In recent times, Health and Safety has become a topic of great importance in British workplaces. Employers have a duty to provide their workers with a safe environment, and workers, too, have an incentive to look after themselves.
One of the ways in which we might make a workplace safer is through the use of the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment. What this might look like will depend on the workplace, and the type of work being performed.
If you’re choosing PPE for your own personal use, or for that of your workforce, then there are a number of criteria you’ll need to consider.
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What is the climate like?
Some workplaces might be hazardous because of the local climate. During winter in the UK, for example, it’s vital that workers outdoors are able to wrap up warm. Similarly, hot weather might persuade us to apply suncream and seek shelter and air-conditioning (even if these things are not considered PPE).
What threats are your workers facing?
As we’ve mentioned, different environments pose different challenges. If you’re operating a mitre saw, for example, then you might wear goggles, to protect your eyes from flying fragments of wood and metal, a dust-mask, to protect your respiratory system from sawdust, and ear defenders, to protect your hearing over the long-term. If you’re doing all of this on a construction site, then you might also be wearing a hard hat and a high-vis vest.
The role of comfort
PPE that isn’t actually worn because it’s so uncomfortable and restrictive is unlikely to offer much protection. Therefore, we should look for items that are functional without being uncomfortable.
The importance of visibility
The right PPE should not prevent us from being able to see what we’re doing – especially if we’re doing detail-focused work. In some cases, it might be appropriate to forgo things like goggles entirely.
What is the cost?
It might seem like money should be no object where worker safety is concerned – but, in practice, this can’t be the case. You should take every reasonable step to ensure that everyone is protected, which generally means looking for items that meet the required standards.
What about maintenance?
PPE is like any other category of equipment, in that sometimes, the items in question will deteriorate. Having a system in place to inspect, repair and replace PPE will help to ensure that the equipment can actually fulfil the function for which it is intended.
Keeping a range of sizes
PPE comes in a variety of sizes to fit differently-proportioned workers. By keeping several different options available, you’ll be able to cater to workers of every shape and size, and keep everyone safe.