Rethinking PPE – why we can’t forget about our knees 

For all employers, ensuring the safety of their workforce is of the utmost importance. Despite this however, many organisations are still potentially putting their teams at risk by overlooking a vital form of PPE and this where ToughBuilt, with their innovative products, come in to save the day. 

ToughBuilt is a manufacturer on a mission. The US company, which designs, develops, and produces an internationally respected range of hand tools, jobsite products and PPE, launched into the UK and European market in 2019.  

Shortly afterwards, the business implemented a campaign to address an important, cross-industry safety concern which it felt could no longer be ignored. 

“#KneelSmartKneelSafe aims to engage, inform and educate people in a variety of professions on the importance of protecting their knees,” explains ToughBuilt’s Matt Handley.  

“As a company which manufactures knee pads, we are exposed to some of the alarming statistics relating to work-related knee injuries on a regular basis. As such, our efforts to raise awareness of the need for adequate knee protection aren’t motivated by commercial gain, but by a duty of care. We see it as our moral responsibility to share our knowledge for the greater good of the industries we serve.” 

The UK’s leading cause of lost workdays 

The aforementioned statistics include those from Business in the Community – a network established by the Prince of Wales to champion responsible business. Its research determined that musculoskeletal problems such as back, shoulder and knee pain are the leading cause of lost working days in the UK, costing the economy an estimated 31 million days every year.  

Similarly, research published by the Health & Safety Executive in late 2020 highlighted that of the 480,000 work-related musculoskeletal disorders recorded for 2019/2020, some 93,000 affected the lower limbs – including the knees. 

“It’s worrying that work-related knee injuries are so prevalent, especially given the ubiquity of the zero-injury culture in the modern business world,” comments Matt. “Surely one knee injury caused in the workplace or through work-related activity is one too many.” 

“Employers also need to be mindful of their obligations under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. This requires employers, by law, to carry out risk assessments of activities undertaken by their employees. Where a need for knee protection is identified, it is important that this is supplied to avoid possible prosecution and significant financial penalties.” 

The crippling consequences 

Broadly speaking, knee injuries that can be sustained at work fall into two categories: impact injuries – such as those caused by kneeling on a sharp item or striking the knee against a hard object – and longer-term ‘wear and tear’ injuries.  

This latter group includes those caused by extended periods of kneeling without the proper protection. This subjects the knee and surrounding tissue to excessive and unhealthy levels of pressure, and the damage inevitably builds up over time.  

These longer-term, cumulative conditions are perhaps the most concerning as they have the potential to be a ticking timebomb. In a similar way to asbestosis, the harm isn’t immediately felt and it’s only further down the line that the consequences come to light.  

Several health conditions come as a direct result of this type of oversight and one of the most common, which can be caused by repetitive, prolonged, and non-protected kneeling, is knee bursitis. This entails a small fluid-filled sac called the bursa – which reduces friction and cushions pressure points between your bones and the tendons, muscles and skin – becoming inflamed. Knee bursitis causes tenderness and swelling, as well as a reduction in knee movement. In chronic cases, the bursa may need to be removed by a surgical procedure known as bursectomy. 

Similarly, knee meniscal lesions and tear damage are frequent injuries within the industry. Typically caused by repetitive squatting or kneeling, meniscal lesions are associated with situations in which the knee is bent or twisted while bearing a load. This damage can later lead to osteoarthritis, another knee condition often affecting construction industry professionals.  

Widely known as wear-and-tear arthritis, osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that affects the joints and involves the cartilage, which provides cushioning for the knee joint, wearing away. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the UK and can be caused by activity that places constant stress or pressure on the knee joint. Research has found that plumbers and electricians in construction have a higher risk of suffering from hip osteoarthritis, while floor layers and cleaners have shown a higher risk of developing knee osteoarthritis. 

The most reliable way of avoiding conditions of this kind and reducing ongoing injuries is to implement a company-wide practical approach to training and PPE. 


To ensure greater knee safety at work, ToughBuilt’s #KneelSmartKneelSafe campaign is a coordinated programme of activity that includes working with the media to produce educational articles, lobbying key policymakers and collaborating with leading authorities such as the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF). 

The business is also offering advice to individuals and organisers to help them choose knee protection which is fit for purpose. As a rule of thumb, the company advocates looking for suitable levels of performance in three key areas – penetration resistance, force distribution and shock absorption. 

Penetration resistance is measured in levels between 0 and 2 with 2 being the higher. A knee pad with a 0 rating will not prevent impact injuries like those caused by accidentally kneeling on a nail, stone or other jagged or sharp-edged surface.  

As Matt concludes: “Perhaps the simplest way of choosing the correct knee protection is to always opt for knee pads that carry CE or the UKCA markings, or that are certified to relevant standards such as BS EN 14404.” 

He adds: “Ultimately, it makes sense to choose knee pads with the same care, consideration, and sense of importance as other forms of PPE like hard hats, safety boots or safety goggles. After all, the consequences of not wearing this vital piece of equipment, whether it’s from immediate injury or long-term illness, can be every bit as devasting.”  

The majority of ToughBuilt’s knee pads offer CE and UKCA certification and one of their most popular knee pads recently received two commendations at the Safety & Health Excellence (SHE) Awards in conjunction with the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF). The ToughBuilt® GelFit™ Rocker Knee Pads firstly picked up a BSIF Product Innovation Award. 

Based on the patented SnapShell system, ToughBuilt® GelFit™ Rocker Knee Pads offer users unparalleled levels of versatility. The SnapShell™ at the front of the knee pad is interchangeable, quick to remove, and it provides the freedom to tailor pads to suit different tasks and work environments. Three types of SnapShell™ are available – non-marring (because nobody wants to be the one to scratch a client’s wooden floor), rocker (for use on rough terrain) and stabilisers. The pads can also be used without any SnapShell™. 

ToughBuilt® GelFit™ Rocker Knee Pads have an ergonomic gel and foam interior design that embraces the natural shape of the knee and upper shin, maximising pressure distribution for all-day comfort. Its high side walls also greatly reduce any inadvertent twisting of the knee while in motion, whilst the EVA elastic leg straps comfortably hold the pads in place without cutting off circulation or binding behind the knee. 

ToughBuilt was further commended in the BSIF Safety Solution category, this time for the manufacturer’s ongoing efforts to engage, educate and inform the UK industry on the need to employ adequate knee protection in the workplace. 

ToughBuilt’s knee pads were recently reviewed on the SkillBuilder’s YouTube channel as part of the company’s #KneelSmartKneelSafe campaign. Esteemed trade professional Roger Bisby explored the requirement for knee pads on the job site, provided testimonials of tradespeople who have had to give up their job due to knee problems, and explained that a lot of knee pads on the market offer little puncture protection. 

“A significant number of trades professionals choose not to wear knee protection because they deem it to be uncomfortable. They found that when they kneel, the strap cuts into the back of their knee and cuts off circulation. All PPE needs to be comfortable because, if it’s not, it tends to get left in the van,” comments Bisby. 

He later reviewed ToughBuilt’s best-selling GelFit™ Fanatic Thigh Support Knee Pads, which combat this very problem with a double strap, one high on the thigh, and one lower down on the calf, preventing circulation cut-off, as well as many other innovative comfort and protective features. 

With abrasion-resistant fabric, a shatter-resistant exterior, and an overall comfort-focused design, ToughBuilt’s knee pads are the ultimate form of protection against preventable knee and joint-related injuries.  

So, if you’re hard at work on your knees all day long, or even if there are only a handful of tasks that require your kneeling, it’s crucial that you don’t underestimate how quickly your joints can start to deteriorate – pick yourself up a pair of ToughBuilt’s knee pads and watch your life change. 

For more information on ToughBuilt’s range of knee pads, visit their website.

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