80:20 Management Consulting

80:20 Management Consulting
part of the 80:20 Group

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

PPE as a Risk Control Measure

This is an  issue that I find coming up more and more lately. Generally it's because more and more people have increased safety management responsibilities in their roles without actually understanding safety.

The issue that I have found is people implementing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) as a risk control measure when it should really be the last resort.

To illustrate my point I'll give an example.

Company A has had an injury and they are looking at ways of preventing the injury from happening in the future.

When investigating the cause of the injury it was found that one of the steps in the task being conducted involved a risk of a cutting injury if performed incorrectly. In order to fix the issue the company introduced Kevlar gloves for all staff.

The problem I have with this is, why didn't they look at eliminating that step first? If that's not possible then there are more options in the hierarchy of controls that can be investigated before resorting to PPE.

When introducing new PPE there is the possibility of new risks that may make the problem worse. In the example above, the gloves may make items more difficult to grip and pose a manual handling risk.

I find the majority of the time, PPE is introduced as a cheap, lazy option  to fix a problem or because it is seen as an easy fix. It might be cheaper to buy everyone new gloves rather than having guarding re-engineered or making large changes to a process. At the end of the day though has it actually made the process safer, or does it just look safer?

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