As an employer, if your workspace creates potential risks to the people that work there, then you are legally obliged to ensure that the right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is provided to all members of staff.
If you regularly use PPE, you may want to know when it’s appropriate to reuse, or replace it. Fortunately, the team at Protec Direct have created this guide to PPE care. Here, you’ll find information sourced from the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992), advising on best practice when it comes to reusing or replacing PPE. As well as this, we offer some helpful tips on extending the shelf life of your equipment. Read on to find out more.
What is PPE?
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is equipment employers are legally required to supply to each member of their team, should they be working in a potentially dangerous environment. This can range from hearing protection, to high visibility wear or hard hats.
According to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992), before choosing any PPE an employer should ensure a full assessment is made to determine that it is suitable. This should involve:
- Undertaking a risk assessment to highlight all the dangers of the workspace
- Identifying the features that the PPE must have to protect against these risks
- Considering whether the PPE is compatible with any other equipment the person will be wearing at the same time
Once you’re fully equipped with the necessary materials to keep your team safe, it’s important to stay clued-up on when to reuse, or replace it.
When is it unacceptable to reuse PPE?
On purchasing your PPE, it’s important to know whether the equipment is single-use. Single-use equipment doesn’t secure the individual’s safety if it is shared or reused, and in fact reusing it may put the employee at an even bigger risk. This is because if exposed to used PPE, the wearer may come into contact with infectious materials. As per the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992), you and your employees must not reuse disposable PPE. Some examples of these are:
It’s important to note that even if you wash disposable PPE, this does not ensure the safety of the wearer. Particularly because through washing the equipment the protective barrier capabilities may be altered; rendering it ineffective and thus dangerous.
When is it acceptable to reuse PPE?
There are occasions when PPE can be reused. In this instance, it’s advised that you put in place an effective maintenance process that includes the following:
- Examination: check for any faults, damage, wear-and-tear, dirt etc.
- Testing: ensure the PPE is operating as it should be
- Ready for use: check the equipment is fully prepared for use. For example, is it dry after being cleaned, or at the right temperature? Considering whether the PPE is compatible with any other equipment the person will be wearing at the same time
- Clean: ensure the equipment is disinfected, if appropriate
- Repair: if any damage has incurred, make sure the equipment is repaired
This process should always be carried out by a trained member of staff who has the expertise and knowledge to identify potential hazards. The final examination for an effective maintenance process is to replace all equipment as, and when, it’s necessary.
Can PPE be shared?
While most equipment is assigned to individuals, in some cases it may have more than one user. When this happens, the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992) stipulates that there should be arrangements made for the thorough cleaning and disinfection to manage the health risks of the next person using it. However, this only applies as long as the equipment is explicitly labelled as a reusable product.
When should I re-buy PPE?
All PPE has a ‘shelf life.’ Once the equipment has been used for an extended period of time, or has been damaged beyond repair, it should be replaced immediately with new PPE, as to meet with the legal requirements. In order to extend the shelf life of your equipment, remember to responsibly store it. For example, storing the equipment in a cool and dry space that’s hygienic and monitored regularly.
We hope you’ve found this blog post useful, and you’re equipped with the knowledge to responsibly protect your teams from harm. For more information, you can read our blog post on employers’ responsibilities when providing PPE.
If you have equipment that needs replacing, shop our full range of PPE today. Should you have any further queries about choosing the correct equipment for your employees, please don’t hesitate to contact a member of our team who will be more than happy to assist you.