What’s Better: Coveralls vs. Shirts and Pants

As “the last line of defense” in the event of an arc flash or flash fire – when all other safety measures have been unsuccessful in preventing an incident – the arc rated flame resistant (AR / FR) clothing you decide to wear is critical to your safety on the job. Comfort, weather, type of work, workplace hazards, and many other factors contribute to workers’ decisions on what type of clothing is optimal for the tasks being completed that day.

When it comes to protective AR / FR coveralls versus AR / FR shirts and pants, we’ve often been asked, which is better? Watch as VP of Technical, Scott Margolin, explains the pros and cons of each option to help workers decide and buy.

Pros of Shirts and Pants:

  • Shirts and pants are more flexible. When dressing for the weather, season, or the job task, shirts and pants provide a much wider variety of styles and weights to choose from.
  • Coveralls are typically worn OVER other clothing. It’s not uncommon for workers to forget to put their coveralls on over AR / FR clothing. However, chances are a worker won’t forget to put his or her shirt and pants on before reporting to the job.
  • Shirts and pants provide choice. Product choice is by far one of the most important aspects of any protective clothing program. The ability to choose what you wear to work from a variety of clothing options promotes compliance, comfort, and morale.

Pros of Coveralls:

  • Coveralls do not allow for skin or underlayer exposure. While shirts and pants are clearly two separate pieces, coveralls are one piece with no opening. The benefit of not having an opening is that no skin or flammable underlayer is exposed, an opening between AR / FR shirts and pants could mean exposing skin or a flammable under layer, leading to increased injury in the event of an incident. 
  • Coveralls add versatility. Coveralls can be layered by adding an AR / FR base layer underneath for added warmth or protection.

Cons of Coveralls:

  • Coveralls may be worn incorrectly. Just like rolling up the sleeves of an AR / FR shirt, unzipping or half zipping coveralls can lead to injury…and it’s very common to see coveralls half zipped.
  • Coveralls are often heavier than a typical shirt. This is because weight is required on the bottom half for durability in the pant portion of the one-piece coverall. This could lead to discomfort in the torso.
  • Coveralls are not easily repaired. If something happens to your coverall you must repair or replace the entire outfit instead of just one shirt or a pair of pants.
  • Coveralls require more care and oversight. Because coveralls are often worn over street clothes (non-protective garments) they require more care and oversight (often in the form of supervisor or manager safety checks) to ensure that only protective AR / FR garments are being worn underneath. 

The most important thing about getting dressed for work is that workers are consciously choosing clothing that makes the most sense for them and for the job or task at hand. Consider what work you’re performing, and how you’ll be most comfortable while maintaining compliance with safety protocols.

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