The last line of defence really has to work for your workforce
Although the last level of defence in the risk control hierarchy, the purchasing of personal protective equipment must be done with diligence and awareness of many factors. Often, this is not the case and it is done without even consultation with the health and safety professional, which should be the first step.
PPE procurement must fit into the risk control strategy and be pertinent to the risks that are faced by the workforce. If unsuitable it will simply be a waste of money, with no reduction in the risk profile of the tasks being undertaken.
Due care and attention
Even seemingly simple health and safety procurement can be fraught with pitfalls. Safety helmets, for example, come in many different designs for the risks that are posed in differing industries. The best approach is one of inclusion into the process of both the health and safety professional and the manufacturer, to ensure that the products that are purchased are applicable to the risks posed.
Care has to be taken to ensure that suppliers are vetted and that equipment conforms to recognised standards. These may differ from location to location but in general the CE mark, BS standards and ANSI standards are considered to be leaders in standards worldwide, and can generally be relied on.
Counterfeit items are a problem across all industries and products, but when we are relying on these products to protect ourselves and our workforce from harm the need to ensure their authenticity is particularly important. Procurement managers need to ensure that all items come from genuine sources that apply the standards mentioned above, to ensure that all equipment is fit for purpose and provides the level of protection required. If in any doubt, then it would be good practise to rely on those manufacturers that are better known.
Further to this, if items are branded to a certain manufacturer but you are not sure of their original source, then it is always good practise to contact the manufacturer directly and enquire as to whether they have an outlet or agent in the area. This also informs them if their product is being counterfeited, allowing them to take action to cease the process.
One area often overlooked is the issue of wearer comfort and wearability. In our environment in the Middle East it is clear that this is of very great importance, especially due to the need for clothing to have the ability to allow sweat to evaporate and the skin to ‘breathe’. Many new materials have entered the marketplace designed for just this purpose and managers need to be able to be innovative, and bring in solutions that allow greater comfort for workers, allowing them to concentrate on their work and not suffer from heat related illnesses.
In short, PPE is the last line of defence in the risk control hierarchy, but without proper oversight, genuine items, worker wearability, good health and safety guidance on its use and training, it can be no defence at all.
Published: 14th May 2014 in Health and Safety Middle East