Still Sharing PPE?


As the Covid-19 pandemic swept throughout the UK, the common practice of sharing PPE (particularly hoods, face shields and gloves) rapidly changed. When you consider the potential health risks of this practice it’s quite obvious why sharing suddenly became outlawed, yet how did it become acceptable in the first place and what about the other items that are still being passed between users? Should we really be supporting this practice at all?

Consider it this way, we would never expect a nurse or doctor to remove the medical PPE they had worn during the day, store it in a bag overnight and then hand it to a different nurse or doctor to wear the following day. Yet this is often what happens with electrical and other forms of PPE.

According to the Personal Protective Equipment At Work Regulations 1992, PPE may be shared by employees ‘where it is only required for limited periods. When shared, employers should ensure such equipment is properly cleaned and, where required, decontaminated to ensure there are no health risks to the next person using it.’ The overall cleaning protocol and hygiene responsibility is therefore firmly rooted with the employer but how often, even with the best of intentions, do items slip through the net?

As ‘best practice’ procedures and levels of industry standards have raised over the years, the habit of sharing PPE has gradually increased until it has become accepted as an industry norm. This is particularly prevalent with those sharing electrical PPE, where the upfront costs of providing the more costly Arc Flash garments quickly mount up. Sharing has seemed the most viable solution; allowing companies to reduce initial expenditure whilst still maintaining compliance with PPE regulations.

As we look towards the future however it is evident additional measures will need to be in place to safeguard against the threat of new viruses. The practice of sharing PPE may well become a thing of the past, so aside from the obvious health benefits let’s look a little more closely at the other factors in support of this.

Many case studies that have been conducted over the years have proven that the costs associated with just one serious injury or fatality would far outweigh the costs of paying for individual PPE programs for years, or in some instances decades. As PPE is extremely tough and durable, it lasts a long time in the field. Whilst advisory that electrical PPE is replaced every 5 years this time indicator is obviously relevant to the frequency it is worn and the length of time it is worn for. Whilst regular wear requires that items be replaced every 5 years, occasional usage allows these timelines to be extended thus evening out the ‘cost per wear’ figure of each item.

As individuals, it is natural that we will take much better care of something that ‘belongs’ to us or that we are responsible for. Damages and losses of protective equipment have been proven to reduce under personal ownership schemes so whilst the upfront costs are higher, over the long-term the figures start to balance out. Despite being allocated to an individual, PPE items still remain under the ownership of the business so should an employee leave the company his/her items can be retained and reissued at a later date, once professional sanitising or decontamination protocols have been completed.

Regardless of the task undertaken, all required PPE should be the appropriate size for the wearer. A one size fits all approach, which is particularly prevalent with shared items, will result in less protection for those it does not fit properly and may even hamper the employee in their work. If staff view the wearing of ill-fitting PPE as a negative experience they are less likely to wear it properly or may not even wear it at all, compromising personal safety and resulting in multiple compliance issues.

For the time being the policy of sharing is at the ethical discretion of each individual business or organisation however it is highly likely insurers will be mitigating against these practices in future months to reduce the potential of claims relating to virus transmission. If you are interested therefore in extending your current Arc Flash or PPE collection to include individual employee programs, please contact us for more information on how we can be of help.

For more information on the Arc Flash clothing and PPE ranges Clad Safety has on offer, please click here.

Clad Safety has been operating for over 30 years and takes pride in the excellent service that we offer to our customers. Our product range, combined with expert technical advice allows us to offer valuable workwear solutions. For further information or to find out more on how Clad Safety can support your PPE needs please contact our Customer Service Team on 0800 161 3661 or email [email protected].