Personal protection equipment (PPE) is the first line of defence against workplace accidents. However, for it to be effective, it must be used for the correct purpose, properly maintained and comfortable enough to wear for hours on end
SHEQ MANAGEMENT recently attended the latest South African Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Saiosh) continuing professional development workshop and it was, as always, superbly informative. The workshop addressed PPE, one of the most important areas of investment for any company that operates under high-risk conditions.
Safety equipment has come a long way since the days of one-size-fits-all overalls and hard hats. Advances in safety technology and the materials used for PPE mean we now have a variety of options from which to choose.
Gear such as safety glasses, gloves, coveralls and boots have evolved to address all types of work hazards from poisonous gases and potential fires to extreme temperature conditions.
Choosing the correct PPE for each application is crucial. Making sure it is comfortable to wear is essential – nobody is going to wear a respirator for eight hours if it’s ridiculously uncomfortable, no matter what the risks are. That’s just human nature.
That’s why companies such as Dromex and Uvex – both manufacturers and suppliers of PPE in South Africa – place so much emphasis on the comfort of their safety equipment. These companies understand that comfort is the key to ensuring PPE is used at all times. If an employee removes a hard hat or respirator, because it doesn’t fit properly or is hindering their work, it can have devastating results.
Stephan Mallet, general manager at Dromex, says that it’s the responsibility of the PPE supplier to provide training on its products. He adds that safety harnesses are one of the main products where proper training is required.
“I often see harnesses not being properly used or maintained. This is dangerous, as the person might not even be aware that they’re not properly secured. If harnesses are not maintained correctly. They’re also not going to last as long as they should,” he says.
It’s important for a company to determine exactly what safety equipment is needed, how to use it effectively and how to maintain it so it lasts and functions correctly. Dromex and Uvex have plenty of information on their websites, but PPE suppliers can also be contacted directly. They’ll be able to assess precisely what PPE is required for all applications in an organisation and provide instructions and training.
Safety glasses are one of the most important PPE purchases for any company that deals with potential hazards in the workplace. Applications include welding, low light conditions and situations that require UV protection. The type of safety glasses required will depend on the type of work environment.
Jarryd Swanepoel, product consultant at Uvex, says: “We try to pre-empt all types of workplace scenarios and have a wide range of safety glasses to choose from. Different lens colours serve different purposes and it’s important to understand their specific applications. Our website is very useful, but we encourage clients to contact us directly for advice on which glasses best suit their needs.”
According to Swanepoel, Uvex is constantly refining its safety glasses range for improved strength, protection and comfort. “We think it’s crucial to ensure the glasses are comfortable enough to wear all day. It’s pointless to design safety glasses that cause eye stress and headaches. People simply won’t wear them, or they will make their job very uncomfortable.”
It is fantastic to see the advances that have been made in the PPE industry over the last couple of decades. Rather than simply supplying the basics, it is impressive that manufacturers are paying attention to the details that ensure PPE not only does the job and fits well, it is even starting to look pretty darn good.