|Publication status||Published - 2010|
Bibliographical noteAuthors' notes: Angela Armstrong and Ann Muirhead were initially approached Aggregate Industries, a blue chip construction company, and one of the ‘big five’ construction material suppliers in the UK after the success of Armstrong and Muirhead winning the 2010 Lord Stafford Award for Innovation in Development for the ‘Richmond Trousers’ and acknowledging their expertise in the clothing and technology area.
Aggregates Industries had experienced three employee fatalities in the previous year as a direct result in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) failure, they drew Armstrong and Muirhead’s attention to the fact that construction workers notoriously refuse to wear the appropriate PPE in the correct way. One employee was killed as a result of not wearing the correct high visibility clothing. Aggregates challenged Armstrong and Muirhead with designing and developing 'fashionable wear for construction sites' “workwear that would work”.
The construction industry has the highest rate of injuries and fatalities each year e.g. in 2009/10 in the UK there were 0.5 fatalities per every 100,000 workers and 1,200 non-fatal injuries per 100,000 workers (source: hse.gov.uk).
Initially Armstrong and Muirhead undertook specific research into the current market and trends in PPE gaining a real insight into the requirements and failings of existing products.
Observational and participatory research by Michelle Stanley (CU Research Assistant in Sport & Exercise Science) at two sites Willmott Dixon, Birmingham and Parkroy, Leamington Spa in early 2012, identified PPE issues in terms of comfort, durability, washing, environmental, body temperature fluctuations and cost. Many construction workers do not wear appropriate workwear for the job or if they do they customize it, for reasons including current workwear not being ergonomically designed and fabrics not being fit for purpose. As a result the right level of protection is not being achieved, which results in a significant contribution to many injuries and fatalities.
Armstrong and Muirhead identified, issues in the design of the garments in terms of pattern cutting, fabrics and trims. Currently, there is absolute rigour in meeting the Health and Safety requirements of the products, however very little consideration is paid to the wearability. The textiles used are particularly ill considered, they have poor flexibility and no climatactical properties. The products are poorly cut with no consideration of the operational needs of the wearer. As a consequence PPE is often not worn or is adapted by the individual reducing the protective potential of the products.
A key finding in this initial research was the lack of desirability of any of the products. Construction employees want to ‘feel and look good’ whilst safely working and existing products do not consider this.
Armstrong and Muirhead pitched the findings at the Souk, an event initiated by the Vice Chancellor (VC) of Coventry University, 10 projects were selected by a voting system the outcome of which was that the VC agreed to fund the research and development of the project to the tune of £100,000.
Armstrong and Muirhead are now in the process of setting up a spin out company producing PPE for a variety of construction workers “Future Armour” with the University’s backing.
The UK is the largest market for workwear in the EU, ahead of Germany and France. Demand in 2009 totaled €364 million. The company will specifically target the trouser and jacket/blazer market, which is worth €122 million equating to £97.6m pounds in the UK. (Source: www.cbi.eu for all market data).
Armstrong led the research on sourcing and testing the latest smart fabrics, coatings and trims their assessment in relation to current H&S standards. She investigated the sustainability of materials and manufacturing processes and impact of end user activity (washing and drying). Armstrong met with Sally Cowan Ltd and attended Bread and Butter at Berlin Fashion Week, Premiere Vision, Paris (the worlds premiere textile fair) and KTN Materials - Advances in Protective Clothing conference to inform the project.
Muirhead, led work on end user needs in terms of ergonomics, the assessment of current H&S regulations, and ensuring all products met those standards. She devised the innovative pattern cutting and manufacturing methods and sourced manufacturers with appropriate production skills and equipment.
Other participants in the project are from the Fashion Industry and Academia.
The company will be a strongly British brand, ergonomically considerate and will have the highest Health and Safety regulations required.
Armstrong and Muirhead have continued their research and development, sourcing fabrics, production and testing facilities. Employing the expertise of physiotherapists, specialist pattern developer and a global sourcing manager.
Armstrong and Muirhead have been contacted by Clifford P. Lockyer CEO of ‘Redbacks’ Leaf Spring Technology and Ross Boulding ‘City Link’, a national logistics company who have shown serious interest in Future Armour and are now working with Armstrong and Muirhead on individual PPE projects.
Armstrong and Muirhead are now in the first stages of product development and will launch the brand at the Health and Safety Facilities Show at the NEC in Birmingham in October 2013.
Going forward Armstrong and Muirhead have met with experts in the military, fire service and ballistics all of whom are experiencing the same issues with PPE as the construction industry identifying a potential broader application for the brand in a global market.
These images of the designers' works are for educational, non-commercial use only and must not be changed or otherwise used without written permission from the copyright holders Ann Muirhead: firstname.lastname@example.org and Angela Armstrong: email@example.com. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Rights holder: Ann Muirhead and Angela Armstrong
- Personal protective equipment
- Protective trousers
- Future Armour Ltd