Employers are responsible for the provision, replacement and cost of personal protective equipment (PPE). From protective gloves to eye wear, hard hats and high-visibility clothing, the range of PPE is large – and growing.
When it comes to replacement, the ‘easy’ solution would be to have a timetable of replacement, such as every 6 weeks or 6 months. But this has the potential to be wasteful. PPE should be replaced when it needs to be, that is when it stops affording the wearer adequate protection.
Employers have ‘reasonable diligence’ on which they base their decision on replacing and providing PPE as appropriate. But when does this kick into action and require PPE to be replaced?
Every day wear leads to PPE becoming soiled – and pretty quickly too. Spills, stains, burns and general wear means that the effectiveness of PPE is compromised.
In some industries, there are specific rules that relate to how frequently PPE is replaced. High visibility vests and clothing, for example, are degraded by washing and so these tend to be replaced more frequently.
WEAR & TEAR
The biggest factor in PPE replacement is wear and tear. Again, the level and frequency of wear and tear will vary from one setting to the next but also from one person to another too.
As soon as PPE starts to fail, it should be replaced – and immediately too. For example, steel-toe capped shoes that develop a tear will be less effective, as will high vis clothing with rips in or missing parts to it.
Likewise, hard hats that receive an impact should be replaced. Cracks are not always immediately obvious, thus a second impact could mean it collapses under pressure, failing to protect the wearer.In effect, when a piece of PPE has ‘done its job’, it needs to be replaced.
Gloves in some situations are essential PPE. In others, they are a welcome addition to uniform.The thing is replacing gloves is simple: as soon as they look worn, they need to be replaced.
In specific situations, gloves are worn to protect the user’s hand such as from chemicals, liquid irritation and so on. Similar to the hard hat above, when chemicals are spilt on gloves and so on, they have done their job and need replacing.
Another important part of PPE in some industries and situations are coveralls. One-piece type boiler suits cover the torso, arms and legs, providing a layer of fabric protection in all kinds of situations. Simple they may be, but effective they are in a number of cases.
Again, like gloves, it is obvious when they need replacing.A torn coverall is not as protective as a complete one. One that is heavily soiled is not as protective as it could be.
The frequency of changing PPE is one that needs to match the use it is under. A high viz vest worn in a warehouse, for example, may not need replacing as often as one worn by a worker repairing roads and so on. PPE can be expensive but cheap when you consider it keeps your people safe.
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