From healthcare to construction, PPE is an absolute necessity in a range of industries. PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment, and the term covers a wide range of different clothing and equipment which often include more factors than initially meets the eye. By limiting direct exposure to hazards and allowing employees to undertake their daily duties with an added level of protection, a business remains compliant with health and safety regulations.
As standard, PPE tends to include items such as gloves, safety glasses, protective shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, overalls, vests and hazmat suits. Although the level of protection needed will differ from company to company, having an idea of the necessities will keep dangers at bay.
When Is PPE Needed?
Being designed to minimize exposure to hazards that have the potential to cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses, PPE can prevent the occurrence of serious accidents from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. For a business, it is their responsibility to evaluate the following when it comes to employee wellbeing:
- When is PPE necessary?
- What type is necessary to fulfill the role?
- Is the PPE suitable for all or does it need to be adjusted/ made to measure?
- Is it needed to be worn at all times?
- Does the PPE provide full protection or just minimize risk?
- How often does the PPE need to be replaced or checked?
- How should it be safely disposed of?
When used correctly, the benefits of PPE mean a business is compliant with both internal and external health and safety systems, so consequently reduces the likelihood of long-term illnesses and serious damage from potential workplace incidents.
As a duty of care, an employer is responsible for the sufficient design and construction of the PPE needed, ensuring it is fit for purpose and meets any industry regulations. They are also required to provide training to each worker who is required to use the personal protective equipment, providing the necessary instructions on how to correctly use the PPE and the importance of doing so for their own safety. For each employee, it is important that it fits comfortably as this can make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed, reducing the effectiveness of the PPE completely.
Although the benefits of personal protective equipment are clear, there are common barriers which inspectors have noticed in the workplace. From failing to enforce the correct use of the equipment due to the time consuming nature, all the way to businesses not remaining fully stocked on disposable PPE, cutting corners can lead to severe consequences. To ensure that all employees are cooperating and correctly using any PPE, here are some steps which can be taken from a business:
Display clear signage on the premises
For the benefit of both new and existing employees, placing signs throughout the premises can make a significant impact on the usage. Being a continuous reminder, the likelihood of PPE being worn is increased as those who are new to the role or may be prone to forgetting can be prompted. For more complex businesses who require a more niche level of PPE, displaying signage with instructions for use can also be a handy addition, helping those who may be unsure to prevent the chance of incorrect usage.
Regularly monitor usage
Although it should be a given that employers are correctly following the PPE guidelines, do not assume this is the case. Praising those who are following guidelines with positive reinforcement is shown to lead to improved results in comparison to disciplining those who do not. The importance of personal protective equipment should always be reinforced to workers, highlighting the threat to their safety which could be caused if not, however using a positive approach rather than a negative one is recommended.
In situations where there is a lack of employees understanding the importance of PPE, regular monitoring will become necessary to ensure the business remains compliant. Appointing a person in each area of the business to carry out regular checks across the team and enforce the correct usage of PPE will help to minimize those who do not conform and get employees into the habit of applying it on a daily basis.
Provide comfort and practicality
If an employee is provided with ill fitting or poor quality PPE, they are naturally going to be less inclined to wear it. To comply with health and safety legislation and to encourage people to wear PPE, ensuring you are taking every step to provide equipment that is fit for use will make a big difference. All PPE must fit well, be easy to put on, and not reduce the ability of a worker to carry out their role. Investing in comfortable PPE has been shown to increase the overall adoption of protective equipment, being seen as a part of uniform rather than an uncomfortable addition which they would rather stay clear of.
Make the risks known
Although scaremongering is never the way forward, providing employees with the facts may be the prompt they needed to improve their attitude towards PPE. By providing statistics and descriptions of accidents that have occurred either in your workplace or in the industry as a whole because workers weren’t wearing required PPE, the risks associated may quickly hit home. Although not everyone may respond to this approach and think they are immune to the risk of accidents, it is shown to be a powerful safety technique which can help increase the health and safety measures taken by all members of a workforce.
Provide ongoing training
It is normal for businesses to incorporate health and safety training as part of an induction for new employees, but it should not stop there. To reiterate the importance of PPE and keep the risks associated with not wearing it at the forefront of people’s minds, regular training sessions should be held for all employees. Covering the basics as well as the more specific training needed for each individual job role, leniency should not be given for longer standing employees as their safety is equally as important.