Transport Industry, Postal Logistics and Telecommunications (BG Verkehr). In this test, which took place during the summer months, various employees from inland navigation, waste disposal and aviation as well as from postal and parcel delivery companies were asked to wear either long-sleeved shirts or multi-standard overalls with UV protection from a variety of suppliers. Afterwards, each of the participants gave their assessment via a questionnaire. Their answers provided information about wearing comfort and their acceptance of UV protective clothing compared with ordinary work clothes. An initial evaluation showed that the UV protective clothing was generally rated positively compared with ordinary work clothes. Nevertheless, the majority of participants in this practical test in the summer of 2021 and 2022 said they would not give preference to long clothing.
The Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (IFA) additionally conducted transmission measurements on the selected UV protective clothing. Based on the results, the IFA and BG Verkehr will now jointly develop recommendations for the selection of UV protective clothing and will also seek to raise awareness for the importance of UV protection among employees predominantly working outdoors.
Additional note: The wearing tests conducted by BG Verkehr involved long-sleeve shirts (over 50% polyester) in the summer of 2021 and multi-standard overalls (99% cotton) in the summer of 2022. The garments that were used in the wearing tests were then handed to the IFA for UV transmission measurements. However, the findings gained through the measuring of overalls can also be applied to trousers made of similar materials.
The purpose of measuring transmission was to determine the UV protection factor (UPF) of the garments. The measurements were conducted in the autumn and winter of 2022/2023. Following EN 13758-1/2, the tests were carried out on new shirts and overalls as well as on samples that had been washed several times. Additionally samples from worn and washed shirts were examined.
The measurements were designed in such a way that the results would provide answers to the following questions:
The IFA carried out transmission measurements on the garments that had been used in the summer 2022 wearing test. Most of the samples tested were within the UPF specified by the manufacturer when new. However, for four shirts, their UPF "when new" was between 20 and 35, instead of reaching the stated value of 40+. This indicated that such shirts offered less protection against UV radiation than claimed by the manufacturer. In such cases, the UPF specified by the manufacturer was reached after 10 washes.
It was also found that the UPF went up for all shirts after repeated washing. This indicated that the protective properties of the UV protective clothing had improved upon washing and that the originally stated protection level had been achieved.
Given the same design, dark colours displayed a higher UPF than light colours, both when new and after washing. However, one of the samples had a very high UPF despite its light colour. In addition to the colour and weight, the finish and fabric type of a garment were also found to be factors that influence the UPF.
The shirts that were worn and washed by participants over a period of two weeks in the summer of 2022 showed no significant differences in UPF between the different parts of the garment. This meant that, during the entire two-week test period, no major signs of wear and tear were found concerning UV protection.
The findings showed that most of the tested samples provide an effective barrier against harmful UV radiation and ensure a high level of protection for the wearer.
For practical purposes, valuable conclusions can be drawn from the wearing tests and measurements, which should be helpful when selecting UV protective clothing. BG Verkehr therefore wants to develop a checklist for the selection of UV protective clothing. One recommendation, for example, is that UV protective clothing should always come from well-known manufacturers who meet at least the requirements of DIN EN 13758-1/2. Also, garments should be as dark as possible and, for hygienic reasons, should be washable at 60°C. If cleaning is carried out by external contractors, they should be reminded of the need to comply with the manufacturer’s washing instructions. Also, to reach the UPF stated by the manufacturer, each garment should be washed before being worn.
The UV protective clothing assessed in the project is only a sector-specific sample of the garments that are available in the market. To make recommendations for all industries, the UVT favours the creation of a white list that can serve as a selection catalogue for employers. The IFA is currently looking into the implementation of such a catalogue together with the DGUV specialist departments for non-ionising radiation protection (SG NIR) and for PPE (FB PSA).
trafficType of hazard:
radiation, work-related diseases, work-related health hazardsCatchwords:
preventionDescription, key words: