Choose Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in 3 Steps
“How to Choose PPE in 3 Steps” is an excerpt from Superior Glove’s PPE Bible “The Complete Guide to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) [+ Checklist Download].” Read the full guide for more information, including answers to industry workers’ 15 most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about PPE.
How to Choose PPE:
1. How Long Should Each Piece of PPE Last?
Unfortunately, due to variation among equipment types and how heavily they’re used across worksites, there isn’t a consistent answer to this question.
First, look into the manufacturer’s warranty and other information sources. Many manufacturers will offer a warranty period of at least one year, covering any sort of product failure. Their products may also include information tags, detailing life expectancy. For example, most hard hats come with these tags, stating the product lasts between three and five years.
Second, talk to colleagues who have used the kind of PPE you need. Word-of-mouth can lead you towards trusted brands, helping you find equipment designed to be effective for long periods.
Remember that the longevity of PPE plays a key role in your purchasing decision, ensuring you don’t have to buy equipment at a faster-than-expected rate.
2. When Do You Know it Should Be Replaced?
Take these factors and scenarios into account when deciding if it’s time to replace a piece of PPE:
- Manufacturer’s Information: Generally, manufacturers provide information about how to identify a piece of PPE’s “end of life.” This is typically based on a specific date or maximum service time.
- Damage: When certain pieces of PPE are involved in accidents, they need to be replaced. For example, if a safety helmet’s shell receives an irreparable scratch, you should replace it.
- Inspection: If a piece of PPE does not pass inspection, which will be discussed later in this guide, you must replace it.
3. How Do You Know if a Specific Piece Properly Fits?
To ensure employees can comfortably wear equipment, run fitting sessions and use information from PPE manufacturers.
Schedule timeslots for each worker who will wear PPE, taking their measurements and keeping a file with this information. Note any factors that may influence sizing. For example, if an employee wears prescription glasses, protective eyewear should fit over them.
Cross-reference your data with sizing charts, which your manufacturer of choice should provide.
Doing so will allow you to buy or distribute PPE that properly fits workers, effectively mitigating relevant risks.
As well as the three above questions, each kind of PPE has qualities you should factor into your purchasing decision.
The results of your job-hazard analysis should heavily inform the types of gloves you purchase. There isn’t a single solution to protect workers’ hands from all sorts of injuries. This is because gloves protect against a range of risks, such as abrasion and extreme heat.
The level of protection you need will vary. For example, if workers only face light cut hazards, they don’t need ANSI cut Level A9 gloves. To learn more about how to choose appropriate gloves, read our Definitive Guide to Hand Protection.
Similar to gloves, different lenses suit different work duties and environments.
- Polycarbonate is best for scratch and impact resistance, sometimes offering UV radiation protection.
- CR39 plastic resists solvents and pitting.
- Trivex offers more impact resistance than CR39 plastic, but less than polycarbonate.
The durability of glass eyewear varies and can lose impact resistance when scratched. Finally, you must choose the appropriate class of eyewear. As previously mentioned, these range between six classes – from spectacles to face shields.
Specific hazards will largely determine the protective footwear you choose.
Across Canada and the United States, CSA Group tests and certifies footwear with each hazard in mind. As previously mentioned, you can find CSA marks that indicate protection against:
- Electric shock
- Electrical conductivity
- Metatarsal impact
- Sole puncture
- Static discharge
- Toe impact
CSA standards also cover head protection.
As previously mentioned, it divides equipment into two types and three classes based on the part of the head it protects and the level of electrical resistance it provides. These classifications will allow you to find headgear that suits your workplace – just look for the CSA mark on the models that interest you.
When choosing PPE, you should have an understanding of this specific information.
To supplement it, it’s never a bad idea to consult manufacturers and your region or country’s occupational health and safety resources.