The management of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can be a challenging process.
Indeed, how often do you attend site and find PPE laying around? Additionally, the market offers a wide range of solutions for almost any type of workplace and work activity.
Therefore, finding PPE which is suitable and adequate for your needs can become a time-consuming and costly activity if not adequately planned and managed.
Bearing in mind that many types of injuries are actually caused by the inappropriate use of PPE or, worse, the absence of PPE, the first question that you should consider is “Can we implement more efficient control measures?”.
An adequate risk assessment, completed by a competent person, can provide you with the right answer. PPE must be selected as the last resort as stated in Regulation 4 of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992. Regulation 4 establishes that employers must provide suitable PPE for employees exposed to health and safety risks except ‘where and to the extent that such risk has been adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective’.
Once it has been established that PPE is required, the following factors should be taken into consideration during the selection and evaluation process:
• Features of the wearers (gender, size, height…);
• Attitude and behaviours of the wearers;
• Integration and compatibility amongst different types of PPE;
• The extent of the exposure;
• The working environment (hot, cold, outdoors, indoors…);
• Storage and maintenance requirements;
• Environmental impact, especially when considering the use of disposable PPE such as gloves, overalls…
One of the most effective ways to select the most suitable and adequate PPE for your organisation is through consultation with the wearer. Consultation can be as simple as asking, running a trial and gathering feedback or through on-site observations of behaviours.
Liaising with PPE suppliers is another means of gaining a better understanding of the differences between PPE, their performance and value for money. Involving wearers in the selection process would encourage them to look after their PPE and to wear them when they are required to.
Once the selection process is completed, attention must be paid to maintenance and storage. An appropriate location shall be identified to guarantee durability and integrity of the PPE and to avoid potential contamination.
Ideally, your management system should include regular checks and replacement of PPE in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions, the frequency of use and the working environment.
Finally, wearers must understand why and how to use the PPE which is provided to them. In particular, they must understand the potential results of failures and inappropriate usage on their own and others health and safety.
This can initially be achieved through training which should include the following:
• The hazards and risks wearers are exposed to;
• Their roles and responsibilities towards the PPE provided to them free of charge;
• The consequences for misuse or lack of use;
• Instructions on how to use, wear, adjust, store, maintain and dispose of PPE;
• Limitations of PPE…
Training is another area in which your PPE supplier can get involved and support you.
The management of PPE is an on-going process as continuous on-site monitoring would be required along with validating the efficiency of the PPE you provide.
Furthermore, as your work processes and work activities changes, along with technology, the suitability and adequacy of PPE must be reviewed.
A robust management of change process combined with your risk assessment process will help you to proactively identify the adjustments required so that the PPE you provide effectively protect your employees.
If you think the management of PPE represents a challenge for your organisation, you can contact AvantGarde to ensure a competent consultant accompanies in your journey towards a safer and healthier work environment.