Protective clothing

As the health and safety message gets stronger in the UAE, Hugo Berger profiles what companies are doing to ensure workers are better protected on site.

Orbis Group, ANALYSIS, Materials

As the health and safety message gets stronger in the UAE, Hugo Berger profiles what companies are doing to ensure workers are better protected on site.

The safety message finally seems to be getting across to many companies in the GCC's construction industry.

At most sites now you will see boards reminding labourers that they need not turn up to work unless wearing safety boots and helmets.

But safety is still not perhaps as strict as in other parts of the world, where a worker would not be allowed anywhere near the site without a high-visibility jacket, goggles and hearing guards.

And there are still a worrying number of deaths on construction sites - official figures from Dubai Municapility show that 39 workers died from accidents in 2006.

But many companies are bringing in a number of new products to improve worker safety. And as the construction sector matures and worker safety becomes as important as costs and finishing jobs on time, firms selling safety products are experiencing a flurry of sales.

Construction Week looks at some of the major companies in the region and some of the new products they are bringing to the construction site.


Orbis, a Dubai-based retail group, has recently introduced safety clothing designed to keep construction workers cooler during the summer months.

The first two products that will be available will be the cooling jacket and the cooling scarf, which can incorporate an individual company's colours and logos.

The jacket consists of pockets containing cooling gel, originally designed for military applications, which maintains the body temperature within limits for up to four hours in extreme conditions. The jackets can be refrozen through a swap out freezer facility normally located on the contractor's site.

The cooling scarf on the other hand requires no freezer and instead relies on the heat transfer principle. To activate the scarf the user needs to soak the crystals in water for several minutes, after which effective cooling is maintained for between six to eight hours.

It can be worn around the neck, forehead or placed inside a safety helmet to keep a worker's head cool.

Midas Safety Product Trading

For more than 30 years Midas Safety has been producing safety equipment for the construction industry. Its focus is on hand protection and its range of products is one of the largest in the world.

Safety gloves have to be able to withstand heat and shock, but also be able to give the user mobility in their fingers. Using high-tensile cotton, the firm makes seamless knit gloves which protect hand from industrial accidents.

They are manufactured on automatic knitting machines to have yarn loops, which provide insulation against extreme temperatures. These gloves have proven especially effective in the harsh heat of the GCC, where worker exhaustion to due overheating is a major problem.

For more dangerous jobs, the company provides metal mesh gloves. These are manufactured with high-tensile strength, corrosion resistant stainless steel rings. Each ring is individually welded for maximum strength, flexibility and durability.

The firm, which is based in Toronto, Canada but has offices in Dubai, has specialist research and development labs to constantly improve its products.

Beier Safety Footware

Beier Safety Footware is a South African company, which was formed in 1929. The company specialises in safety shoes and boots under its Bova brand for wide variety of industries.

With safety shoes, the footware has to provide strength and durability on building sites littered with hazards, without being too bulky. One of the firm's recently released products is the Ergoheat Firegrip heat resistant shoes.

They provide a stability support system; they are heat resistant up to 300C, oil and acid resistant and with steel toe caps. The firm also manufactures the Trax antistatic shoes.

The shoes also have a double density sole, which is made by creating an outer skin and injecting a polyurethane compound into the mould. A polyurethane compound of a lighter density is then injected between the upper and the outer sole, bonding the two components together in the process.

The inner sole provides additional comfort and shock absorption.

Al Shomool Trading Company

Al Shomool, a division of the Al Futtaim Group, has established itself as one of the major local providers of safety equipment.It specialises in safety shoes, hard hats, eyewear and body harnesses.

It represents a number of international firms under the Al Shomool brand. One of these is King's Safetywear, which makes safety shoes and helmets.

The helmets are made from a polypropylene shell, with a nylon harness and sweatband. Al Shomool also distributes Otter Footwear products.

These have steel toe-caps capable of withstanding the impact of a wedge-shaped steel 20kg weight falling from a height of one metre - equal to 200 joules of kinetic energy.

The company is also developing the use of aluminum and plastic in toe caps. Other innovations include steel plates molded into the soles, to prevent penetration underfoot from nails and other sharp objects.

It is also making slip resistant soles to prevent forward movement, and grip resistant soles to prevent backwards movement.

The shoes also have anti-static properties, to prevent shocks, and resistance to temperature, oil, chemicals, acids and alkalis. Besides being safe, safety shoes must be comfortable as workers have to wear them for extended hours.

If they are not properly fitted a worker is likely to be less productive and could suffer from chronic foot or leg problems.Otter shoes have water resistance, breathability and linings that absorb sweat and odour.

Other comfort features would include sole designs that provide adequate good fit, foot and arch support, flexibility, underfoot cushioning and heel impact absorption. The shoes are made from cow or buffalo hide, which has high wear, tear, cut and puncture resistant qualities.


The US-based firm has become one of the world leaders in producing safety footwear, hard hats, gloves and eyewear. The company has become one of the major traders of industrial safety wear and power tools in the Middle East, with a 40% share of the GCC market.

The firm saw sales increase by 33% in 2005, and estimates that its market will grow by 12-15% a year. It opened an office in Dubai in 2003 and recently opened a new distribution centre in the Jebel Ali Free Zone.

One, its recently-released products is the DPG62 Interceptor earmuff. Providing noise reduction of 29, it also moves moisture away from the ears keeps debris and dust out the ear and is fully cushioned. In the ear protection market, the firm has produced the Concealer dual mold goggle.

This product has taken eye safety to new levels by using a special polycarbonate plastic which prevents fogging up, a feature which is useful in the humid conditions of the GCC.

It also has ventilation channels which allow breathability and added protection against fogging. In the safety boot market, one of its newest products is the Truss, which has a 15cm steel toecap.

It also has a high abrasion, slip and oil resistant rubber soul, a full-grain leather upper part and a welded rubber lining.

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