PPE is designed to protect workers from workplace hazards and risk but PPE doesn’t last as long as you’d think. Once you have the equipment, your job isn’t over! It all depends on how often your PPE is used and in which conditions. PPE needs to be inspected regularly to measure and test safety, but who should be in charge of carrying out those checks and determining when replacement is necessary? Is it the employer? The department manager? Or should there be employee PPE responsibilities? The easiest answer is that there should be a dedicated employee or team of employees who are responsible for each type of equipment.
Assigning an important task to your employees helps them take ownership of their well-being and safety. Of course, ultimately, it’s the employer's responsibility to provide a safe work space through correct health and safety procedures and measures, but having someone responsible for routine checks is a good idea with a more overarching view taken on, say, a quarterly basis.
Inspect Equipment Regularly
Assign a team to check different pieces of PPE equipment regularly. Create a system where any damage is reported immediately, and all damaged equipment is replaced before the employee returns to work. A manager should probably oversee the larger equipment checks, but individual employees can take responsibility for their own safety and check each other’s equipment too.
Eye protection is one of the longest lasting PPE items, so that should only be checked every year and reported to a designated person if it is damaged, it should be replaced within the hour or before that employee resumes his or her duties. Safety boots should be checked by the individual wearer and should be replaced every 6-12 months, usually. If you use respirators in your workplace, those need to be examined daily for safety as do hard hats.
For a more detailed look at how long equipment lasts, click here and find out more in our FREE PPE checklist.
Hold Employees and Yourself Accountable A Good PPE Program: Conducts a Workplace Survey Assesses Safety Measures Selects Appropriate Controls Selects the Right Equipment Conducts Fit Tests Trains Employees on Equipment Use Offers Management Support Maintains and Stores Equipment Correctly Audits the Programme Regularly
A good PPE programme will include a workplace survey, assessing the safety measures that need to be in place; selecting the appropriate controls; selecting the appropriate equipment; conducting fit tests; training your employees on how to use the equipment; manager support; correct maintenance and storage; and regular programme audits.
Hold yourself accountable for the overarching pieces of the puzzle - helping select equipment, setting up guidelines, providing training, audits, and so forth - but you can hold your employees responsible for day to day maintenance, cleaning, and storage. You can also hold workers accountable for reporting any faulty equipment.
If your employee reports faulty equipment and you do not replace it, then you are responsible. Make sure your employee knows that reporting damaged equipment is key for their safety.
Replace Equipment When Needed
Always keep a stock of equipment on your premises, and keep the phone number (or online ordering form) for a reputable company on hand when you need extras. That way if equipment needs replacing, you can replace it quickly and safely. But keep in mind that some types of equipment can break down over time even if they’re unused (like hard hats and dust masks), but that’s only for equipment that has a date stamp on it.
It's important to create a culture of responsible PPE use in the workplace. Having well stocked supplies and employees seeing the regular deliveries of new equipment will generate a sense of responsibility. When employees see a lack of commitment to PPE on the employers part (i.e. not regularly restocked and not up to regulation standards) - just as the "Broken Windows Theory" suggests - they are much less likely to have that same motivation to implement a safe environment for themselves or others. Lead by example - you want to set a great example for your employees and demand that safety is taken seriously. If you do not adhere to safety standards it costs both you and your employee money - perhaps in sick days, compensation, or lost time at work.
You're not in danger of overstocking! Certain equipment can last for years when correctly stored and unused (boots, ear plugs, safety goggles, gloves, and so forth). Keep in mind, though, that once used, some has to be discarded and replaced daily (such as disposable earplugs). Make sure you know and keep a record of when equipment has gone into circulation - when it’s being used - how often it’s inspected, and when it will likely need replacing - if it’s not damaged before that date.
Find out if you’re PPE Compliant with our FREE Checklist
Need a handy chart to see when equipment should be replaced, how it should be maintained, cleaned, and stored, and more? Download your FREE checklist now. You can use this checklist to encourage and manage your employee PPE responsibilities.