No cutting corners with PPE

No cutting corners with PPE

With the possibility of another credit rating downgrade looming, economists are predicting that there could be tough economic times ahead. ANLERIE DE WET finds out if personal protective equipment (PPE) is an acceptable victim for companies’ inevitable budget-cuts

A company’s responsibility for the safety of its employees should remain ever present. Christo Nel, director sales and marketing in Africa for Uvex, says companies shouldn’t cut their PPE budget during difficult economic times, because the safety of people should never be compromised.

“Quality PPE is essential for the protection of workers, and by cutting PPE budgets companies are essentially unable to implement and maintain a proper health and safety programme that will ensure the safety of their workers,” says Nel.

Ndlela Mazibuko, group sales manager at BBF Safety, says: “Quality PPE serves as a dual protection to both employees and employers alike. In the event of an accident as a result of inferior PPE, the effects on the wearer can be dire and can result in injury and loss of earning potential.

“This can directly affect their own livelihood, as well as that of their families. It can also be costly to a company in terms of legal costs and a loss of productivity.”

Nel says: “It is completely unacceptable for companies to cut their PPE budget. Every economy, whether challenging or not, is built on the health and safety of its people. A balanced approach needs to be taken to manage costs, and this cannot be done by risking the safety of the people who need to build the economy.”

According to Nel, the annual costs of occupational injuries can place a serious financial burden on companies and harm the growth of developing economies. By employing the correct PPE strategy, companies can still maintain and control their budgets without risking the safety of their people.

“When companies cut their PPE budget, they generally buy less expensive PPE, but this may cause additional problems. Too often this ends up having an adverse effect. PPE expenditure can rise due to increased product waste and higher cost-in-use products,” Nel adds

Mazibuko believes that when budget cuts are looming, companies replace PPE less frequently and look for cheaper products. “Unfortunately, when companies react this way they are looking only at the short-term costs. High-quality PPE costs
more because the product is typically developed from superior quality components, thereby making it more durable and ultimately longer lasting,” he says.

Nel notes that small businesses often resort to making their own DIY PPE, while adopting the “it won’t happen to me” mindset. “This never ends well and mistakes are usually realised too late,” he says.

Just like thousands of others, Mazibuko has seen the ridiculous videos and photographs on the internet of people wearing DIY PPE.

“I think the worst that I have seen are individuals wearing sunglasses while welding. However, the increase in the importance of workplace safety, including stricter legislation, has had a positive impact of these practices,” says Mazibuko.

Nel strongly urges companies not to resort to this dangerous behaviour. “The manufacturing of certified, quality PPE is a highly specialised and knowledge-intensive industry. Researching, developing and manufacturing the right PPE requires years of expertise, experience and specialised machinery,” he explains.

Mazibuko adds: “Without a huge capital investment into highly technical machinery, it is unlikely that an individual could produce a product worthy of ISO certification.”

Mazibuko concludes: “One of the frightening things that we witness on a daily basis is inferior footwear products. Claims made about their quality cannot be substantiated when they are tested, such as steel toe caps that fail impact tests and inferior polyurethane soles. The unfortunate thing with these types of failures is that they will only be realised in the event of an accident. We strongly recommend that companies find a trusted supplier for their PPE.”

Nel agrees that the risk is real. “Occupational diseases and injuries are permanent and some of the risks are life threatening. This is not about budgets and nameless employees, but about protecting people’s livelihoods and their families,” he says.

These PPE experts strongly believe that good quality certified PPE, supported by a well-implemented health and safety programme is not a luxury, but an absolute necessity.

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