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BODY PROTECTION & WORKWEAR


reflects an industry that has been evolving according to the feedback gained from the day-to-day experiences of product end-users. In this respect, moving away from generic workwear in order to accommodate staff needs is helping to tackle negative perceptions of work clothing being obtrusive, and not conducive to carrying out tasks.


Of course, any consultation process must be realistic about what it can achieve. An inefficient feedback system will become extremely time-consuming, and meeting the individual requirements of everybody becomes more difficult the larger an organisation is. However, a degree of consultation will identify priority procurement problems that need addressing, whilst also assuring staff that their opinions, and more importantly their safety, are given due weight. Businesses may indeed find that employees start to view workwear as a reflection of being appreciated and valued, thus making them more likely to wear this clothing correctly in the future.


Once consultation and procurement have been carried out, businesses must then ensure that their workforce are not only sufficiently informed about correct use of workwear, but are using it properly and on a consistent basis. This is where multi-purpose training and communication are necessary, to inform workers of all relevant aspects of workwear use.


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As a standard procedure, staff should be trained in how to properly use protective clothing and equipment, and the situations in which they are required to use it, when they first begin. Following this, employers should provide supervision to ensure standards are kept, and encourage vigilance among the workforce too. Nominating individuals within a team to help in this respect contributes to reinforcing best practice.


employees are expected to keep their kit clean and in good condition, businesses must ensure that the necessary materials and instructions are provided to enable staff to do so. Furthermore, the more autonomy employees have over clothing and equipment maintenance, the more important it is that they are taught the telltale signs that equipment may be in need of repair. While identifying the need to replace old with new is easy for some items,


“ORGANISATIONS MUST BE CLEAR OVER WHAT RESPONSIBILITIES STAFF HOLD TOWARDS THEIR OWN PPE. THIS MUST BE A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD.”


Proper workwear use should be complemented by an understanding of the risks associated with not wearing protective clothing. Additionally, while protective workwear is designed to make working in high-risk environments safer, there are clear limits to their capacity for preventing injury. Employers must therefore be fully informed of these risks and limitations, so that they do not become either under or over-dependent on the protective equipment they are required to wear while working.


Perhaps the most complex aspect of this training process is that of correct maintenance and replacement of protective equipment. Firstly, organisations must be clear over what responsibilities staff hold towards their own PPE. This must be a level playing field, and if


with others, such as plastics and footwear, it can be much more difficult. Adequate training eliminates the risk of PPE being kept and used once it is has become worn- out and no longer offers proper protection.


To complement employees’ role in maintenance, organisations must have a system in place to monitor all kit provided, and to ensure it is replaced once it has become unusable. Generally, it is recommended that safety products be replaced within two years, but, as this can vary, it is best to check with manufacturers to be able to anticipate when new kit will be needed. Of course, employees should be advised on the expected shelf-life of kit they are charged with maintaining – for example, high-visibility clothing generally needs to be replaced after 25


washes, before its reflective performance, in line with certification, begins to fail. In the case of frequent use, keeping maintenance schedules provides an easy reference of whether workwear needs to be replaced more regularly, and also clarifies who is responsible for inspection procedures. In such cases, it may be necessary to have a surplus of replacements so that operations are not halted due to a shortage of suitable kit. Protective equipment and clothing, then, is as much about preparation for the future as it is about initial provision, and prepared organisations will be able to identify what upcoming PPE needs they are likely to face given current use.


Procurement of PPE marks the beginning of a key set of measures that should be taken to ensure employee safety. Organisations seeking to make PPE compliance a common habit among employees, can do so by seeking to engage staff at all stages of the procurement process, both during and after purchasing decisions are made. A regular flow of communication about correct workwear practices ensures that staff remain as educated and safe as possible, and will lead to these practices being more easily assimilated into the daily operations of an organisation.


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