Outdoor Workwear: What Do I Need to Know?

11 March 2020  |  Admin

Although the cold and wet might not seem quite as threatening as fire, electrical arcs or dangerous chemicals, that doesn't mean that it's not important to sufficiently protect yourself. Outdoor work wear shields the wearer from the cold and wet, even when the work in actually indoors!

Outdoor Workwear
Cold, wind and rain are all potential hazards in some work places

Overexposure to cold and rain can lead to various health problems, such as frostbite and hypothermia. Fortunately, there are several international safety standards that indicate the extent to which an item of clothing offers protection from adverse weather and climates.

Who Needs Protective Outwear?

Anyone who works outside through the winter can benefit from outdoor PPE. However, some indoor jobs also expose workers to extreme temperatures. Following is a list of some professions which might require outwear PPE:

  • Cold stores
  • Oil and gas industry
  • Utilities
  • Construction
  • Dock work 
  • Forestry
  • Offshore work

Outdoor Work Wear Standards

This blog will focus on two safety standards in particular. These are the EN 343 standard illustrating that a garment protects against rain, snow and precipitation, and the EN 342 standard which shields the wearer from low temperatures.

EN 343: Precipitation Protection

This standard certifies whether an item of clothing protects against rain, snow, fog or ground humidity. The standard is tested for several things:

  • Water resistance of fabric
  • Water resistance of garment seams
  • Water vapour resistivity
  • Breathability
  • Durability

The symbol to indicate that a garment is EN 343 certified is an umbrella:

EN 343

Each item of clothing will be awarded two class numbers under EN 343. The first one indicates the level of protection against rain and precipitation, the second class number measures breathability under those conditions.

Hydrostatic Pressure Test

The first class number, or the waterproofing rating, is measured by applying a quantity of pressurised water to the garment. Then the pounds per square inch of pressure required for water to penetrate the fabric is noted.

The classification of the garment under EN 343 depends on water resistance, but the recommended work time depends on the resistivity. Water resistance is classified as following:

  • Class 1: Resists water penetration up to 1.16 pounds per square inch before pre-treatment
  • Class 2: Resists water penetration up to 1.16 pounds per square inch after pre-treatment
  • Class 3: Resists water penetration up to 1.8 pounds for per square inch after pre-treatment

Skin Model Test

The breathability of a garment is tested using a model which replicates human skin and measures water vapour resistance, expressed as RET, (Resistance of Evaporation of a Textile.) The lower the resistance the higher the breathability, and the longer the maximum recommended wear time:

  • Class 1 (RET > 40)
    • Maximum wear time at 20°C: 75 mins
  • Class 2 (20 < RET >40)
    • Maximum wear time at 20°C: 250 mins
  • Class 3 (RET < 20) 
    • Maximum wear time at 20°C: No limit

EN 342: Cold Weather Protection

The EN 342 standard specifies the protective qualities of clothing designed for cold environments. These can be anywhere between a chill temperature (-5°C), to cold, (-25°C) to deep freeze, (-40°C). The symbol indicating a garment is conforms with EN 342 is a snow flake:

EN 342

How Is the Standard Classified?

An EN 342 rating will be split into 3 separate values, for example:

EN 342 (0.345M². K/W (B), 2, X)

What do these all mean? Let's examine below:

Thermal Resistance Properties with Motion

Thermal resistance measures to what extent a material resists conducting heat across it. The higher the number, the better the insulation the material offers. Many cold store jobs require protective clothing to above 0.4M². K/W.

The (B) indicates the garment has been tested with thermal underwear.

Air Permeability

A high air permeability rating allows for the proper dry evaporative heat loss required to keep you warm and comfortable. Air permeability is rated on a scale between 1 and 3, 1 being the lowest rate of breathability and 3 being the highest.

Water Penetration Properties

Resistance to water penetration is an optional addition to EN 342 garments, but it can be useful in cold and wet conditions. This is also rated on a scale between 1 and 3, however if a garment has not been tested for this property it will be rated as an 'X.'

EN 511: Cold Resistant Gloves

The standards I have mentioned so far have contained no specific requirements for head, hand or foot protection. However, sufficient protection must be worn along with a thermal base layer for these standards to apply. If you would like to know more about cold weather certifications for gloves, please read our blog on EN 511 Explained.

Case Study 1: Portwest CS12 Cold Store Navy Coveralls

CS12 Cold Store Coveralls

The Portwest CS12 Cold Store Navy Coveralls are quilt lined, with polyester in the lining and filling, ensuring cold air cannot enter the coveralls. They are certified under EN 342 and have received the following standard:

EN 342: (0.454M² K/W (B), 2, X).

This demonstrates that the coveralls have a thermal resistance of 0.454 M² K/W, as tested with thermal underwear. They have achieved a medium rating for air permeability, but have not been tested for their resistance to water penetration.


Case Study 2: Portwest S774 Yellow Bizflame Rain PPE High-Vis Lightweight Jacket

Portwest Bizflame Rain Jacket

The Portwest S774 Yellow Bizflame Rain PPE High-Vis Lightweight Jacket is a breathable and waterproof jacket ideal for dim conditions thanks to its high-vis qualifications. The coat allows for full freedom of movement, and features taped seams for maximum waterproofing.

The jacket has achieved an EN 343 Rating of Class 3: 3. This means that the coat has the highest possible rating for breathability and waterproofing under EN 343. It can withstand up to 1.88 psi before water penetrates, and its RET value (resistance to evaporation of a textile) is below 20, meaning that it can be worn for any amount of time at temperatures of 20°C without-ill effect.

Ensure You're Warm and Dry at Work

We hope that this blog has given you a better understanding of outwear safety standards. If you're looking for work gear to protect you from the cold and wet then try our Cold-Resistant Workwear category or our Waterproof Workwear category.

If you have any questions on our Outdoor Workwear, or anything to add, then we would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below!