Health and safety is paramount in every industry, but when it comes to construction, resources, manufacturing, and agriculture, finding the right equipment to keep employees safe can be difficult.
Employers and site managers in these industries are being urged to evaluate the effectiveness of personal protective equipment for their workers.
Richard Donarski of SAI Global said that while there are various standards for safety equipment, some manufacturers and suppliers may not comply with them, while others may be ignorant of them.
“It’s a common misconception that all personal safety items are subject to and must meet mandatory standards. The reality is, as many standards aren’t legislated, manufacturers choose not to apply standards to their processes,” Donarski said.
“The consequence is that the very products designed to keep us safe may not necessarily do their jobs as expected. This is why it’s essential for employers, safety supervisors, and managers to look for an approved symbol from a reputable certifier, like the ‘Five Ticks’ when buying these essential items.”
Organisations may be exposing employees and consumers to illness or injury by using personal protective equipment that hasn’t been independently certified.
Research from Safe Work Australia has found that about 130,000 Australians a year make serious workers’ compensation claims due to work-related illness or injury, costing employers over $60 billion.
Here are Donarski’s top tips for choosing the best personal protective equipment in the workplace:
Ask an expert
While all equipment looks the same, it doesn’t necessarily mean it does the job. When unsure, ask the supplier and provide them with the exact details of what the equipment will be used for. If ordering online then call or submit an enquiry.
Purchase certified safety equipment only
This equipment will be branded with an appropriate certification mark, the Australian Standard reference, and should include the name of the organisation, the date it was certified, and a Certification Licence number. Be aware that not all products claiming to be certified are to an Australian standard. To be safe look out for the Five Ticks Certified Product StandardsMark or enter the Certification Licence number online at http://register.saiglobal.com to source further details.
Be careful when buying second hand
Do you really know what that piece of equipment has been through? A hard hat may look fine, but if it’s been left out in the sun every day, its protection may be nowhere near the level it should be due to strong UV rays weakening its shell.
Double check all sizes
A hard hat or safety harness that’s a millimetre too small can be life threatening should an incident occur. Check all sizes with employees before placing orders for products and test that they fit accordingly when they arrive.
Renew and evaluate equipment regularly
Setting a calendar reminder to evaluate and renew equipment every few months isn’t enough. Some tasks are larger than others and if any employee has been working on an intense job, they protective gear may become ineffective at a quicker rate due to wear and tear. Evaluate equipment prior to every job rather than every calendar month.