Author: Alan Baugh MSc. CMIOSH
My Safety Gear is a leading UK supplier of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Workwear. We are based in the town of Great Yarmouth on the Norfolk coast and offer both online and offline procurement of PPE and Workwear for business and personal use.
Before we can to begin to discuss the importance of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE), workwear and protective clothing it is important to understand where these provisions stand within the workplace.
Personal Protective equipment (PPE) sits, rightly, at the bottom of the hierarchy of controls – this is because of its reliance on upon individual behaviour. When we are pressed to “get the job done” the donning of a helmet or the “right” pair of gloves can and is, sometimes with tragic results, put to one side.
Those of you reading this who have responsibility for health and safety within a UK based business, will already know that the decision to use PPE/RPE, workwear and protective clothing comes at the end of a suitable and sufficient risk assessment process. During this process consideration needs to be given to the nature of the risks and the effectiveness of those actions that can control reasonably foreseeable risk so far as is reasonably practicable.
The Hierarchy of Control consists of the following elements:
This might include using mechanical devices to avoid manual handling.
- Reduce the Hazard
This might include using alternative forms of travel i.e train rather than car
- Prevent Contact
This might include barriers or secure storage areas
- Safe System of Work
This might include Standard Operating Procedures or job roatation etc.
This might include eye protection, head protection, respiratory protection, hand protection, full body protection such as Hi-visibility (Hi-viz) clothing, wet weather gear, boots, arc-protection and more. Visit mysafetygear.uk main site to view the ranges.
Having carried out the control measures identified by the risk assessment there may be, and often is, a residual risk to health and or safety remaining – it is this residual risk that is usually controlled by the use of PPE.
The job of obtaining the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment and other safety gear will fall to the business owner in small businesses and to a procurement department in larger ones; however, the same rules apply. It is important to remember that this is the last line of defence for you and your colleagues therefore PPE, workwear and the like should only be purchased from reputable distributers who in turn supply products from reputable manufacturers or suppliers, names that you may be familiar with such as, JSP, Moldex, Portwest, Himalayan, Mascot, Castle Clothing (Tuff Stuff and Fort Workwear) and Uneek to name some of the market leaders. All of these are available at My Safety Gear Ltd, either in person at the Great Yarmouth “Click and Collect point”, by telephone on 01493 658571 or of course at www.mysafetygear.uk
You must ensure that the PPE you provide carries the CE mark, this stands for “Conformité Européenne”and is the accepted standard in the UK. The CE mark will be phased out in England, Scotland and Wales in favour of the new UKCA (United Kingdom Conformity Assessed) by 1st January 2022. For those reading in Northern Ireland it should be remembered that the UKCA marking alone cannot be used for goods placed on the Northern Ireland market, which require the CE marking or UKNI marking (visit www.gov.uk/guidance/using-the-ukca-marking for details)
Training and Education
I earlier suggested that the reliance upon Personal Protective Equipment carries the drawback of its reliance upon human behaviour and in expanding this point I would like first to mention the importance of organisational leadership in minimising the potential for failure.
Firstly UK business leaders need to understand the importance of PPE within their overall risk control programme and commit to ensuring that it is effectively selected and purchased. A quick internet search and purchase seldom delivers the right product for the job at hand. I believe that it is important for a company to strike up a good relationship with their distributer to secure supplies that are ready when you need them. Having a situation where you are waiting for several weeks to receive a safety boot for an employee puts them and you at risk.
Secondly I believe that PPE and workwear should also be seen as an opportunity to further a companies image by presenting a professional face to its customers and clients. Here at My Safety Gear (the Norfolk PPE and Workwear company), like elsewhere, we offer both embroidery and heat press services so that garments such as polo shirts, overalls, hi-viz coats. Hi-viz jackets, beanie hats and so much more can be customised in this way. There is no set-up or “art-work” charges for the vast majority of our customers.
Thirdly and finally I strongly believe that if UK based employees are provided with the correct PPE and workwear that is both comfortable to wear and effectively does what it is required to do there is a much greater chance that employees will wear it, take pride in the fact that “their” company goes the extra mile and thus keep themselves safe in the process. Of course these days you can add “stylish” to that list, ranges such as Portwest PW3 are really smart and you might even say fashionable.
So there it is, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the last line of defence for residual risks in the workplace. It needs to be effective, comfortable and stylish to assist in ensuring it is used by the workforce.
When I conduct training sessions such as Leading Safely and Managing Safely at our offices in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, I often pose the question “ what was the injured person not wearing?” the responses are, as you might imagine, a hard hat, goggles, safety glasses, safety boots – well you all know the answer, in the vast majority on incidents the injured party wasn’t wearing – have you got it? – a tie!!
Health and Safety in the UK is about effective management and the provision of personal protective equipment and appropriate safety clothing is a critical aspect of any management programme.
I am, as ever, grateful to the Health and Safety Laboratory and the Health and Safety Executive for their magnificent work in bringing together best practice in safety and health. I would strongly recommend a visit to www.hse.gov/toolbox.ppe.htm for further reading on this subject.
About the Author
Alan Baugh began his career within a retail department store straight from completing his A level studies. After a successful career within this industry Alan set up his own business in the late 1990’s concentrating upon education and training, working for both Public bodies and Private Companies. His training company developed into a full blown Heath and Safety Consultancy in 2004 and he later completed his MSc in Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety Management through the University of Portsmouth in 2007. Since this time Alan has worked with a wide range of companies and organisations and assisted them in their efforts to improve their health and safety performance through the promotion of a positive health and safety culture.