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Four requirements you must meet to make sure your PPE is an effective health and safety control measure

by , 03 March 2015
In your risk assessment you recognise the need to give your employees Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

What you may not know is that PPE should be your last resort.

For PPE to be effective and help you with your risk management efforts, you have to make sure you meet the following four requirements.

Using PPE as a health and safety risk control measure? For it to be effective, make sure it meets these four requirements

PPE is anything your employees wear to protect them from risks. This includes boots, face masks, hard hats, ear plugs, respirators, gloves, safety harnesses, high visibility clothing, etc.
For it to be effective as a health and safety risk control measure, it must meet these four conditions:
#1: You must choose it to reduce the effects of the hazard
It doesn't make sense to give your employee a dust mask to protect them against fumes. Instead, give him a respirator.
To choose the correct PPE for the job, safeworkaustralia.gov.au recommends you apply these tips:
  • Consult with your employees and their representatives. They're the ones who will use the PPE; and
  • Talk with your supplier to make sure PPE is suitable for the work and workplace conditions.
In addition, experts at the Health & Safety Club advise you follow these guidelines when you choose PPE:
  • Make sure your safety gear complies with Personal Protective Equipment Regulations. You can find out more about these regulations in the OHS Act.
  • If your employees must wear more than one item of PPE at the same time, make sure they can do so safely. For example, they need to be able to wear a hard hat without it affecting their safety goggles.
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Take this quick quiz to find out if you can handle the DoL hot seat
  • Which risk assessments have to be checked by an approved inspector every two years?
  • Is it absolutely necessary for your company to appoint and train someone as a risk assessor?
  • When was the last time you did a risk assessment? (Is that too long?)
  • Have you checked and double checked the less obvious health hazards?

If you can't answer even one of these questions you're not only putting your employee's lives at risk; you're also putting yourself in danger of massive fine from the DoL.
Don't wait until it's too late.
Learn how to do your risk assessments correctly here.

#2: Make sure the PPE fits the user
The PPE needs to fit the user correctly for maximum protection.
Consider the size, fit and weight of the PPE to make sure your employees can work safely when they wear it.
Also take into account that PPE for male employees may not be suitable for female employees. For example, a face mask that's suitable for males may not be suitable for females with small facial bone structure.
#3: Train employees on the correct use of PPE
In this article, we explain that if you don't give your employee PPE training, he won't understand important points such as:
  • Why he must wear this PPE;
  • How to take care of his PPE;
  • What will happen if he doesn't wear his PPE;
  • Where he must store his PPE;
  • When he must use his PPE; and
  • What the rules around using his PPE are.
Train on your employees so they know how to use their PPE correctly. The best way to do this is to conduct a toolbox talk on PPE. The Toolbox Talks Kit will help you with this.
#4: Have a documented procedure for issuing and replacing PPE
Following a procedure will help you:
  • Track who's abusing, damaging, losing or even selling your company's PPE;
  • Make sure all your employees have the correct PPE;
  • See which PPE isn't working properly; and
  • Prove your compliance incase the DoL investigates accidents in your workplace.
There you have it: PPE can only be effective as a health and safety risk control measure if you meet these four requirements. So stick to them to improve your risk management efforts.

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