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There has been an uncertainty about the understanding of workwear sizing and quality for many years. This article is intended to help you understand the differences and what you need to ask for.

What is our main aim in wearing a Conti suit? I’d say safety first and then uniformity. Companies sometimes have certain sectors that wear different colours and specified overalls for the different applications, but they also have a corporate image that markets their companies to potential future customers who might be passing the sites that they are working on. Branding is therefore an important consideration for well known companies such as the AVENG Group etc.

Quality

There are different patterns namely “the commercial pattern”, “The SABS pattern” and all the other manufacturers who have an in-between pattern that they usually name after their companies.

The commercial pattern is a budget style which is sold by manufacturers to be  competitive in the market. However, these need not be a bad quality nor  made cheaply – after all, material costs money.

As an end user, you should look at the stitch quality. Make sure that the tension is good and that the stitches aren’t “bowed” (loose stitch), and that all the stress points are bar tacked. This is a stitch that looks like a very small barrel stitch and should be found on all the pockets and flaps, at the bottom and top of both zips and on the belt loops.

Sizing

This is a grey area and may differ between suppliers.

The rule of thumb on the sizing of overalls with a commercial pattern is 2 x sizes up on your fashion sizing. If you wear a size 36 fashion jeans, then a size 40 in the commercial pattern should fit you and you should order a size 44 overall, as  these garments work by the jacket sizes.

The SABS pattern is indicated as a fit for all shapes and sizes. Their specification is to accommodate for the very tall as well the short. In other words, if the trousers are too long, you can have them shortened, but  if they are too short, it is not very neat to add an extension.

Due to the costs of these garments, manufacturers generally use a “three needle” known as a triple stitch to justify the cost difference to the end user.

The fact is that SABS do not specify where a triple stitching is necessary on the garment and therefore, the manufacturers use their own discretion as to where a triple stitch should be applied.

In terms of sizing, garments with an SABS mark are very much the same cut / sizing as your fashion sizing making the choice very easy.

Materials

There are a few commonly used materials that overalls are made from. The new “kid on the block” is the acid flame D59 material by Da Gamma textiles. This is a 300 gram 100% cotton material. Being flame retardant, end users tend to think that this material is bullet proof as well and so often use this material in welding applications without the use of leather protection. It is important to note that this material is FLAME RETARDANT and not FLAME PROOF. It has been designed to self-extinguish once the “energy” (flame) has been taken away from the material. Other non-treated materials might continue burning causing an injury or even a fatality.

The cheapest  option to use is the 80/20 polycotton material. This is what 80% of workwear currently used is made from. This is a strong (tensile) material and stands up to the rough conditions in South Africa.

Better quality than polycotton is the 100% cotton variety known as J54 to most users. This is a 200 gram cotton drill material.

To summarise

D59 material is used by Sasol and is mostly flame retardant treated.

J54 100% cotton material is used by artisans and welders.

Polycotton has a good tensile strength and is used by 80% of South Africa’s workforce and is well suited for forestry etc.

Conclusion

Choose your pattern, add the material and corporate colour to your choice and of course … a reputable manufacturer, and your workforce will be fine.

Contact Procon +27 11 9179402

Mike MacGregor, Managing Director, Grange Workwear