How Often Should PPE Be Inspected?

Nothing good lasts forever, and this rings true for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) too. At some point, your PPE clothing and equipment will no longer be fit for purpose, but how do you know? By inspecting your PPE. How often should PPE be inspected? Well… that depends on what type of PPE you’re using, but we’ll delve deeper into specifics later on.

The Importance Of Regular Assessment

PPE serves as a crucial line of defence for your team and protects them from a wide range of hazards and risks in the workplace. However, for PPE the effectiveness of PPE depends on not only quality and usage but also on regular inspection and maintenance.

Regular inspection is vital for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Identifying Damage: Assessments help to identify damage or wear and tear that could potentially negate the protection offered by PPE. Addressing this regularly prevents PPE from failing when it is needed most.
  • Ensuring Proper Fit: If PPE does not fit properly it cannot provide optimal protection. Regular assessments ensure the PPE continues to fit the wearer correctly, offering the needed level of protection.
  • Detecting Contaminants: When dealing with hazardous substances over time, PPE can become contaminated, which will reduce its effectiveness. Regular inspections help to identify and remove these contaminants, preventing the spread of pathogens and ensuring your PPE remains effective.
  • Promoting Worker Awareness: Regularly inspecting PPE can help to promote a culture of safety awareness amongst your team, encouraging them to take responsibility for their PPE and to report any concerns they may have.

Frequency Of PPE Inspection

The specific hazards present in your workplace will affect how frequently your PPE needs to be inspected. As a general rule of thumb, it is best practice to inspect your PPE before each use, as well as at regular intervals throughout the working day.

For high-risk workplaces or environments, or for PPE that is subjected to frequent use or harsh conditions, more frequent inspections may be necessary. Alongside this, after any incident or exposure to hazardous substances, PPE should be inspected to ensure it remains effective.

Inspection Protocols For Different Types Of PPE

These will vary depending on the specific type of PPE, but some general guidelines for inspecting common types of PPE are:

Head Protection:

Head protection, particularly hard hats, plays a crucial role in safeguarding workers from falling objects, debris, and impacts to the head. Regular inspection of hard hats is essential to ensure their integrity and effectiveness.

Visual and tactile inspections should take place, to carefully examine for cracks, dents, or signs of wear and tear; particularly on the crown and brim. Pay close attention to the suspension system, ensuring it is properly adjusted and fits properly around the wearer’s head. Replace any and all head PPE that shows signs of damage, or have exceeded their recommended lifespan.

Eye and Face Protection

Eye and face protection, including safety glasses, goggles, and face shields, are critical for protecting worker’s eyes and faces from various hazards, without regular inspections, these items could fail and increase the risk of injuries occurring.

For safety glasses/goggles, perform a visual and tactile inspection to examine for cracks, scratches, or other damage that could otherwise impair vision or compromise protection. Check for proper fit and ventilation to prevent fogging or discomfort. Replace any and all eye/face protection that shows signs of damage or compromised ventilation.

For face shields, search for scratches, cracks, or haziness that would obstruct visibility. Ensure the shield is securely attached to the helmet or headbang to provide adequate protection. Replace any face shields with damaged or compromised visibility.

Hand Protection:

Hand protection PPE, particularly gloves, serves as a barrier between workers’ hands and various hazards, including cuts, abrasions, chemicals, extreme temperatures, and electrical charges. Regular inspection of gloves is essential to maintain their protective integrity.

Check gloves for any rips, tears, punctures, or other signs of wear that could cause the protective capabilities to fail. Check for proper fit and dexterity to ensure gloves don’t restrict hand movements or impede performance. If any gloves show damage or have exceeded their recommended lifespan, replace them immediately.

Foot Protection:

Protecting from falling objects, electrical shocks, sharp objects, chemical spills, and much more, foot protection is crucial and increases risks dramatically if not properly inspected or maintained.

Cracks in the soles, worn-out treads, punctures, or damaged laces need to be searched for during every inspection to ensure proper protection. Check for proper fit and support, ensuring that the footwear provides adequate stability and protection for the specific work environment. If any damage appears, dispose of and replace the footwear.

Respiratory Protection:

Respiratory protective equipment, including face masks, must be inspected regularly to ensure they can protect against  dust, fumes, vapours, and other airborne dangers. They should be regularly inspected to help keep your team protected.

Check for a proper fit and seal around the face/head, and if any damage to the facepiece, straps, or filters is spotted, replace the respirator immediately to ensure the safety of your team’s lungs.

Hearing Protection:

Inspect earplugs and earmuffs for damage, such as cracks and wear that could compromise their safety. Test the hearing protection before use to ensure it retains its sound-dampening qualities in order to protect your workers’ ears from things such as hearing loss, tinnitus, and other auditory damage.

Full Body Protection:

This encompasses safety vests, aprons, suits, coveralls, and much more. These PPE items help protect from a variety of hazards such as chemical splashes, extreme temperatures, impacts, arc flash, or help to provide visibility.

As with all other PPE, visual and tactile inspections must be performed, ensuring there are no rips, tears, burns, chemical corrosion, broken or worn stitching/threads

Promoting Safety Through Regular PPE Inspection:

Regular PPE inspection is not just a task, but a commitment to the safety of your team. By ensuring inspections happen regularly, you promote a culture of safety within the workplace, as well as:

  • Reduce Workplace Injuries: With PPE being regularly inspected, the chance of failures resulting in injury or illness is drastically reduced.
  • Lower Compensation Costs: As it is your responsibility, any injuries occurring from neglected PPE can be very costly. Inspections ensure this does not happen.
  • Improved Productivity: Your team can work with confidence in their PPE and not worry about failures or breakage, leading to increased productivity, as well as fewer missed days due to injury.
  • Demonstrates a Strong Commitment to Safety: As you make safety a priority, it shows your commitment to safety, improving your reputation as a responsible and caring employer.

Whether you need advice for your PPE, or you’re looking to outfit your team with the ultimate top-to-toe protection, you can get in touch with our PPE specialists here: