SNCF collaborates with DuPont to develop innovative disposable coveralls to protect railway maintenance workers
SNCF, France’s state-owned railway company, needs to protect its maintenance workers from risks ranging from moving trains to potentially dangerous substances like aqueous inorganic chemicals. They called on DuPont Protection Solutions to work with them collaboratively to develop a coverall that would meet their requirements. The result is the innovative Tyvek® 500 HV, a disposable coverall which combines chemical, biological and antistatic protection with high visibility.
Worker safety challenges
SNCF has 38 maintenance centres spread across France. The Locomotives Depot, part of the company’s Maintenance and Traction Establishment (MTE), is located centrally near the railway station in Limousin and focuses on performing light maintenance on the regional TER trains. To ensure the safety of its employees when performing maintenance in high risk areas, SNCF required protective workwear that would combine high visibility with chemical protection.
A busy maintenance depot, the Limousin facility has 450 employees – 150 of whom work daily outside and in the workshop performing repairs and scheduled maintenance. During their shifts, these workers may need to carry out work near railway tracks that are in active use. To protect workers from the associated risks, the safety managerswanted to provide them with type 5 or 6 coveralls that would provide high visibility in compliance with the EN IS 20471 (High Visibility Clothing, Class 3/3) and a chemical barrier to many low concentration, aqueous, inorganic chemical products as well as small, dangerous particles.
The coveralls were also required to provide protection against exposure to biological risks: crucial for workers inspecting trains following a collision with animals or people. To further optimise safety, the coveralls had to be hoodless, so that the workers would be able to hear an approaching train.
DuPont worked closely with SNCF to develop a garment that would combine all the safety factors they were looking for. Their solution is the new Tyvek® 500 HV disposable coverall, which is based on proven materials technology. Featuring a tight-fitting mandarin collar, the coveralls are durable and breathable, and combine chemical, biological and antistatic protection with the highest class of visibility, all in a single garment. The fluorescent orange colour and silver-grey retro-reflective stripes make wearers highly visible to train drivers during the day and at night, which makes them ideal for ensuring worker safety in dark and hazardous environments or during poor weather conditions.
“Since the coveralls are designed to be disposable, they will never be washed,” says Lionel Delport, who is responsible for safety at SNCF’s equipment management department. “This enables them to retain their fluorescent and retro-reflective properties until they are discarded, unlike woven apparel, which may fade when subjected to repeated washing.”
Improved comfort, reduced costs
Robust and light, the Tyvek® 500 HV coveralls remain comfortable to wear due to their ergonomic design and relaxed fit. This is supported by feedback from the field.
“Tyvek® 500 HV coveralls are highly visible to prevent risks associated with working on railways. They provide a better barrier to chemical risks, whilst providing the same high level of comfort as previous Tyvek® coveralls,” remarks Kevin Gouron, a heating engineer at the MTE in Limousin.
In addition to providing optimal protection, the new coveralls were also developed to reduce the number of items of protective clothing provided to each worker. Previously each worker, including interns and apprentices, had 23 woven, washable, high visibility garments.
“The new disposable high visibility coveralls provide a real, long-term opportunity for cutting costs when it comes to washing protective clothing and supplying apparel to our workers,” observes Delport. “It also eliminates the problem of PPE items not being returned after holidays.”
Worn over woven work clothes, Tyvek® 500 HV coveralls illustrate how well washable and disposable PPE can work together, even though they are designed for different purposes. The disposable overalls developed by DuPont protect the reusable garments, preventing exposure to dirt. This is especially useful for SNCF’s railway maintenance workers, who regularly move between trains and are exposed to particularly persistent graphite grease.
In addition to complementing reusable workwear, Delport identifies other situations where Tyvek® 500 HV coveralls provide a real advantage. He says:
“The disposable garments are useful to have in stand-by vehicles, to be worn by train drivers in the event of a rail accident or by workers on their way to carry out repairs outdoors. Keeping a stock of limited use coveralls in the emergency wagons is a safe solution for protecting workers against risks and dirt when they are working on the track ballast.”
Following more than 12 months of close collaboration between SNCF and DuPont, Tyvek® 500 HV coveralls are now worn by all maintenance workers at the Limousin depot. SNCF has also named DuPont as its sole supplier of disposable protective apparel.