Personal protective equipment (PPE) will vary greatly on the specific job, type of protection needed, and any applicable safety regulations. Some of the more common types of PPE include hardhats, gloves, safety glasses, face shields & masks, protective suits & hoods, and ear plugs. In many cases, PPE is often considered to be a last line of defense against the various safety hazards found in the workplace. For example, proper PPE could very well mean the difference between life and death for an electrical worker in the event of an arc flash. In other circumstances, PPE is the first line of defense. For example, in many steel mills, a worker might not even be able to perform their job unless they are protected from the extreme radiant heat emitting from the molten metal. Whether it’s protecting against hazards that are constantly present, or protecting against an unforeseen accident, PPE is a critical part of developing a culture of health and safety in the workplace.
Providing adequate PPE is not only a worthwhile investment in the safety of your employees, but, in most cases, required by government regulatory agencies, such as OSHA. With that said, let’s discuss 5 ways you can maximize your investment in PPE.
1. Choose Reputable PPE Manufacturers & Suppliers
In the beginning stages of sourcing PPE, it’s a good idea to do your homework on the best manufacturers and/or suppliers of the PPE that you need. The term “best” will vary depending on your specific criteria, but typically, you’d want a supplier that has been in business for an extended period, has a good reputation in the industry, and that has advanced knowledge in materials science and safety standards specific to your industry. They should also have a readily available customer support staff to answer any questions you might have. It’s also critical that the PPE being manufactured is designed to the performance specifications of that industry. For example, face and eye PPE needs to, at minimum, meet the specifications of ANSI Z87.1.
2. Ensure Your PPE Supply Chain is Reliable
Protection for the worker should always be the top priority when choosing a PPE supplier. However, the next priority on the list should be the availability of the PPE needed. A particular manufacturer might make the greatest widget in the world, but this means nothing if you can’t get the product, or at least get it in a timely manner. Workers across the globe depend on the availability of PPE not just for their safety, but to remain in regulatory compliance. In general, it’s best to go with a supplier with an established distribution network, flexible shipping options, and readily available supply. For U.S.-based workers, it’s also a good idea to choose PPE that is made in the U.S.A. Not only will this ensure high quality products, but you can avoid some of supply chain issues associated with overseas shipping.
3. Choose PPE that is Built to Last
For industrial buyers, cost is often the driving factor in determining where to source your PPE. This is especially true during periods of high inflation and rising prices. While it’s tempting to choose PPE that is the least expensive, it’s a good idea to weigh the short-term vs. long-term costs. Many times, the cheapest PPE will need to be replaced at a higher frequency than PPE that costs more. Therefore, even though you’re initially saving money, over the course of months or years, you may find yourself paying more for replacing cheaper PPE more often than more durable PPE that might have a higher upfront cost.
4. Clean, Maintain and Protect Your PPE
In many working environments, PPE is disposable, and meant for use only for a single shift (or less) before needing to be discarded. An example of this would be nitrile gloves, masks, and disposable face shields used by medical professionals. However, PPE for severe industrial applications is designed to hold up to the rigors of the job and shouldn’t have to be replaced all the time. This of course will depend on frequency of use, temperature & UV exposure, and nature of the work being performed, among other factors. In order to extend the service life of your PPE, almost all manufacturers will recommend regular cleaning and maintenance, and most will provide instructions on how to do this. In addition to cleaning, which is the process of removing dirt, oil, and debris to keep your PPE in good working order, it’s also advisable to sanitize your PPE to prevent the spread of germs. This is especially a good idea if multiple workers will be sharing the same PPE.
5. Foster and Develop a Strong Safety Culture
One of the biggest challenges that safety managers face is non-compliance of workers who choose not to wear their PPE. This can be driven by multiple factors, including lack of training, complacency, or the perception that PPE is uncomfortable and unnecessary. In order to influence change in this behavior, it’s imperative that companies develop and foster and culture of safety that permeates throughout the organization, from the CEO to the frontline worker. When safety is at the forefront of everything you do, PPE becomes a natural (and necessary) part of the overall equation. It’s also a good idea to develop strong partnerships with your PPE suppliers so that you may stay in the know about advancements in not just safety, but also things like comfort, lightweight and breathable materials, and freedom of movement for the worker. When workers are more comfortable in their PPE, they’re more likely to wear it, which not only drives regulatory compliance, but also enhances your overall safety culture.
Paulson Mfg. is an industry leader in manufacturing world-class face and eye protection for industrial workers and first responders. We proudly manufacture our products in Temecula, CA, using U.S.-based raw materials. If you’d like to learn more about how we can maximize your investment in face and eye PPE, please contact us today.