Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has an important role to play in today’s working environment, but how do you guarantee its safety? PPE helps to reduce exposure to risks when administrative controls and engineering controls are not effective enough to keep employees safe. Compliancy, correct sizing, premature deterioration, laundering and extending its life span through regular upkeep are all important factors to consider.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) includes clothing and equipment designed to protect employees from harm of industrial risks, from biohazards to physical hazards, or chemicals to heat, via the use of garments such as high visibility clothing, safety footwear, eye protection and safety helmets.

PPE helps to reduce exposure to risks when administrative controls (training staff, safety procedures and policies) and engineering controls (strategies such as placing a barrier or air ventilation to protect workers) are not effective enough to keep employees safe.

Whether you work in the construction industry and require two-tone hi vis waistcoats, safety hats and safety boots for your staff, or you work in healthcare and require gowns, aprons and masks, you’ll find that your employee’s PPE requires special attention from the moment it arrives.

Is your PPE still safe?

With the recurrent use of personal protective equipment, particularly workplace uniforms, it’s important to ensure that the recommended clothing and equipment is fulfilling the role it was designed for. Without regular upkeep, employees may find their uniform loses its effectiveness and poses a safety risk.

Here we consider a few important factors in order to ensure your workforce don’t experience ill-fitting, non-compliant personal protective equipment:

How is it laundered?

It’s important for employers to provide facilities for their workers to clean their PPE as required, e.g. appropriate laundering of contaminated overalls rather than letting workers take PPE home to launder it themselves.

When considering the various fabrics used within different industries, for example reflective and high visibility clothing, ordinary domestic washing is not an effective cleaning strategy and will reduce its effectiveness.

Employers will need to follow the manufacturers’ instructions for laundry and cleaning, which in most cases will require professional laundry services that specialise in industrial PPE cleaning

Is it the right size and does it fit properly?

Not only is it important to gain PPE suitable for both male and female staff by considering size, it’s also important to consider the fit, as the ability of the PPE clothing and equipment to protect your workforce and their ability to respond, depends on it.

Clothing that is too tight will lessen protection and inhibit movement, requiring more energy to undertake tasks. Restrictive gear will increase the likeliness of heat stress, and eliminate some of its protective capabilities by reducing the air layers that enhance the clothing’s thermal insulation.

Correspondingly, clothing and equipment that is too loose will affect employee movement, resulting in increased physical stress. For instance, loose clothing items like helmets, gloves and footwear may hinder movement, affect staff orientation and heighten susceptibility to injuries.

What is its life span?

All PPE has a lifespan, the length of which is dependent on factors such as the type of PPE it is, how often it is used, the way in which it’s used, and how likely it is to get damaged.

Lifespan can be increased in some instances, such as by ensuring your workers use their personal protective equipment correctly so that the incorrect wear or use doesn’t detract further from its lifespan.

Train your workers to inspect their PPE on a regular basis and report when it may need to be replaced. Do not wait for the PPE to be damaged and become ineffective before replacing it.

Premature deterioration

Employers have duties concerning the provision and use of personal protective equipment at work. They must make proper use of PPE and report its loss or destruction or any fault in it.

To avoid premature deterioration, PPE must be correctly looked after by adhering to the manufacturers’ instructions, it must also be stored carefully when not in use.

Ineffective and non-compliant

Monitoring and reviewing PPE will assist in limiting the chances of ineffective or non-compliant uniform or protective gear.

In order to ensure compliancy never allow exemptions from wearing PPE and be sure to take note of any changes in equipment, materials and methods, as you may need to update the PPE that you provide to your workforce.

For frequently used equipment, maintenance examination and tests should be carried out at least once a month. In the instance that the equipment is used only occasionally, an examination and test should be carried out before use and, in the event, the interval should not exceed three months.

Stay safe or be put at risk

The safety of your staff’s PPE can make the distinct difference between them staying safe in their role, and them being put at risk. Asking whether ‘your employee’s PPE is safe?’ is an important question and we hope the points above have helped you to assess the safety of your PPE.