While it is important to have occupational health and safety (OHS) policies and practices in place, it is often the PPE that acts as the first line of defence against injury.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is arguably the most important in the health and safety industry as it protects employees against injuries when an incident does occur. Each industry has its own requirements when it comes to PPE and each worker has his or her own individual needs.

Before purchasing PPE, it is important for a company to know why it is needed. There is a range of PPE that caters for specific industries and applications. Hand protection or gloves made for the food industry, for example, won’t last very long in the construction industry.

Some PPE is made to resist certain chemicals or potential injuries, like cuts, while other PPE assists employees in very specific applications, like hearing protection that cancels noise only above a specific decibel. It is, therefore, very important to carefully consider what the employee will be doing while wearing the specific PPE.

After identifying the application and appropriate PPE, it is important to ensure that the equipment fits the employee, as he or she needs to be comfortable and be able to work safely while wearing it. Employees might be inclined to remove equipment that is ill-fitting or uncomfortable, exposing themselves to injury.

Ill-fitting PPE could also place the employee at risk, as, for example, gloves can get caught in equipment or the employee might trip over the legs of overall pants that are too long.

Once the correct PPE has been purchased, it is important for it to be well maintained. The first step is to follow the instructions set out by the manufacturer regarding washing and storing. This information should be included in the packaging of the PPE.

PPE should also be inspected regularly for any damage or ageing. Manufacturers can advise on the expected lifespan of PPE and how frequently it should be inspected. Fall-arrest systems, for example, need to be inspected before every use.

Any signs of ageing or damage should be an indication that the PPE needs to be replaced. It is very important to also adhere to the manufacturer’s instruction regarding disposable PPE. Under no circumstances should disposable PPE be reused, even if the employee left the site for only a few minutes.

Some manufacturers offer training on how to use and maintain PPE. Be sure to enquire whether this is possible. It is important to purchase PPE from a reputable supplier that complies with local and international regulations, such as BBF Safety.

This PPE supplier was recognised in multiple categories at the Durban Chamber of Commerce KZN Exporter of the Year Awards. BBF Safety was awarded the winner in the Emerging Markets category and was a finalist in the Manufacturing (all companies that manufacture in KwaZulu-Natal) and Africa (all companies that export to Africa) categories.

BBF Safety group export manager, Tven Heyer, says: “We are honoured to have been recognised in these categories and want to extend our sincerest gratitude to our clients in both the export and domestic markets for their ongoing support.

“As a trusted partner to hundreds of businesses across Africa and beyond, we remain deeply committed to keeping people safe at work and continue to maintain excellence and innovation in all that we do.”

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