Originally developed to help athletes achieve peak performance without weighing them down, moisture-wicking fabric is essential for workers who must perform in extreme temperatures. Much like athletes, lineman and oil and gas workers often face demanding conditions while performing crucial tasks, typically under the threat of personal safety.

Whether there’s a blazing summer sun or a biting winter cold, weather-associated heat stress can lead to life-threatening discomfort and noncompliance for your workers. With advanced moisture wicking technology, however, there are ways to fight back against these harsh realities.

The Evolution of Moisture Wicking

Several decades ago, when the idea of moisture-wicking fabric first emerged, the result was usually achieved through a combination of synthetic fibers and a chemical finish. Scientists knew that hydrophilic (“water-loving”) fabrics like cotton were heavy to wear and would quickly become uncomfortable once soaked in sweat as they absorbed moisture.

To combat moisture retention in cotton fabrics and decrease overall fabric weight, polyester was used initially to draw moisture off the skin, where a chemical finish would then help aid in the evaporation process. Unfortunately, as those garments aged, the treatment broke down, reducing its ability to successfully keep its wearer dry.

Today’s most high-performance moisture-wicking fabrics are a blend of both hydrophilic and hydrophobic (“water fearing”) fibers. Together, they work in tandem to pull water away from the skin and then disperse it evenly across a surface to help it evaporate. The properties that allow the wicking process to occur are naturally baked into the fiber—rather than simply applied after the fact.

For many years, people who worked in conditions where arc flash and flash fire were a common hazard had to choose between safety and comfort. They could wear standard-issue AR/FR gear but would often have to roll up their sleeves or unbutton their collars to withstand the brutal heat generated by these bulky and cumbersome clothes.

A New Generation of AR/FR

Fortunately, there are now AR/FR garments that have incorporated moisture-wicking technology inherently into the fabric. By integrating breathability and moisture evaporation into the fiber, these next-generation garments are designed to keep wearers comfortable, safe and compliant. By specifying an AR/FR garment that employs inherent moisture-wicking abilities, you’re providing your workers with a wide range of advantages:

- Body heat will no longer remain trapped inside as it’s allowed to dissipate through breathable fibers where it evaporates off the garment

- By keeping their body at a comfortable temperature, workers can focus on the task at hand, which is critical in such hazardous industries

- The combination of moisture-wicking ability and AR/FR-rated protection won’t leave them to choose between comfort and safety

Moisture-wicking technology isn’t just for those brutal summer months. Maintaining dryness during the dead of winter is equally important, as excessive sweating beneath heavy layers of protective clothing can lead to hypothermia.

Instead of taking shelter under one large winter garment, consider helping your workers piece together several layers of breathable, wicking clothing that retains important heat without letting activity-induced sweating create a dangerous situation. By reducing the distractions caused by discomfort, excess heat, and undesirable moisture, the right AR/FR garments can help achieve worker productivity.

Clothing is the foundation of a worker’s PPE, so it should be high on the list when aiming to prevent heat stress. Physical comfort is one of the greatest barriers to performance and safety compliance, and the right AR/FR garments can help take that obstacle off the table.