Signs That It’s Time To Replace Your PPE - A Detailed Guide

Signs That It’s Time To Replace Your PPE - A Detailed Guide

Personal Protective Equipment is mandatory in workplaces. The type of PPE required depends upon the working conditions. The goal is to keep the workers safe from various hazards. So as to prevent injuries and fatalities, OSHA made it compulsory to use PPE. The most commonly used PPE are gloves, eyewear, bodysuits, vests – regular and high visibility. Steel toe boots, ear protection, coveralls, face shields, masks, are a few more to mention. The employers are not only responsible for hazard assessment, PPE selection, but also training the employees to use them. As everything wears, so does the PPE. It can be fatal to wear faulty, poorly maintained, or damaged PPE. The employee should check the PPE before use. In case of wear, tear, or damage, it should be replaced. Today we are discussing when to replace the PPE.

The Factors That Inform When To Replace The PPE

Signs That It’s Time To Replace Your PPE - A Detailed Guide

There are a few telltale signs that inform you that the PPE should be replaced.

Expiration Date

Some Personal Protective Equipment comes with an expiration date. The suppliers also include information on how to use it. And the signs when you should replace the equipment. Make sure you do not use outdated equipment as materials tend to degrade when not stored properly.

For example – rubber tends to dry up and become brittle in dry and hot conditions. It tends to weaken and become sticky in humid and hot conditions. This may also happen because of biological agents such as mildew and mold.

This is because rubber/latex is biodegradable. It is prudent to note that the expiration date is usually printed along with the manufacturing date. But if it is not – check the equipment before you use it. At any signs of wear or compromise, replace the equipment. Better safe than sorry!

Discoloration

When a new Personal Protective Equipment is unpacked, it has a certain smell, feel, and color to it.

For example, latex gloves are white, have a sharp smell, smooth dry feel on the outside and a powder sprinkled on the inside. If the glove is discolored to a yellow or any other color, do not use them. Or check before you put your hand into it.

But it is noteworthy gloves are blue and yellow depending upon the task and their toughness to the reagents and chemicals. So pick the right ones for the right job. If they look discolored, check the reason and then discard them.

Some equipment such as oxygen masks, tubings, are supposed to be transparent and clean. If they look yellow and faded. If they are not transparent, it is time to replace them.

One Time Use

Some PPE like latex gloves, disposable surgical gowns – are for one time use. Do not try reusing them. If you have worked with bio-hazards, you have the chance of being infected. If this one-time use PPE appears discolored on unpacking, do not use it.

Visible Damage

If the PPE has cuts or wears that are noticeable. Then do not wear them. The employer should put policies in place to care for and maintain the PPE. They should check if it is worn or torn before wearing it. The PPE should be replaced every year for maximum protection.

OSHA personnel conduct surprise inspections for Personal Protective Equipment. Always schedule appointments with the representative to check the PPE on your company site. Save the certifications you get in place.

How To Make The Most Of The PPE?

Signs That It’s Time To Replace Your PPE - A Detailed Guide

As with all material things Personal Protective Equipment wears too. These tips will help make the most of the PPE.

Ensure you buy authentic PPE and buy it from a trusted supplier. The fact of the times is that some companies outsource their manufacturing process. The PPE may not pass through stringent quality control tests. This carelessness may cause a worker’s life or limb.

Do not buy in bulk and try on a few samples of PPE. Test them in the conditions you will use them in. This quality control will help you when dealing with the actual hazard.

Employee Training will make them aware of the properties of the PPE and its uses. They should also train – how to put on the PPE. Some PPE is made of latex and other non-woven materials. If pulled on harshly, they can tear this compromises the protection they are worn for. Thus it is very important to learn how to put on the PPE.

How to remove it – Workers should remove the PPE only after they are out of the hazardous area. Then they should gently remove the PPE. Check for any compromises, tear, or wear. Clean it and then store it.

How to care for it – Workers should spend some time cleaning, polishing, checking the PPE for signs of wear and tear. If it is – boots – then get acquainted with them. Brush them clean. If the boots are made of leather, polish them with a dyed boot polish or oil. Check the heels, toes, upper, and sole for any signs of wear. If the protective toe, puncture plate, or metatarsal guard is visible, then replace the boot.

Store the PPE properly. This helps prolong their life. After you have cleaned the PPE. Do not leave them out to be tossed around or stepped upon. Keep them in a proper locker. If it is a metal locker, place a paper liner, then place the PPE.

If there is a bar in the locker – hang the PPE. Wooden cabinets are excellent for storage as it absorbs moisture and odors. This prolongs the PPE’s life. Make use of the box/cabinet or locker that has slits or breathing holes. The ventilation removes odors and sweat from the PPE, keeping it fresh for the next time. This also removes various substances that may cause the deterioration of the PPE material.

Some safety boots and suits have antimicrobial linings that prevent the build-up of mildew, microbes, and molds. The PPE should not accumulate dirt, dust, and other contaminants. Such care can enhance the performance, life, and comfort of the safety boot.

Common Myths Associated With PPE

Signs That It’s Time To Replace Your PPE - A Detailed Guide

Some employees avoid wearing PPE for two reasons. The first reason is – it is costly and a re-investment in their safety seems like non-essential spending. The truth is – it is very important to use the recommended PPE. It saves many lives and limbs.

The second reason – it is uncomfortable. Manufacturers use lightweight, breathable and moisture-wicking materials that feel like regular clothing and shoes. Thus this just a lame excuse that the PPE is uncomfortable.

There are unfounded myths about PPE which create resistance to its use.

Some workers think – why to don the PPE this job will take only a few minutes.

The fact is – they are trying to avoid using the PPE as it will require cleaning and care after use. If it wears or tears – it will require replacement. That would be an additional cost. Nothing is more important than the worker’s life. And it is in these “few minutes” the injuries and fatalities occur.

Employees believe they cannot make the workers wear PPE.

The fact is that using PPE is mandatory by OSHA regulation. OSHA conducts surprise inspections without notice. Failure to comply with the safety regulations results in sanctions and steep fines. According to the OSHA Publication from 2019, maximum penalties can be as high as $13,260 for serious violations. The  “failure to abate” violations can cost a company up to $13,260 per day. Repeated violations can be fined up to $132,598. Thus, the employer has to ensure the employees use the PPE.

Using PPE affects the dexterity of the worker.

Getting the right fit and training in the PPE helps get a better feel of the work, tools, and workspace. Your gloves will not feel slippery if you train in them. Your mind adjusts to the new feel. Besides, modern PPE such as gloves are textured at the fingertips. The PPE tries to mimic the human body to overcome this problem. The problem is that workers feel disjointed from their environment – training helps overcome this feeling.

Mishaps are unavoidable, but using the PPE helps reduce them.

FAQs

How to ensure 100% compliance for PPE use by the employees?

To enjoy 100% compliance;

  • adopt safety as a core value
  • choose high-quality comfortable PPE that workers wear by themselves. For example – while choosing the gloves, ensure the right fit. It should have a protective outer layer and a comfortable inner lining that is quick-drying and moisture-wicking. While picking a vest, ensure it has high-visibility features such as reflective tape, etc. It should have a nylon mesh for proper airflow.
  • lead by example – even for a few minutes use the PPE
  • to keep some extras – in case one set of PPE is compromised. The worker should have access to another set to prevent downtime.
  • create a culture of accountability. When one worker is secure, others are secure. They are not only responsible for their families, but also other workers. Because others follow by example. By being a responsible worker, the person is inspiring others to follow. This makes it easier to implement the policies.

Which employees require ASTM F2413-Compliant Footwear?

OSHA has mandated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for certain work environments. These work environments are industrial, service, construction, and government fields. Section 29 CFR 1910.136 (a) of OSHA Standards state the parameters and regulations for protective footwear clearly.

It expects the employer to offer Personal Protective Equipment to affected employees. They should be protected from falling, rolling, or piercing objects. The footwear should also protect against electrical hazards and static discharge.

Every workplace is different, thus to ascertain the type of protection required. The in-house safety staff or a hired consultant should assess the workplace for hazards. The PPE is recommended accordingly. To make sure that the employee receives various types of protection. This footwear is subjected to Standardized tests.

Does OSHA facilitate employers to remain updated regarding PPE and safety regulations?

OSHA offers training and guidance to companies. They also offer through grants and form strategic partnership programs within the associations and the trade unions. They offer voluntary protection programs besides consultation assistance for employers who want to comply with the federal regulations. They also offer resources – they are mentioned on the OSHA website.

Do ASTM F2413-18-compliant boots meet OSHA Work Boot Requirements?

In 2018, ASTM International introduced three updates for footwear standards. These updates covered the test methods for F2412 – foot protection, F2413 – protective (safety) toe cap footwear, and F2892 – non-safety or soft-toe protective footwear. These standards guide the test labs and companies to improve testing methods and performance data collection. All three updates are OSHA Work Boot Requirements.

Conclusion

It is challenging to know when to replace the PPE. Yet you have to keep the employees safe. To ensure they use the PPE correctly. Assess the workplace for hazards. Discuss the PPE with the users and ask for reviews and suggestions. When they are invested in the safety program, they will use the PPE.

Train them to use it correctly. Get the right fit so their dexterity is not affected. Tell them – using the PPE is training in it. This improves maneuverability while wearing the equipment. And lead by example, wear the PPE when you enter that section of the workplace. Check the PPE while in the locker room. This sets an example for the workers to follow.

Set up an equipment schedule on your smartphone or make it a team activity. The OSHA suggests that the employer either pay in part or full for the PPE or reimburse the employee. This takes the economic burden off the employee, ensuring they comply with Safety Standards.

References

  • https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3151.pdf
  • https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3951.pdf
  • https://www.osha.gov/personal-protective-equipment
  • https://www.ppe.org/employers-replace-ppe/#gsc.tab=0

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