Future Workwear for an Extreme Mine Environment

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Abstract

In what way can the future workwear for an extreme mine environment improve safety, facilitate the work flow as well as increase the comfort for workers situated more than 1045 meters below ground?

During my visits to the mine, surveys, workshops, interviews with workers / workwear manufacturers / work environment development / material experts / industrial laundry and through observations I discovered different problems with today’s workwear. Important aspects such as Ergonomics, Choice of materials, Semiotic values, Logistics and branding were challenges I found through my user centered approach.

I’ve developed a trouser and a jacket more adapted to the working climate. It has an ergonomic fit, improved ways of adjusting the clothes, smarter pockets with easy access and a more sustainable choice of materials (safety and ergonomic properties). My concept challenges the way workwear looks today, striving to relate more to LKAB as a brand and creating a value for the workers using it.

Inspiration and Method

Through out the project I’ve asked myself: does workwear have to look the way they do today? Mapping user lifestyles and comfort aspects, I’ve discovered a gap between the current workwear miners at LKAB use today and the highly functional / outdoorsy / comfortable / durable clothes found in other markets of clothing today. Could these aspects that the users appreciated be translated in to workwear still following all ISO certifications and regulations needed to fulfil every safety aspect?

By interviewing miners in the LKAB mine in Kiruna (Sweden), observing them at work, sending out a survey, hosting a workshop and pin-point meeting with different work categories at the mine I could develop concepts. These concepts I evaluated through out the process with a focus group, with miners from different work categories, with workwear manufacturers, industry laundry facilitation and a work environment strategic at LKAB in Kiruna. Looking at other fields wearing workwear and completely different categories such as climbers, dancers and outdoor clothing brands: I came to a final concept.

Result

A jacket and trouser which is adapted more to the extreme mining environment. This meaning it will have to cope with temperatures ranging from 0 - 27 degrees Celsius and from dusty to high humidity environments. Work tasks differ a lot, there for the result is adapted to function well for both monotonous work (such as driving a truck) to more physical work (carrying a lot of heavy material and shovelling).
The ergonomics of the clothes was a problem for many miners today, there for I have strived to make my concept as light, flexible, adaptable and “smart” as possible. For example, this includes the possibility of a modular tool belt system, no seems over the neck and adjustment possibilities to avoid welding sparks from reaching the skin and a tighter fit to keep the miner safe (not getting caught up or trapped).