Congenial cold wear Road Show by ArcticPro network in Finland

Finnish organizations active in the international ArcticPro network hosted Road Show on arctic and protective wear in Aulanko, Hämeenlinna on 1st of October 2014. A relaxed half-day event brought together interested producer companies, informed users of arctic work- and protective wear as well as members of research organisations to discuss relevant, acute needs as well as future themes for research and development. Aim of the seminar was to enhance knowledge of cold wear clothing and protective gear, well-being in arctic conditions and find common starting points for joint research projects. Seminar was jointly organized by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Arctic Power from Lapland University of Applied Sciences, University of Lapland and Tampere University of Technology

RoadShow_ArcticPower

Seminar audience heard presentations concentrated on working in cold conditions from end-user representatives. Companies Eltel (picture below) and Empower both work with power, telecommunications and ICT networks, building and maintaining them, as well as other vital infrastructure. Their employees work in all weather conditions. Kirsi Jussila from Finnish Institute of Occupational Health presented research results on evaluation of cold protective clothing of arctic open-pit miners, focusing on cold protection needs.

Some important findings and similarities in acute protection needs could be found from the end-user presentations – even though working conditions of user groups in question are not the same. In general, workwear is good and functions as intended. Biggest problems are keeping body extremities like head, hands and feet warm. As a contrast, heavy work induces sweating and as current clothing is not breathable enough, moisture accumulates and cold sneaks in. Sweating combined with often windy conditions or even strong wind due to heights or driving with snow mobiles, results in drastic declines in thermal comfort.

Properties of clothing and gear as well as maintenance were topics of discussion. Modern flame retardant clothing is experienced as heavy, stiff and hindering movement. Gloves warm enough prevent hand dexterity and cut protection gloves, now often required in many work, are experienced too cold. Safety shoes were regarded slippery and cold. Presentations instigated many questions from the audience, which reflects mutual interest and need for communication platforms. It is generally acknowledged that washing decreases protective properties of clothes, especially cold protection and flame resistance. Also maintenance during long days or longer projects in remote location is challenging. Clothes, gloves and shoes that get wet would need to be well dried for next days work. Spring time in the north is especially tricky as temperatures can vary greatly between minus and plus degrees during even just one day.

RoadShow_Eltel

Presentation from Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation and a final workshop to gather and surface ideas accumulated during the day, paved the way discussion on joint research interests. Juha Korkeila from Tekes Arctic Seas programme team opened up some funding possibilities. He explained, that even though the programme focuses on arctic seas, Finland is looking into what happens on the shores, the expanding infrastructure, business opportunities and workforce. As examples of important fields for business opportunities in these regions he mentioned tourism, education, lifecycle services and risk analysis. Finally, workshop facilitated discussion around three themes. Connecting societal challenges with arctic regions and textile and clothing industry produced deliberations on carbon neutral clothing, challenges of scarce population and distances as well as managing tourist peaks. Most popular topics under the theme of future technologies and materials as instruments of wellbeing were arctic center of excellence with testing facilities, ice durability in materials and sustainable development. Cold protective apparel as a part of safe, efficient and productive work instigated ideation around examining the concrete value of work well-being and developing modularity and concept thinking in products.