UniFirst Programs Bolster Employee Safety


WILMINGTON, MA - As a result of customer and market demand, UniFirst, a leading supplier of work clothing to companies throughout the U.S. and Canada, is now offering at-risk workers a selection of high-and enhanced-visibility safety shirts, jackets, and coveralls through its full-service rental programs. In the past, these types of safety garments were only available through direct purchase offerings.

Among those who benefit from wearing visibility garments, which through reflectance and/or background color warn of a wearer's presence, include anyone who works on or near roadways, in proximity to moving vehicles, or in environments where their movements might be "camouflaged" by nature or low-light conditions. Examples include: construction workers, survey crews, maintenance workers, utility workers, law enforcement and emergency personnel, as well as toll-takers.

In order for this safety apparel to remain truly effective over time, careful monitoring for any gradual wear and tear is a must, says Kevin Grimac, Protective Garments Business Manager at UniFirst. "With repeated use and laundering, the bright colors and reflective tape found on rated visibility apparel can lose their luminescence. That means, for example, over time a Class 3 visibility rated garment may degrade to Class 2 status or a Class 2 rating could become a Class 1, and wearers would never know they are now at increased risk. Of course, as employee safety on the job is reduced, the potential liability to an employer heads in the other direction.

What's more, Grimac explains, a simple visual inspection will not suffice to determine the true effectiveness of high-visibility apparel. "Reflectivity testing must be done in a controlled environment using prescribed methods to ensure safety levels are being maintained. That's the only way to determine if a garment is maintaining its protective rating. That's why, at UniFirst, we conduct such testing at specified intervals in our service cycles as part of all visibility garment rental agreements. Home care and laundering simply can not guarantee long term safety qualities of garments."

Grimac says employee safety must be the number one operational goal for companies today. And that's why, he says, customers and prospects have been asking for a new safety apparel option. "Our rental programs free our customers from the need to monitor the condition and effectiveness of their employee safety uniforms. We handle that for them. This, of course, is in addition to providing all required changes of uniform garments, regular servicing and laundering, delivering of all items to the workplace, controlling inventories of existing and newly hired employees, and assigning three trained service professionals to each customer to ensure total satisfaction related to all aspects of the program."

Although specifically aimed at highway workers, a study conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute points out the critical role that high-visibility apparel plays in the lives of their wearers. The study found that-in the absence of high-visibility apparel-drivers traveling at 35 miles per hour were unable to see anyone up ahead of them until they were 125 feet away. However, it took them 135 feet to come to a complete stop. By contrast, drivers were able to see individuals wearing high-visibility apparel from 891 feet away. Still other studies have shown how even slow moving vehicles can inadvertently back over workers who have become camouflaged by their surroundings or existing low-light conditions.

So, whether worn on or off the highway, properly maintained visibility apparel can made all the difference in wearer safety, Grimac says. "As a result, I expect that our visibility rental offerings will become a preferred choice for these types of safety garments."

UniFirst provides a wide range of uniforms and related services to more than 200,000 customers each week. The company also provides facility services cleanliness products, such as restroom items and floor mats. For more information, contact UniFirst at (800) 225-3364, or visit www.unifirst.com.

Ken Tokarz
Marketing Communications Specialist
UniFirst Corporation
978-658-8888, ext. 281
978-988-1305 (fax)

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