PPE garment solutions for underground miners

Siobhan Doyle

Garment-based innovations have greatly bolstered miner safety. By Siobhan Doyle.

Workers in the mining industry face many on-the-job hazards that pose a constant threat to their safety. Mining personal protective equipment (PPE) play a major part in ensuring the protection of miners.

Although there are common types of PPE typically used by miners, from safety glasses to hard hats and earplugs, it’s important to acknowledge the garment-based innovations present across the sector.

Here, we explore the personal protective solutions chemical company DuPont have created for underground mining applications.


The risks faced by mine workers differ depending on the type of method used for processing minerals and metals, from electric hazards with drilling equipment, to protection against dirt and grim. Different methods require different types of PPE.

“The mining sector is a big client of ours and they use different products for different tasks,” says Steve Marnach, EMEA training manager and specialist for Critical Environments at DuPont. “For example, some teams wear disposal dust protective garments to protect the worker’s skin.”

DuPont has developed a broad range of PPE to address such hazards. These include its synthetic fibre garments known as Nomex for thermal and electric arc flash hazards, gloves made from another one of its products called Kevlar for mechanical and multi-hazard protection, and a high-density polyethylene fibre called Tyvek for protection against fine particle hazards and liquid splashes.

Most miners wear DuPont’s Tyvek 500 HV coveralls because of its high-visibility, are ideal for working in naturally dark places such as underground mines, and come with chemical and biological protection. Miners at the Eti Bakır AŞ Küre Plant in Turkey, the largest underground copper mine in the country, use these disposable coveralls.

Work equipment and workers operate together in the mechanised underground mine system: the extensive system runs 960m below the surface and has tunnels that are up to 40km long. Officials at the site realised the importance of workers’ safety under such conditions and opted for the Tyvek 500 HV coveralls.

“With so much work equipment in operation at the mine, high visibility of workers is essential. This is why we prefer fluorescent colours and highly reflective tapes in our underground workwear,” says Kazım Küçükateş, design and underground mine manager at Eti Bakır AŞ. “We have made sure our workers have high visibility, and machine operators can easily spot them, thanks to the Tyvek 500 HV coveralls.”

Küçükateş also says that disposable coveralls, which its workers have been wearing for over five years, are more affordable than normal coveralls in oily, dirty, and chemical environments.

“At sites such as the mine in Turkey, workers are going to need both protection against the dust and high visibility as the lighting conditions are poor,” Marnach explains. “The garments also have chemical protection to prevent workers from skin irritation.”


When handling equipment down in the mines, whether that is a drill or a hydraulic set, workers must wear gloves. Gloves protect against cuts and punctures, but they also provide workers with good grip.

DuPont develop materials with enhanced dexterity to ensure miners are safe when handling equipment and substances they may encounter on the job. For instance, Netherlands-based glove manufacturer Showa Gloves has lightweight, highly cut-resistant gloves, called Showa S-Tex 581, which are reinforced with DuPont’s Kevlar technology.

Created by late Polish-American chemist Stephanie Kwolek in the 1960s, Kevlar is a heat-resistant para-aramid synthetic fabric with a molecular structure of many interchain bonds that make the material incredibly strong.

Kevlar is so tightly spun that tearing it is nearly impossible to separate them: DuPont has tested its resistance to ballistics and found that the fabric catches the projectile while absorbing and dissipating its energy.

Due to fully extended and perfectly aligned molecular chains within the substance, Kevlar also provides a strong protective barrier against slashes, cuts, and punctures, according to the company. This makes it more than ideal for workers who are at larger risk of injury from mining equipment and sharp objects they may encounter in the mines.

“For developing the right yarn for the right application, we had to find a good balance between cut protection and dexterity,” Marnach stresses. “The Kevlar material offers a high level of protection, coupled with a coating that provides great grip, while simultaneously protecting against electric and thermal hazards.”


When the commute is miles below the surface and workers are down there for hours on end, they must have PPE with the right balance of functionality, comfort, and protection.

It should be comfortable and fit properly to ensure its effectiveness and usability. If the PPE is too tight or too loose, it may cause discomfort, irritation, or injury to the miners. Meanwhile, if it’s too bulky, it may reduce the mobility, agility, or endurance of the worker. Therefore, the PPE must be adjustable, adaptable and cater to the personal preferences of each worker.

“Our local sales teams work closely with the mining industry to find the right product for the right application,” Marnach explains. “Given our large product portfolio, we often already have something that works, but sometimes we don’t, and this is an opportunity for us to develop a new product.”

DuPont has done extensive research on the hazards that come with the job, and as a result, is more aware of how medically dangerous it is. For example, research has shown that exposure to acids and alkalis caused by exploration drilling could lead to miners developing severe skin burns.

To reduce such injuries, teams at DuPont have ventured out to sites and developed risk assessments for the different tasks carried out across the mining process. The PPE department at DuPont has used this on-site research to further develop innovations that cater to such requirements.

“There must be a connection between all the PPE used, and by connected, I mean everything from the safety glasses to the coveralls must work together. So, if an accident were to happen, the matching PPE would better protect the wearer,” Marnach concludes.