Providing the best available quality PPE for employees working in challenging outdoor environments is increasingly recognised by leading companies as a smart move. Openreach is one company which has seen positive results by working with W. L. Gore & Associates to supply its engineers with waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX clothing.
Openreach, part of the British Telecom Group, is the B2B company responsible for maintaining the telecommunications network that keeps homes and businesses in the UK connected. It operates a 24/7 service to its customers who do not and will not accept being off-line for any significant period of time. For that reason Openreach employees respond quickly to tackle outdoor repair work in all weathers in order to get private individuals and companies back on-line as rapidly as possible.
During a meeting in winter 2013 between Openreach senior leadership teams and its engineers it was reported that the PPE worn by engineers was not keeping them dry in wet weather conditions. Acting on this information Openreach sent its Technical Procurement Team as well as a number of its Scottish engineers to W. L. Gore & Associates in Livingston, Scotland to investigate the best alternative options for foul weather protection for its workers.
Engineers took part in tests in Gore’s Rain Tower where not only their existing PPE but also GORE-TEX Jackets and Trousers were tested for waterproofness. Following this initial test, in which GORE-TEX Jackets and Trousers outperformed Openreach’s existing PPE, a small number of Scottish-based Openreach engineers were given GORE-TEX garments to field test and then report back.
Their feedback was extremely positive with the jackets and trousers performing well in Scotlands often wild and wet weather conditions.
To further test the GORE-TEX garments, a number of suits were given to Heavy Cable Engineers who do the toughest and dirtiest work within Openreach. Following positive feedback from these engineers management decided change was needed. After the completion of the tender process, a new contract was awarded which consolidated Openreach’s workwear portfolio, adding GORE-TEX garments to the new refined list of required PPE and workwear. The new products were successfully rolled out to engineers from September 2014 onwards.
In January 2015 Openreach and Gore issued a questionnaire to workers who had been wearing the Gore jacket and/or salopettes for several months over the winter. The questionnaire generated an overwhelming response from a total of 646 engineers.
- When combining their Gore PPE with their usual clothing worn underneath 85% said they felt warm and the correct temperature and a further 83% stated the breathability of the fabric kept them nice and dry on the inside.
- When asked how the new GORE-TEX PPE compared with their previous kit a resounding 95% said the Gore garments were much better.
FEEDBACK FROM END USERS
In Spring 2015 feedback was obtained from Openreach Engineers who were hard at work on the streets of London.
Network Engineer Alan Quinnell described how relieved he was when he received his Gore jacket and salopettes:
The Gore jacket is much lighter than the previous kit provided which was heavy and didn’t breathe so made me really hot and sweaty when I was working. I never leave home without my Gore jacket and salopettes and always check they are in my van.
UP started working for Openreach in September 2014 as a Network Engineer. He comments:
When I need protection from the rain I use my jacket and it dries off very quickly. It feels like it is going to last a long time and is sturdy but breathable.
Roddy Thomson,Openreach Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director of Service Delivery is responsible for running the 17,000 strong service delivery operation teams and their support functions. He comments:
We aim to provide exceptional customer service through our dedicated teams of engineers located throughout the UK. It is their hard work and dedication which allows us to deliver such an outstanding service 24/7 in all weather conditions, all year round. We encourage open and honest communication between all staff and senior leadership teams and listening and responding to the needs of our engineers, who asked for protective clothing which performs as well as they do, has resulted in a highly motivated and even more productive workforce. The positive ramifications of supplying GORE-TEX to our engineers still reverberate throughout the entire business.
For Openreach providing the best possible PPE has proved to be a very smart move, one that has helped its engineers feel comfortable and protected while tackling tough jobs in difficult conditions and, as a result, brought significant benefits to the company and its workers.