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Spring Cleaning – How is your PPE?

- March 28, 2017 by Dan Heinen, ASP (View all posts by Dan)

Regardless of what your company does, summer is normally a very busy time of year. Things such as inventory, scheduled maintenance and updating equipment are best done before the busy season starts. Often personal protective equipment (PPE) isn’t figured into the equation. When was the last time your PPE has been inspected and/or evaluated? I say “often times it isn’t” because it seems like we take for granted it’s in good condition (i.e. it’s been in the same place because we haven’t needed it in set amount of time, or it’s something we have been using for quite a while and seems to do the job).

So, this month, whether you’re in the cleanup, maintenance, or gear up mode here are a few things to consider: (Keep in mind this list isn’t all inclusive and may vary depending on your particular PPE and your facility and work practices.)

Hearing protection – Is it adequate? Have you had a noise survey done or just buy a box of earplugs with the highest NNR rating? As machines age they may get louder over time and we just get accustomed to the subtle shift and don’t recognize the noise difference. There are many types and styles of hearing protection available and now may be a good time to see a different NNR or a completely different type.

Fall protection – All manufacturers put a shelf life on their safety harnesses regardless of the type of service it has (or hasn’t) seen. Even though it has only been used once in the past four years, how long have you had it? It may be past the date the manufacturer says it is safe to use.

Hand protection – Double check the gloves to insure they are compatible with the types of chemicals you may be exposing them to.  Have you switched or are you planning on switching from chemical “A” to chemical “B” for cost health, or environmental reasons? Will the gloves you have now still be effective?

Hand protection (again) – If your employees are exposed to sharp objects and you are using leather gloves, would it be more cost effective to switch to a cut resistant glove? Yes, they may cost a bit more but they may pay for themselves quickly as they may not have to be replaced as often and the additional potential reduction of down production and medical cost from injuries.

Respiratory protection – Yes, we know all PPE should be inspected before use, but often times they aren’t. Inspect them and look for cracking in the face pieces or straps.  If a full face is used, is the face shield still clean and scratch free? Once again, look at the chemicals you have now and see if you have changed any and your employees are still offered the correct protection.

Eye protection – Why not start fresh? Get samples of different styles and types, and ask your employees to try them on and see which ones they prefer. This gives them buy-in, and helps eliminate the “but they are uncomfortable” excuse.  They may also have a better idea of which type may perform better at their particular work area.

In closing, you may go through your PPE and find that everything is in good condition and suitable for the tasks that require it. Don’t worry though; it wasn’t a waste of time. You just demonstrated to your employees that their health and working in a safe environment is a top priority.