SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 October 2012

Garment Specifications and Mock-ups for Protection from Steam and Hot Water


This work is part of a larger project to develop improved, innovative textiles and garments for workers in the oil industry. Use of steam and hot water in extracting bitumen from oil sands, in oilfields, and in plants has become extensive in recent years. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is currently well designed to protect against hazards such as flash fire and radiant thermal exposures; however, due to an increase in workplace injuries reported in the last five years, including incidents of steam and hot water burns, further protection for workers is considered a priority. Steam used at sites is up to 375°C and under extreme pressures of up to 13 500 kPa; hot water is under significantly less pressure but is 80°C–90°C, which is well above temperatures that result in partial thickness burns. This research presents several stages of the design process: (1) identifying specific tasks which expose workers to steam and hot water; (2) setting the criteria for determining the needs addressed in specific types of PPE; (3) developing specifications for PPE garment design; and (4) presenting a preliminary mock-up garment. A multi-method research approach was taken that included observing, photographing, interviewing, and analyzing the movements of workers in western Canada. Results indicate extreme workplace conditions both indoors (up to 40°C in summer) and outdoors (down to −30°C in winter). Hazardous activities include steam quality sampling, cleaning filters and sludge traps, loading and unloading hot water, opening traps and high pressure steam valves, working very close to hot valves and pipes, and spraying steam onto wellheads. Specifications for improved garment design and mock-up garments were developed based on analysis of interviews and observations. This work also contributes insights into the process for understanding the complexities of a workplace environment with specific hazards and worker needs.

Author Information

Yu, Sihong
Dept. of Human Ecology, Univ. of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, CA
Strickfaden, Megan
Dept. of Human Ecology, Univ. of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, CA
Crown, Elizabeth
Dept. of Human Ecology, Univ. of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, CA
Olsen, Sara
Dept. of Human Ecology, Univ. of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, CA
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Developed by Committee: F23
Pages: 290–307
DOI: 10.1520/STP104081
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-7562-4
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-7530-3