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Choosing the Right Rainwear for the Right Application

Published on Apr. 23, 2023

Rainwear is a category of PPE that is often put on the back burner in favor of other categories such as eye and hearing protection. It is often overlooked simply because rain doesn't happen every day. But when it does, workers need to be properly protected.

Let's face it, it's not pleasant to get wet in the rain. A wet worker is an uncomfortable worker. And an uncomfortable worker is one whose productivity and personal protection are severely compromised.

While OSHA does not set specific standards for working in the rain, they do provide guidance for outdoor industries that may be affected by rainy conditions, including construction and logging.

What Rain Gear Do You Need?

The first step in establishing a raincoat safety program is to conduct a thorough assessment of the workplace and worker requirements. Safety professionals must understand the needs of employees and the hazards they face before selecting the equipment that will protect them.

Here are some basic questions you need to ask:

1.What tasks will employees perform in the rain?

2.How long will workers be affected by the rain?

3.Are there other hazards, such as chemical splash or risk of electric shock?

4.Are specific rainwear standards applicable to this job?

5.Does this application require breathable or non-breathable PPE?

6.What is the climate like?

Things to Consider When Addressing Job Hazards

It's one thing to simply protect your workers from getting wet. It's quite another to ensure they are not at risk of electrocution, burns or workplace accidents. Employers must identify and take these hazards into account when selecting rainwear for their workers.

Here are some things to consider.

Waterproof Boots

The boots should be waterproof to protect workers' feet and ensure comfort - no one can do their best work when water seeps into the boots and soaks through the socks.

Make sure they also have strong traction to prevent slips and falls in wet conditions. This is especially important in winter, when ladders are slippery and puddles can turn to ice.

Rain Suit

Proper rain gear should include a jacket and pants. Fleece or synthetic materials are the best choice for cold weather because they insulate even when wet. Be sure that the clothing fits properly and does not interfere with movement.

Low Visibility

Adverse weather conditions and working outdoors in poorly lit areas can severely reduce visibility, putting workers at risk of being struck by vehicles and other hazards.

To ensure that workers are always seen, they should be provided with waterproof, high-visibility jackets. High-visibility rain jackets that have faded or become dull do little for worker visibility and should be replaced immediately.

Getting the Right Kind of Waterproofing

Waterproof rainwear generally comes in two types: breathable and non-breathable. Let’s look at the best applications for each.

Breathable Waterproof Materials

Rain gear made from breathable materials that do not allow the outside elements to penetrate on the outside, but allow sweat to dissipate through the internal coating. This helps to avoid the sticky feeling that can result from sweat accumulating on the skin.

The protective coating is usually a liquid coating applied to the shell fabric (very poor breathability) or a film applied using an adhesive (good breathability).

Non-Breathable Waterproof Materials

As the name implies, an impermeable raincoat does not allow air to flow through. The material used is impermeable so as not to allow anything to pass through the exterior coating, ensuring complete protection for the user.

Since seams can absorb chemicals, which is another potential hazard, these products often use heat welding methods to ensure the strength of the seams without the need for stitching. This type of rainwear also has minimal features to reduce the risk of being caught in equipment, torn, and ultimately exposed to hazardous chemicals.

It is important to evaluate the work application and potential hazards before selecting impermeable equipment. Check with the manufacturer to confirm that the material used will maintain its integrity when exposed to the chemicals used in the workplace.


Choosing the right rainwear for the right application is not as easy as it sounds. An initial assessment of workplace needs and risks is critical to ensure that the rainwear you choose is adequate to address the identified risk factors. It's not just about keeping workers dry - it's about keeping them safe.

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