As you may have already seen on our social media, WA Management’s hazard of the month for February is ‘Unsuitable PPE/Equipment.’ We have chosen this hazard after noticing instances on sites visits where PPE such as respiratory masks were being used despite not being face-fitted or incorrect working at height equipment being employed that was unsuitable for the task at hand. Accidents or ill-health can occur when these factors are overlooked as despite PPE and equipment being in place, it is rendered less effective if it is not properly inspected and relevant to the task. 12,000 lung disease deaths each year are estimated to be linked to past exposures at work, due to workers having not been fully protected against the harmful materials.
To keep up to date with this hazard, make sure you follow our social media accounts closely throughout February!
Using the Right Equipment
Before using equipment properly, you need to make sure you have selected the right equipment for the job. A good example of this is LEV’s which have different classes in relation to different types of dusts:
- L class (eg. House dust, soil) – ≤ 1.0% Dusts with maximum allowable concentrations (MAC) > 1 mg/m³
- M class (eg. Wood dust, cement dust) – < 0.1% Dusts with maximum allowable concentrations (MAC) ≥ 0.1 mg/m³
- H class (eg. Asbestos, Bitumen, Spores) – < 0.005% Dusts with maximum allowable concentrations (MAC) < 0.1 mg/m³
Even if you are using these LEVs in the correct manner, they will not be effective if they are not the right class for the materials involved, as the dust will not be fully controlled and extracted. Therefore, you should always make sure you have got the correct and suitable equipment whilst planning a task to ensure workers are protected from health and safety risks as much as practically possible.
Importance of Inspections
Often equipment or PPE is used with good intentions but it is effectiveness is limited due to not being correctly inspected or tested. For example, there are masks available to buy which are being advertised as ‘Press to Check’, offering an ‘effective facial fit.’ However, do not get caught out by this message; they still require an initial face-fit test prior to being used! It is important to remember that each standard will state whether facefit testing is required, for example, the mask in the picture conforms to EN140 which requires facefit testing; this should be complied with irrespective of what may seem the case from the branding. Proper face-fitted masks that comply with the relevant standard are essential in order to prevent the inhalation of construction dusts, which are associated with the development of a number of lung diseases including: Lung Cancers, Silicosis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Asthma.
This also applies to items such as working at height equipment: for example, ladders should have a 6 monthly formal inspection and a detailed visual inspection weekly if used as part of scaffolding. These inspections should always be carried out by a competent person. Even minor faults on ladders could be detrimental as it increases the likelihood of falls from height – working at height remains one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries for workers.
One way to identify equipment or even items you buy in your everyday life are properly inspected and regulated is CE Marking. CE Marking indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area. You should make sure anything you buy, not just work products but items such as children’s toys, has this marking to ensure they comply with the appropriate regulations. It is not guaranteed that popular retailers such as Amazon will only stock CE-Marked products so it is important to always check for this before purchasing products if possible. If you were wondering about the status of CE Marking in terms of Brexit, CE marking will continue to be used during the transition period (until the end of 2020) until a formal decision is made.
In celebration of learning more about this hazard, we are offering a 10% discount off our PPE and Lock Out, Tag Out online training courses with the code ‘EquipPPEd20’. Don’t miss this limited-time deal as it expires at the end of the month!