This month we take a look at advances in equipment designed to protect the body. From clothing to climbing equipment, these pieces of kit aim to ensure the user suffers less wear and tear, in both the short and long term.

WITH the arboricultural industry having broadly adapted to the challenges of COVID-19, essentialARB reached out to a number of manufacturers and retailers to find out what’s at the forefront when it comes to equipment designed to protect the body, both on a daily basis and with prolonged use, and how the needs of the sector have changed in the past year.

Win Brothers, of chainsaw protective footwear and apparel manufacturer Arbortec, told essentialARB that the company was determined to be “a source of positivity and hope” to its staff, resellers and anyone it was involved with.

“We believe this vision has had a huge, positive impact. Globally we have seen exponential growth and new opportunities that previously did not seem possible,” he said. “The pandemic had some impact on delivery times but time and again we have proved the value of having our own production facility, giving us control over many aspects of the supply chain.”

Forestry Journal: Arbortec’s Breatheflex Pro chainsaw trousers.Arbortec’s Breatheflex Pro chainsaw trousers.

Win said that customers are looking for products that perform in harsh environments of the industry, and a choice of style that suits their individual requirements.

Win explained that constant research and testing of different designs, fabrics and methods is what is required to innovate in the industry, before going on to highlight the manufacturer’s Arborflex system, which he described as “an example of where we challenge the chainsaw trousers status quo, giving the consumer choice and flexibility in one product”.

Win continued: “Our Arborflex system gives users the ability to have a multitude of trouser options to suit a variety of applications. Simply combine one of our protective base layers with a versatile outer layer to create a pair of trousers perfect for your needs.”

READ MORE: Buyer's Guide: Chainsaws on the ground

The Arborflex Pro skins are described as featuring resilient and abrasion-resistant panels on the front and ankle of the trouser. This material has been woven with Kevlar fibres which makes the panels extremely tough when getting bashed and scraped on trees and debris every day.

Another recent addition to Arbortec’s range is its Breatheflex Pro Legacy trousers. Win explained: “We brought together a classic style with the latest materials to give you the Legacy range in vintage blue. The inspiration for these trousers was taken from the first lumberjacks that went into the great forests over two centuries ago. When the first tree was felled, a new way of life was created. That is the lifestyle we live now.”

Forestry Journal: Arbortec said that, when it comes to PPE, customers are looking for products that perform in harsh environments of the industry, and a choice of style that suits their individual requirements.Arbortec said that, when it comes to PPE, customers are looking for products that perform in harsh environments of the industry, and a choice of style that suits their individual requirements.

The Breatheflex Pro range is made with strong and lightweight Dyneema fibre, which is said to ensure the trousers will keep the wearer well protected while still allowing the flexibility needed to manoeuvre around a job site and canopy of a tree with ease.

Win noted an increased demand for higher quality, tougher products. He said: “Tree care companies across the world are increasingly aware of the dangers that exist in this industry. To ensure that their employees can work to maximum efficiency while remaining safe, they need to invest in quality equipment.

“For example, our Pro range of trousers are now much more popular than our original Breatheflex range. This is due to them being more flexible, breathable, and tougher, which all contribute to making the user’s job easier and safer.”

Looking ahead, Win said that Arbortec would be focusing on more innovation, global growth and “many other exciting developments”.

He added: “We have some big projects underway, some of which are the evolution of existing products, but many that are totally new. Watch this space is all I can say for now!”

Forestry Journal: Petzl Vertex high-visibility helmet.Petzl Vertex high-visibility helmet.

Scott Shaw, UK brand manager for climbing equipment manufacturer Petzl, told essentialARB that the company is consolidating the updates it has brought to the market in recent years, such as the Chicane auxiliary braking device, which allows the Zigzag Prusik range to be used on single ropes. The compatibility of the Chicane and mechanical Prusik as an assembled unit is said to ensure smooth rope glide through the brake during ascents, while the ergonomic handle is described as providing excellent grip and facilitates movement while limb walking.

“Another leading innovation at the forefront right now is the Vertex helmet, with its wide range of compatible accessories and its ‘Centerfit’ adjustment, which allows the user easy installation and removal of key components such as the visor and ear defenders,” said Scott.

With regard to customers’ requirements at the moment, Scott said: “One of the key questions is around general care for products but also specifically cleaning related to COVID-19. In this context, we recommend the following two protocols, and you are free to choose which one best suits your needs: quarantine the product for 72 hours; or, immerse the product in hot (65° C) water for at least 30 minutes, then wash it with soap and water. To dry your equipment, please follow the instructions provided in the technical notice.

READ MORE: Cromwell Forestry: On the street where you live

“This protocol will highly reduce the risk of contamination, but of course is not 100 per cent guaranteed. You can also request further information from your local health authorities concerning low temperature disinfection protocols.”

Scott said Petzl is seeing a “healthy increase” in demand across its entire range due to two factors. He explained: “One: bigger companies are now more aware of and looking for solutions on product compatibility e.g. what connectors are recommended to be used with the Chicane. We have done the testing and do recommend the Am’D and OK connectors knowing they fit perfectly and that they allow the system to function without any problems.

Forestry Journal: The compatibility of the Chicane and mechanical Prusik as an assembled unit is said to ensure smooth rope glide through the brake during ascents.The compatibility of the Chicane and mechanical Prusik as an assembled unit is said to ensure smooth rope glide through the brake during ascents.

“Two: efficiency in moving, accessing the tree and movement around the crown are physical jobs and users are always looking for ways to make the climb and moving around as efficient as possible. This in turn allows the user to be as effective as possible in the job the client is wanting you to do, so the use of the Pantin foot ascent for example, instead of foot-locking, means less damage on your joints, using your key muscle group in a much more efficient way and in turn causing less damage to your body in the long run.”

Reflecting on the COVID-19 situation, Scott said it had impacted Petzl’s ability to meet its retailers and users in person. “This is where we traditionally listen to any feedback and pass it on to our design teams. We are really missing this link and being an active part of the climbing community.”

He added: “Hopefully now we can see light at the end of the tunnel and get back out to see people. We still need to see people about the Eject and Spin pulleys we launched earlier this year. We are also planning the key events for 2022. We don’t know what we will be showing yet but are excited to be back out on the road again.”

Giving a retailer perspective, Andrew Wood, business development manager for Peasmarsh-based Honey Brothers, said mechanical friction devices for single-rope climbing were proving popular, as well as additional hardware to aid climbing, such as foot and knee ascenders.

Innovative products Andrew highlighted included Petzl’s Zigzag and Chicane combination; the Petzl Eject friction saver; the Rock Exotica Akimbo attachable friction device, which enables the climber to ascend, descend and position on both stationary rope and moving rope systems; the ART Spiderjack 3 self-blocking rope control device for running double rope; the ART RopeGuide and pulley saver; and climbing aids to complement these.

“Foot and knee ascenders benefit climbers by reducing friction in the system and reduce stress on the body, ultimately prolonging climbers’ careers and ability to do the job,” said Andrew.

He added that the COVID-19 pandemic saw a boom in business for Honey Brothers due to people being at home more, and spending money on their gardens. “When arb companies are busy, so are we!”

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