By Stig Nordli, CEO Loxy | Sto-Nor Industri AS
High visibility clothing serves a single purpose - to keep professional workers safe and visible in virtually any situations. Reflective tape is constantly checked and graded to ensure that there are no issues in the manufacturing process that could hinder proper use and performance. Unfortunately, post-production there can be issues that affect how reflective tape performs for the individual wearer and owner of the garment.
When they products fail, they pose a significant safety risk to the worker and those around them. Failures in reflective tape and some of the common problems workers see go beyond retro-reflective performance. Here's a list of some of the more common issues experienced by professional workers utilizing reflective tape in high visibility clothing.
Improper Stitching - Few things are sewn by hand anymore. Most manufacturers rely on heavy duty machines to stitch together high vis garments and reflective tape. Unfortunately, machines can lose their calibration and have just as much potential to create poor quality seams as a human. The downside with machines is that there may be larger batches of garments with poor quality seams before the issue is discovered.
With poor quality stitching, reflective tape can become loose and fall off of a garment during a critical time. It can also loosen and catch on surrounding machines, creating a safety issue.
Improper Thread Utilization - One of the most common issues with loss of reflective tape on a safety garment is in the breakdown of the threads. Poor stitching can cause this, but in many cases it's the result of the wrong thread being used. Heavy use garments with reflective tape are utilized in some harsh conditions - particular inclement weather. They also go through heavy washing, in some cases industrial washing with chemicals. Using the wrong type of thread can result in failed stitching.
Poor Measurement - A good QAQI process can catch measurements that are off, but it still occurs. The result is an ill-fitting garment that can obstruct reflective tape or put it in a position on the body that hinders performance and does not reflect light properly.
Improper Cleaning - Reflective tape and textiles are typically graded according to ISO standards with guidelines established for how the garment should be washed. If you are instructed to use only domestic wash for a certain type of reflective tape, industrial washes and chemicals used will greatly reduce the retro-reflective performance of the tape. This forces owners to replace garments more often and can lead to poor performance. Ensure that established washing recommendations for garments match those of the washing guidelines for the reflective tape.
Quality Control - QAQI is important in every industry to ensure that final products are safe and perform properly for the consumer in a consistent manner. For manufacturers, a poor QAQI process (or non-existent one) puts professional workers at risk. Regularly revisit your quality control policies to ensure that those in charge are taking the necessary steps to test garments and ensure that reflective tape used in manufacturing will perform to its full potential in the final product.
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