Companies should make a lot of considerations when choosing PPE for their employees. PPE comes in many forms and shapes for different uses hence; the considerations vary from one PPE to the other. However, the most important thing is to check if the PPE meets standards acceptable by the law.

The most vital points of assessment before choosing and purchasing PPE is to consider, who is exposed and to what? How long are they exposed for? How much are they exposed to? These questions would significantly help in choosing the correct PPE for each job to be performed.

Some guidelines that can help when selecting PPE include:

  • Choose products which are marked in accordance with the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations. (suppliers can advise you)
  • Choose equipment that suits the user ' consider the size, fit and weight of the PPE. When employees have a chance to participate in the selection, it is more likely they will use it.
  • If more than one item of PPE is worn at the same time, make sure they can be used simultaneously. For example, wearing safety glasses may disturb the seal of a respirator which may result in air-leaks.
  • Instruct and train people about how to use PPE e.g. consider offering training to employees about for example, how to remove gloves without contaminating their skin.

Employers are encouraged to choose PPE that is comfortable and that fits well. Where possible, they should involve employees when choosing and buying PPE as they are the ones obliged to use the equipment. If it does not fit properly, it may not provide adequate protection. If it is not comfortable (for example, too tight or too loose) it is less likely they will use it.

Poorly fitting eye and face protection will not offer the necessary protection. Fitting of goggles and safety spectacles should be done by someone skilled in the procedure. Prescribed safety spectacles should be fitted only by qualified optical personnel. Devices with adjustable features should be fitted on an individual basis to provide a comfortable fit that maintains the device's proper position. Eye protection from dust and chemical splash should form a protective seal when fitted properly. Make sure the eye protection chosen has the right combination of impact/dust/splash/molten metal eye protection for the task and fits the user properly. This is a checklist that an employer should mark through before accepting any protective eye and face wear.

Welding helmets and face shields must be properly fitted to ensure that they do not fall off during work operations. Some safety helmets are fitted with specially-designed eye or hearing protection. Check if they fitted properly before purchasing. Don’t forget neck protection like scarves for use during welding.

Purchase the right hearing protectors for the right type of work and make sure workers know how to wear or use them. Choose protectors that reduce noise to an acceptable level, while allowing for safety and communication. First assess the nature of job so you know what to purchase.

Employees operating machines such as bench drills should be provided with alternative PPE as they cannot wear gloves as these might get caught in the machine. Employers should ask suppliers for a suitable alternative.

Protection against chemicals should also be considered when selecting PPE as some materials are quickly penetrated by chemicals. Please be careful when selecting PPE by assessing the nature of the environment they will be used in. Barrier creams are unreliable and are no substitute for proper PPE. Wearing gloves for long periods can make the skin hot and sweaty leading to skin problems. The use of separate cotton inner gloves should be considered as they can help prevent these from developing.

As slips, trips and falls are the most common incidents reported on duty, it essential that the correct footwear is selected. Footwear can have a variety of sole patterns and materials to help prevent slips in different conditions, including oil or chemical-resistant soles. It can also be anti-static, electrically conductive or thermally insulated. Appropriate footwear should be selected for the risks identified.

When it comes to respirators, the right type of respirator filters must be used as each is effective for only a limited range of substances. Filters have only a limited lifespan. Where there is a shortage of oxygen or there is any danger of losing consciousness due to exposure to high levels of harmful fumes, only use breathing apparatus and never use a filtering cartridge. You will need to use breathing apparatus in a confined space or if there is a chance of an oxygen deficiency in the work area. All this an employer should consider before purchasing respirators.

The choice of work-suit materials includes flame-retardant, anti-static, chain mail, chemically impermeable and highly visible material. Don’t forget other protection like safety harnesses or life jackets.

Check with your supplier on what PPE is appropriate, explain the job to them. If in doubt, seek further advice from a specialist adviser.

Posted date: 13th Oct 2014
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