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How Long Does PPE Last? (Not As Long As You Think)

How long does PPE last? Well, it’s not as long as you think. Sure, there’s a recommended shelf life for everything - work boots should last 6-12 months; hard hats should last up to 5 years; eye protection should last up to 3 years; and ear protectors should last 6-8 months - but it really all depends on how the equipment is used. It’s a no brainer that if you work in hazardous conditions with extreme heat or cold or dust, your equipment will not last the recommended time.

It would be difficult to cover every single type of PPE equipment from head protection to hearing protection to eye protection to respiratory protection (and more), but here are some quick rules as to when your equipment should be replaced. (Most of these tips will be somewhat common sense.) The important factor is safety, and if any part of your equipment is defective or damaged, it’s no longer safe and will need replacing.

Replace any equipment that is damaged, defective, or worn. Replace if equipment is cracked, gouged, excessively scratched, ill-fitting, or broken. Replace equipment if exposed to excess dust, sunlight, humidity, extreme cold/heat, and chemicals. Replace equipment that is heavily soiled or anything damaged from UV rays, chemicals, sunlight, or tearing (for clothing). Replace anything that no longer works to provide safety to the wearer. Replace equipment by its “shelf life” at the maximum. Always throw away disposable PPE (ear plugs, dust masks, gloves, respiratory filters, etc.) after use.

To lengthen the shelf life of your PPE, maintain and clean equipment regularly, and store your equipment properly. Inspect PPE equipment on a schedule, and make regular checklists to ensure you are meeting the highest safety standards.

Here are some common types of PPE and what to do with them.

Hard Hats:

Hard hats can last a really long time if they’re taken care of, but with the hazardous nature of work that requires hard hats, it’s more of a nice idea than a reality. Hard hats can last up to five years maximum, but it’s recommended that you replace them every two years - or sooner if they sustain impact. If your hard hat collides with debris, then it’s time for a new one; it will no longer be effective protection for your head. Always inspect your suspensions. Suspensions need replacing every 12 months. Take a look at your hat to make sure there’s no cracking or gouging. If your hat will be exposed to lots of sunlight, UV rays, extreme temperatures, chemicals, or used daily, the lifespan will decrease. If your shell is cracking or flaking, it’s not safe and needs replacing. Hats can be washed daily and air dried to help prolong life. 


Hi-Visibility Clothing:

High visibility clothing is made of luminous fluorescent material with reflective tape. UV rays reacts with the material to make them appear to glow. Hi-vis material can be seen up to 300 metres away, when normal visibility is no more than 50 metres, so it really makes a difference! During the night, other light sources (car headlights, lamp posts, etc) bounce from the reflective areas. That’s why you need both properties - the material and the tape - to be seen. To make it last longer, hi-vis clothing needs to be cleaned regularly.

Hi-vis clothing needs to be replaced when it’s faded, torn, dirty, soiled, worn, defaced, or not visible from 300m, day or night. The expected life of hi-vis garments is 6 months, but if it’s not worn daily, it can last up to three years. If the safety is questionable, replace it. Clothing can wear out more quickly with regular use, exposure to sunlight, heat, and strenuous work that leads to soiling and tears. Cut up any clothing that is no longer effective PPE  to ensure it cannot be worn again.



Eye Goggles and Safety Glasses:

Goggles and safety glasses can technically last up to three years, but there’s a gray area between when something is useable and when safety has been compromised. In high-dust conditions where there’s lots of metal grinding, dirt, or sawdust, for example, safety eyewear can be gradually scratched over time, creating a sort of haze that impairs visibility. They may not be entirely compromised from their purpose, protecting your eyes from debris, but reduced visibility can still be a safety concern. It’s important to check for damage. Any pitted, scratched, broken, bent, or ill-fitting glasses should be replaced. If there are damaged parts, replace only with the same manufacturer-issued parts to ensure the same safety rating. Most definitely replace eyewear after three years if they are in circulation, no matter the condition.


Screen Printed Workwear (usually for Hi-Vis):

Workwear uniforms with screen printing have a shelf life when the clothing is washed regularly. Screen printing is long lasting, and should last as long as the garment does, but with industries that require heavy use, the printing may not last as long. Screen printing allows for a high level of detail with many colours, best used to create exciting, dynamic workwear. Printing will not impact on the safety of your garment.


Find out if your company is PPE compliant with out PPE checklist:


As said before, safety is the most important factor; after all, that’s why PPE regulations are around in the first place! Your PPE wear will last longer with care, but make sure you check equipment and items regularly to ensure the highest degree of safety for your employees.


Do you need new PPE?

If your PPE isn't lasting as long as you expected, it may be time to renew it. Our latest guide covers everything you need to know about buying PPE and customised workwear. Get your copy today: