6 Industrial Safety Clothing Requirements You Need to Know

An employee needs to be equipped with clothing that protects them from the hazards they’re likely to encounter on the job. A business should always follow safety regulations, but these rules should be treated as the minimum requirements and not necessarily the best way to equip a team. A business should identify the hazards employees will be exposed to and the best way to keep their team safe.

Important Safety Requirements for Industrial Clothing

The following safety requirements are based on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines regarding personal protective equipment (PPE), including equipment designed specifically for industrial environments:

1. Eyes & Face

Injuries to the face can be some of the most serious. Eye injuries in particular are often permanent, as the eyes are a sensitive exposed organ. OSHA’s guidelines note a variety of serious eye and face hazards that warrant eye and face protection. These hazards include flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals and more. 

There are many types of eye and face protection, including safety glasses, goggles, welding shields and face shields. As is true with all PPE, no singular option is best for all situations. It depends on the type of work an employee will be doing and in what environment. 

While many people focus on the eyes when considering this type of gear, remember that the mouth and nose are critical areas as well. Protecting these areas is important if an employee could breathe in dangerous particulates or similar hazards.

2. Head

The head requires vital protection when doing any dangerous activity. In an industrial environment, protecting the head with a hard hat is good practice (and often legally required), even in environments where there aren’t many serious hazards. 

Protective headwear comes in different forms, and different hard hats are designed for different types of hazards. Bump hats offer minimal protection against bumping into hard surfaces in areas with low head clearance. Class A hard hats are designed to protect against impact, penetration and dangerous voltage. Some headwear, like Class B hard hats, have a greater emphasis on voltage protection, while other types, like Class C hard hats, focus mostly on comfort and impact protection. 

3. Feet & Legs

Whenever possible, employees need to stay stable and in control of their movements. This means they need to be equipped with proper footwear and legwear. Steel-toed boots are the standard in many industrial environments, as they protect the toes from being crushed. They can also be designed with a “grippy” bottom that improves traction on slippery surfaces.

The legwear that’s appropriate for employees will vary greatly by their work. For example, many types of construction work can be done safely in jeans, but when fire or chemical spills pose a major concern, jeans won’t sufficiently protect employees from those hazards. 

For some jobs, a secondary piece of protection, like an apron, can reasonably reduce the risks a person might be exposed to. For others, a person may need to wear specialized legwear to protect against hazards.

4. Hands & Arms

Oftentimes, an employee in an industrial environment might only need leather work gloves, if they need gloves at all. These can help protect against burns and minor scratches but not much else. 

There are more specialized gloves, such as those used by electricians, which are designed to reduce the risk of electric shock. However, gloves can significantly reduce dexterity essential for some tasks.

The necessity of arm protection can vary significantly. In some industrial environments, short sleeves may help keep employees cool and not significantly increase the risk of injury. In others, long sleeves or even specialized PPE may be needed to protect against sparks, chemicals and other kinds of hazards. 

5. Torso

Different hazards warrant different levels of care when it comes to torso protection. The bare minimum is often visibility. Hi-vis vests or similar articles of clothing can help an employee stand out in a busy environment to reduce risk of being struck by moving machinery or distracted workers. 

Of course, the greater the risk of exposure to hazards, the better equipped an employee must be. Flammability and meltability are often major concerns, as clothing on the torso catching fire can lead to permanent injury. 

6. Hearing

Hearing protection is easy to overlook because injuries to the ear aren’t typically life-threatening. However, hearing loss is often permanent, and industrial environments can easily reach dangerous noise levels. 

If an employee is going to be working near loud machines, like jackhammers, they need to be equipped with hearing protection. Even if an employee views it as unnecessary and doesn’t notice the damage excessive noise can cause, it’s important to keep them protected. A common issue is employees ignoring hearing safety and slowly, over a period of years, seeing a significant decline in their hearing that could have been prevented.

Always Research & Follow Applicable Rules & Regulations

The above advice can serve as a good baseline for what a company ought to consider when equipping employees with protective clothing. However, while the advice given in this article is based on OSHA’s guidelines, companies should always research exactly which rules and regulations apply to their model and equip their employees at the required level or better. 

If the required equipment is more robust than what is recommended in the previous section, this can raise the cost of equipping employees. However, rules and regulations are there for a reason. Many rules are only put in place after some type of workplace tragedy (or multiple tragedies) demonstrates their necessity. Following these rules helps keep employees safe and protects companies from liability.

Identifying Safety Needs of a Business

A business should always actively understand its safety needs by identifying the types of work employees are likely to engage in and the hazards they might encounter. Some common workplace hazards include slippery surfaces, flammable or explosive materials, falling risks, harsh chemicals, flying debris (including slivers of metal) and heavy machinery. 

Employees should be equipped so they’re protected against the most dangerous and most common hazards they’re likely to encounter. Although some PPE can have minor trade-offs (such as reducing breathability and range of motion), these inconveniences are usually more than worth it if they protect an employee against serious harm. 

It Pays to Keep Your Employees Safe

For ethical, legal and financial reasons, a business must take safety seriously. PPE can help prevent permanent injury and even save lives. In preventing even one or two such incidents, this equipment has paid for itself. Consider the delays caused by such serious injuries, the potential need to replace an injured party (and train their replacement) and the lawsuits that often follow these incidents. In serious cases, an employee injury could cost a business tens of thousands of dollars or more.

At Alsco, we can help you equip your team with PPE, uniforms and more at an affordable price. Check out what we offer and feel free to contact our team with any questions.


Personal Protective Equipment. (2023). Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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