How Can Workers Use PPE More Responsibly?

How Can Workers Use PPE More Responsibly?

Workers who are using PPE should inspect and wear it correctly.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is there to keep us safe in hazardous environments. This doesn’t mean that it’s only for use around chemicals—the pandemic has shown us the benefits of even simple items of PPE like masks and gloves for keeping things hygienic.

But PPE can often get misused or stored incorrectly, meaning that it isn’t as effective as it could be. On top of this, it can also get disposed of incorrectly, meaning that it generates unnecessary waste. Looking after PPE is the responsibility of everyone, as it keeps us all safe from harm. Here, we take a look at how workers can take care of and use their PPE more responsibly.

Understand the Purpose of PPE

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration states that PPE should be used to minimize exposure to hazards that could potentially lead to serious injuries and illnesses. PPE is designed to protect humans from chemical, radiological, physical, electrical and mechanical hazards—basically, it reduces the risk of you coming into contact with something that could harm you.

Inspect PPE Before Each Use for Damage or Defects

If your company bulk buys PPE, you may find that it ends up sitting in a cupboard for a period of time before it gets used. Or, for PPE that can be used multiple times, it simply gets hung up on a peg before being used again.

It’s vital that PPE is checked regularly to make sure that it’s still fit for purpose. Ideally, PPE should be kept away from moisture, light, dirt and abrasion in order to keep it in good condition and extend its life. By making PPE inspection part of your process, you can reduce the risk of anyone coming to harm, so it’s worth the extra time.

Wear PPE Properly and Do Not Modify it in Any Way

It can be easy to just quickly put on PPE in order to get started with the job at hand, but take some time to read the manufacturer’s instructions or undertake some training so that you can make sure that you’re wearing your PPE correctly.

It won’t always be comfortable, but it’s designed to keep you safe, so any modifications put you at unnecessary risk of harm.

Dispose of PPE Properly When It is No Longer Usable

Often, PPE consists of single-use products, especially in medical environments. This is sensible, because some items would be at risk of contaminating others if they were used more than once, but it’s a difficult situation to handle, especially when there is rising concern about the effect of single-use plastic on the environment. Whilst this will have dropped off a little bit now, at the height of the pandemic, the health service relied heavily on single-use PPE, with 14 million pieces being thrown away every day.

If you rely on PPE, make sure that you investigate any specialist disposal schemes that ensure it is disposed of responsibly. Not only can throwing this waste into the general rubbish bin mean that more people are at risk of contamination, but it can also easily escape into water systems and habitats in the area, doing harm to the environment and animals.

To Sum Up

PPE can be a useful tool in a variety of situations to keep workers safe, but it’s vital that it’s stored and used safely, and disposed of responsibly. Check your processes at your workplace and don’t be afraid to raise any concerns or suggestions that can make this issue safer for everyone.

About the Author

Elizabeth Long is a keen advocate for improving safety and processes in the workplace and aims to make this as simple as possible. Long writes meaningful posts, designed to give readers helpful take-home points that they can act on in their own lives.

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