It can be a funny topic, PPE. When used correctly, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can of course be life saving kit. Equipment that will protect the user against safety and health risks in the workplace.
But far too often as Health and Safety Consultants we see companies and health and safety professionals who think that PPE IS health and safety. A pancea or cure all or the first defence. When of course PPE should be the very last line of defence only considered where the risk cannot be adequately controlled in other ways.
Many is the time that I have attended a site and been asked to put on full PPE. Whatever the environment. When I ask what risks the PPE will be controlling and am told that none have been identified ! It has simply been assumed that PPE IS safety. Despite the irony that using incorrect or uneccesary PPE can in itself cause it’s own hazard and risk.
There are reasons that we make PPE the last defence resort, which include:
• PPE only protects the person wearing it, whereas controlling the risk at source can protect everyone in the workplace
• Maximum levels of protection are rarely achieved with PPE in practice and the actual level of protection is difficult to assess
• Effective protection is only achieved by suitable PPE that is correctly fitted, maintained and properly used
• PPE may restrict the wearer to some extent by limiting movement or visibility.
Using Risk Assessments to Determine the Correct PPE
Your first step in your decision making process for PPE is the risk assessment. The purpose of the risk assessment is to ensure that the company or health and safety manager chooses PPE which is correct for the risks involved and the circumstances of its use.
The risk assessment should be part of a work activity assessment. The details of the assessment should be kept readily accessible so that the basis of decisions can be understood at later reviews.
When providing PPE, the health and safety manager should ensure that the equipment is readily available and the employee should have clear instructions on where they can obtain it.
If more than one item of PPE is to be worn, they must be compatible with each other and when used together, should adequately control the risks. The manufacturer’s manual can provide guidance on what PPE can or should be used together.
Selecting Suitable PPE
Where potential risks are identified, there may be several types of PPE that could be suitable. When assessing the suitability of PPE, health and safety managers should consider and take account of the following factors:
• Work activities and the risks for which protection is needed
• Physical effort needed to do the job, how long the PPE is to be worn, and the requirements for visibility and communication
• The environment and surrounding conditions. This includes the weather if working outside, temperature, noise and ventilation
• The health of the person wearing the PPE. PPE made of certain materials should not be issued to workers if they are known to cause allergies
• Ergonomic effects of the PPE. Such as where heavy or bulky suits are worn that can cause or make worse existing musculoskeletal problems and cause thermal comfort problems
• That PPE must meet the criteria of the UAE or any higher internationally recognised standard
Companies should choose PPE which provides the maximum protection while ensuring minimum discomfort to the wearer. Uncomfortable PPE is unlikely to be worn correctly.
There will be considerable differences in the physical dimensions of different workers and therefore more than one type or size of PPE may be needed.
Companies should consider selection as part of a continuing programme which ensures the proper use and maintenance of the equipment, and the training and supervision of the employee.
So Who is Responsible for What with PPE ?
Responsibilities for the company and the Health and Safety Manager include:
• Assessing the PPE to ensure it is suitable for the hazards it is protecting the user from
• Maintaining and storing the PPE as per the manufacturer’s manual
• Providing PPE, at no cost to all employees who may be exposed to a risk to their safety and health within the workplace
• Provide information, instruction, supervision and training on how to use PPE correctly
• That the PPE meets the criteria of the UAE or any higher internationally recognised standard
Responsibilities for the Employee include:
• Not endanger themselves or others
• Cooperate with the company and the Health and Safety Manager and receive safety supervision and training
• Wear PPE where required
• To report any activity or defect relating to the use of PPE which they know is likely to endanger the safety of themselves or that of any other person
Consultation with Employees
Employees who conduct work activities are usually best placed to know what is involved and what problems exist. They should be consulted and involved by the health and safety manager in the selection of the equipment.
Involving the employees with regard to fit, comfort, compatibility with the work activities and wearability is likely to lead to better levels of user acceptance and therefore better protection.
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To find out more about our services, please visit our website www.corporateohs.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 00 971 4 550 7862.