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Personal protective equipment lessens the risks posed by potential hazards – but only when equipment like high-vis vests and flame-resistant trousers comply with standards. Here’s what to consider.
More than protection
Personal protective equipment makes the work of craftspeople, emergency services personnel, and other similar professionals, much safer. A reflective high-visibility vest offers better visibility, while welder's clothing, for example, keeps heat and flames at bay. Of course, PPE must always function perfectly.
Choosing the correct PPE requires knowledge and attention to detail. There are many things to take into account, such as conducting a risk assessment of the workplace. Employees also require different clothing depending on the type of risk and level of danger they face at work.
The fabric of PPE can have a lot of impressive qualities, such as flame resistance, tear and cut resistance, and anti-static properties. At the bare minimum, it should offer reliable protection that adheres to current standards. However, being comfortable and looking good are also important; after all, employees and their clothing represent the company. More and more manufacturers are realising the importance of this and are therefore developing quality fabrics that create comfortable and visually appealing work attire. Durable textiles are another plus: manufacturers such as GORE™ and DuPont are proof that companies can make PPE that also looks great.
Employers are responsible for the safety of their employees. A number of different regulations govern this. One important one is PPE usage regulation, part of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. It goes far beyond simply providing suitable clothing—those responsible must ensure that
A high level of expertise is required in order to comply with all the regulations. Even for the maintenance, there’s a lot to consider. How long should the sleeves be? Which gloves go with the outfit? Trade associations and insurers deal with such questions, and companies should also adhere to the regulations.
No wonder employers are concerned about the complexity of PPE. Luckily, though, there are experts who are very familiar with the subject. Companies can get advice from them and delegate some of the responsibility.
Our team of workwear experts can help you make sense of these complex matters. Just ask us.
Cleaning and repair
Of course, no personal protective equipment lasts forever; over time, it wears out and loses its protective function. Companies are therefore obliged to have the condition of their workwear inspected regularly. When it comes to repairing PPE, the wearers should never attempt to fix it themselves. Rips and holes in chemical protective clothing, for example, must be sewn with special thread to keep corrosive liquids at bay.
Some things can even go wrong during cleaning and drying. For example, fibres could shrink if the temperature is too high, resulting in poorly fitting clothing. If the temperature is too low, on the other hand, it won't get rid of all the dirt - this could be very risky if flammable oil stains remain on the clothing. Many people don't realise that fabric softener makes even the best welder's protective clothing flammable. As a rule, only industrial laundry services should take on the task of separating PPE according to its function and cleaning it professionally with the help of specifically tailored washing programmes.
It is possible for safety and sustainability to go hand in hand. We test your personal protective equipment according to precisely defined criteria and decide what can be repaired and what needs to be replaced. With suitable spare parts, and according to tried-and-tested processes, we renew the coating and repair any loose seams, for example.
CWS uses certified procedures and follows manufacturer specifications. So, our customers receive perfect PPE back after reprocessing instead of having to keep purchasing new pieces of clothing. This also benefits the environment.
What should companies consider when purchasing PPE?
PPE must protect its wearer. The protective clothing you choose is therefore based on the outcome of the risk assessment carried out at your workplace. The assessment answers questions such as "What are the risks and how great are they?”. Thermal hazards include, for example, steam, radiation heat and flames. At the same time, the PPE must be appropriate for the area of application. For example, electricians and welders are exposed to heat and require special standardised clothing. For welding work, for example, PPE must comply with EN ISO 11611.
If employees do a variety of different jobs, it might be necessary to use PPE that fulfils several functions at once. Multifunctional protective clothing always depends on the activities.
The level of risk also plays a role. There are therefore different performance levels for each piece of PPE. An electrician working in a high-risk area may wear PPE comprising several layers. Last but not least, the clothing selected should also be the right size so it fits the employee properly.
Who can help companies select their protective clothing?
We recommend that those responsible for selecting PPE seek advice from experts. After all, there's a lot of criteria to take into account and you have to comply with the legal frameworks. CWS provides its customers with in-house experts. Our CWS consultants use a checklist to achieve a comprehensive picture of your company, assess all workplaces on-site if desired, and then recommend the appropriate protective clothing for your employees. If you decide to purchase PPE from our range, your employees can also test out the clothing first.
What is the Declaration of Conformity and Manufacturer’s Information?
In order to ensure the highest quality, the EU states in the PPE regulation 2016/425 that manufacturers must re-test and recertify their products every five years. During the test process, they must prove that their PPE meets all requirements. Only then is the company allowed to display the EU Declaration of Conformity label. This proves that the PPE complies with the EU standards, i.e. that it is "compliant". You can see this from the CE label, which is usually attached to the clothing.
The manufacturer's instructions contain all information that is important for the proper use of the PPE.
Both labels are therefore important, especially when you buy or rent new PPE and train your employees on how to use it.
Can a company logo or nametag be attached to protective clothing?
In principle, PPE must not be tampered with. This also applies to replacing a button, which would be considered harmless in any other situation. With PPE, however, the risk is too great that the clothing will no longer provide complete protection. There are also certified guidelines for attaching labels to clothing. For example, only certain parts of the material can be used and the label's fabric must also be suitable for the task. By the way, attaching company logos and nametags is part of the service we offer in our rental service.