Personal protective equipment is designed to keep you safe and healthy in the workplace, yet workwear that isn’t properly maintained or cared for can increase the risk of injury. It could also fail to protect you against the identified risks at your place of work.
Keeping your workwear in great condition is key to improving workplace safety. Here are 5 essential habits to get into which can make caring for your workwear much easier:
While it’s tempting to simply get out of your workwear and throw it on the floor as you climb into bed after a busy day on site, it’s definitely worth spending an extra few minutes each night to put your workwear away and store it safely.
PPE that is left in areas where it can be exposed to direct sunlight or extreme temperatures can start to degrade faster, so it’s best to keep workwear in a cool, dark place such as a wardrobe, cupboard or locker. Storing your workwear in these places is also a great way to minimise dirt, dust and grime build up, helping you to extend time between washing and drying.
Garments such as full boiler suits shouldn’t be washed daily if it can be avoided, as frequent washing (particularly if you’re using harsh detergents) can harm the material. However, smaller items such as hardhats and safety glasses can (and should!) be given a regular clean to help keep them in great condition. This certainly doesn’t have to be a full wash, but a simple wipe with warm, soapy water when you get off a shift can do wonders for the lifespan of your workwear. Best of all, these items are best to be left to air dry so there’s no need to spend extra time drying your gear… let the air do the work!
It’s so easy to become accustomed to wearing your PPE that you may begin to operate on ‘autopilot’. The problem with this is that it can be tricky to notice any changes in how your protective garments feel. So take a moment to really think about this. Is it starting to feel looser? This could be a sign that the material on your workwear is starting to become slack, which can happen to even the most durable of materials over time. Ill-fitting workwear can be dangerous, so getting into the habit of ‘feeling’ your PPE can ensure you’re always wearing gear that’s in great condition.
Another team meeting about workwear? Although it can seem like your employer does nothing but lecture about workwear, it’s important to remember that regulations are constantly shifting as changes are made to improve safety across all industries. It’s an employer’s responsibility to ensure that all employees are kept up to date with these changes. Employers have a responsibility to train and educate staff about the correct use and maintenance of workwear, so while you may well have heard it all before, it’s important to get into the habit of really listening… there may just be some useful info in there!
Most importantly of all, try to get into the habit of checking your workwear each and every time you put it on. This doesn’t have to be a full, time-consuming inspection (although do try to do this every so often), but rather just a quick ‘once over’ as you slip into your boiler suit or secure your high-vis jacket. Getting into this habit is a great way to monitor the overall health of your workwear, and ensures you pick up on any signs of wear and tear early on, before it can cause a problem. If you do notice wear and tear, make your employer aware so that arrangements can be made to replace the item.
Remember: While it is an employer’s responsibility to provide appropriate workwear for the identified risk, and ensure you know how to use it, it is your responsibility to maintain PPE and report any faults immediately to your employer. Stay compliant, stay safe.