Athletes around the world rely on their apparel to improve their performance. They choose clothing and gear made from high-performance, moisture wicking fabrics that allow them to focus on the next pass, kick, or jump without being distracted or hindered by damp, restrictive, sweat-soaked uniforms.

If professional and amateur athletes rely on clothing to help optimize their performance and increase their concentration, why shouldn’t industrial workers do the same?

Here are three ways high-performance flame-resistant (FR) fabrics can improve your employees’ focus, performance, and safety.

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1. Superior Garments Reduce Distraction with Long-Lasting Moisture Wicking

Advanced moisture-wicking fabrics were originally created to improve athletic performance in extreme outdoor situations since they provide a cooling effect in hot weather and a warming one in the cold.

These early moisture-wicking fabrics were crafted with a synthetic fiber, like polyester, which was then coated in a chemical finish that allowed moisture to spread. Eventually, the finish would wash out and the fabric would lose its wicking capabilities. High-quality moisture-wicking garments are now created from fiber blends that do not require the same kind of chemical treatment. Look on the garment tag before making a purchase; if it is made with 100% of any single fiber, its moisture-wicking capabilities are due to a chemical finish that will eventually wash away from repeat laundering.

A superior moisture-wicking garment will never lose wicking capabilities. Industrial workers who are outfitted with these will never need to worry about the performance of their gear, reducing distractions and keeping their mind on task, even in changing weather conditions.

2. The Right Moisture Wicking Fiber Blend Can Improve Comfort

The latest generations of moisture-wicking fabrics are made from a blend of fibers that combine hydrophobic (water-repelling) and hydrophilic (water absorbing) properties. The big question then becomes: what is the optimal blend to maximize performance?

Fiber blends can range from 90% hydrophobic/10% hydrophilic, all the way down to 55% hydrophobic/45% hydrophilic. Testing has proven that this more balanced blend of fibers (around 55%/45%) does a better job of transporting moisture across the fabric. It really is a balancing act: if you don’t have enough hydrophilic fibers, the fabric won’t absorb moisture, but if you don’t have enough hydrophobic fibers, the fabric won’t push the moisture out to the front of the garment.

Mastering this balance of fibers is what improves comfort and makes a garment a good fit for demanding jobs where temperature changes and work conditions are variable.

3. Moisture Wicking Fabrics Can Improve Layering Capabilities and Safety

High-performance fabrics have some additional criteria that can be evaluated to determine the best type of garment for your team.

  • Vertical wicking rate measures how fast and how far moisture spreads across a fabric
  • Back to front moisture transport rate helps clothes dry more quickly, which will reduce the risk of heat rash for the wearer. This also allows more heat to escape the body, helping with thermoregulation and preventing heat stress
  • Water vapor transmission rate calculates the breathability of the fabric – how much moisture moves through the fabric

Each of these factors is extremely important when selecting the optimal fabric for your workers, but none is more important than the others. Determining which high-performance fabric is better comes from understanding how these various ratios and rates affect the amount of moisture a fabric moves, as well as how the fabric distributes that moisture across the garment. This knowledge becomes critical when workers begin to layer garments during the workday and through the changing seasons.

Layering allows workers to wear lighter weight garments that keep the body drier and either cooler or warmer, depending on the environmental conditions. Several lighter weight garments can be layered to keep the worker drier and warmer than a traditional, single heavy winter garment typically would.

Layering safety improves with high-performance moisture-wicking garments because:

  • Worker functionality and mobility increases by wearing multiple, thinner, lightweight garments, the combined weight of which is substantially less than that of traditional winter wear
  • Optimized water vapor transmission is critical for mid-layers, as sweatshirts and outerwear become the conduit to transfer moisture from fabric to fabric and away from the wearer

Improving Safety with the Right Fabrics

A high-performance moisture-wicking garment can improve safety by improving comfort and reducing distractions with long-lasting wicking, balanced fiber blends, and improved layering capabilities.

The same high-performance fabrics that the world’s top athletes compete in are available to the industrial athlete as well. Your team will stay focused on doing their job in the safest most efficient way possible throughout the entire workday and won’t be distracted because of the wet and clammy clothes they’re wearing.

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About the Author


Pete Nemmers

Pete Nemmers serves as NASP’s Director of Training Development, bringing a wealth of expertise to the organization. With a background rooted in safety and training, Pete plays a pivotal role in shaping the training programs offered by NASP. Pete ensures that NASP remains at the forefront of safety education, equipping professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate and excel in the dynamic field of safety.
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