How to Choose the Right PPE for Your Employees
Worker safety is a vital consideration that employers of all kinds need to address, both in short-term responses to localised incidents and long-term policies that promote proper health and safety. Whatever your industry, health and safety is a paramount concern; administrative offices present trip hazards, electrical hazards and risks relating to musculoskeletal injury, just as active work sites present more obvious and immediate hazards.
Any approach to managing risk on-site or on-premises needs to be holistic, taking in a number of approaches and factors to effectively create a safe environment. Training is one part of this equation, as is policy-making – but direct interventions such as signage and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are also essential. Here, we will focus on the latter, and what makes an item of PPE suitable for promoting proper health and safety at work.
As an employer, it’s your responsibility to provide a safe working environment for your employees. Choosing the right PPE for your employees can be a daunting task, especially if you’re new to the industry. Here are some tips to help you make the right choice:
Identify the Hazards in Your Workplace
The first step in choosing the right PPE for your employees is to identify the hazards that exist in your workplace. Some of the common hazards that PPE can protect against include:
- Fire and heat
- Biological agents
- Flying debris
- Sharp objects
Once you have identified the hazards, you can then choose the appropriate PPE to protect your employees.
Understand the Types of PPE
There are several types of PPE available, and each type is designed to protect against specific hazards. Some of the most common types of PPE include:
- Eye protection
- Hearing protection
- Hard hats
- High-visibility clothing
- Fall protection equipment
It’s important to understand the different types of PPE and choose the appropriate equipment for your employees based on the hazards present in your workplace.
Ensure Proper Fit
PPE must fit properly to provide adequate protection. Ill-fitting PPE can be uncomfortable and can even increase the risk of injury. When choosing PPE, ensure that it fits properly and is comfortable to wear.
Train Your Employees
Once you have chosen the appropriate PPE, it’s important to train your employees on how to use and maintain it properly. Proper use and maintenance of PPE can help prolong its lifespan and ensure that it provides adequate protection.
The principal way in which you should be defining your employees’ PPE needs is through the in-depth assessment of risk in relation to your business’s premises and niche. Risk assessments are legally required of businesses in order to effectively minimise risk to workers, but can be engaged in numerous ways to minimise that risk.
The main purpose of risk assessment is to identify specific risks and to assign specific employees executive oversight of managing each risk. This way, solutions are identified and implemented with accountability. PPE forms part of the potential solution – a last resort in the Hierarchy of Controls that puts a physical barrier between worker and injury. But the PPE still needs to be ensured as suitable for the risk at hand.
Protective equipment, in a large majority of cases, needs to be durable enough to withstand significant force or extended usage. Protective footwear used in construction scenarios needs to exhibit anti-penetration qualities as well as slip resistance, to protect the feet from sharp objects; outerwear needs to resist slashes to protect the skin.
Of course, there are caveats to this. There are instances where protective equipment needs to fail in order to protect the user, just as crumple zones are designed for cars to protect their occupants. A completely unbreakable hard hat would risk more damage to a user than one capable of bending and even cracking under intense pressure.
There is also a key practicality element to PPE and its provision. Certain brands or iterations of a given item may be less suitable than others, on account of the comfort or mobility they afford the wearer. Extensive layers of workwear might render a worker more of a danger to others on-site, for example, on account of reduced movement.
Lastly, an unfortunate element to consider is that of cost. Higher-quality items of PPE are invariably more expensive, essentially attributing a price to additional safety. Shrewd decisions need to be made here, where cutting costs by buying cheaper-grade pieces of equipment can have detrimental effects on both safety and morale. There may be ways to reclaim any additional costs incurred by buying higher quality safety equipment, though – particularly as a contractor.
Choosing the right personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers involves several steps and considerations. Selecting the appropriate PPE for workers requires a thorough understanding of the hazards present in the work environment and a careful evaluation of the available options to determine the best PPE for protecting workers while allowing them to perform their job safely and efficiently.