Caring for PPE: When to Reuse or Re-Buy

20 February 2018
What is PPE?
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is equipment employers are legally obliged to supply to every member of staff, if they need to enter a potentially dangerous workspace as part of their job. This can range from hi-visibility clothing or safety boots, to protective gloves or hard hats.
According to the PPE at Work Regulations (1992), before choosing any PPE, an employer needs to ensure a full assessment is made to determine it is suitable. This involves:
• Carrying out a risk assessment to highlight potential dangers of the workspace
• Identifying key features the PPE must be able to protect against
• Considering whether the PPE is compatible with other equipment the person will be using/wearing

When is it not OK to reuse PPE?
When purchasing PPE, it’s important to know whether the equipment is single use or not. Disposable equipment is not designed to provide maximum protection when reused or shared, and in some cases can even put an employee at an increased risk due to the PPE having potentially dangerous substances on them from the first use.

Examples of single use PPE includes:
• Disposable ear plugs
• Disposable respirators
• Overshoes

When is it OK to reuse PPE?
A lot of Personal Protective equipment can be reused. However, it is advised that a maintenance process including the following is put in place before each use of any equipment:
• Examination: a thorough check for any signs of wear and tear
• Testing: to ensure the PPE can still operate as required
• Ready for use: Check the equipment is prepared for use. E.g. Is the equipment dry after being used?
• Clean: ensure the equipment is sterile, if appropriate
• Repair: It is vital to ensure any damage from previous use is repaired

Can PPE be shared?
Although the majority of equipment can be assigned to an individual employee, in some circumstances it is appropriate to have more than one user. When this happens the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992) requires the equipment to undergo thorough cleaning and disinfection in order to manage health risks.

When should I re-buy PPE?
All PPE equipment has a shelf life. After the equipment has been used for a long period, or is damaged beyond repair, it should be replaced immediately, to abide with legal requirements. By responsibly storing PPE products, you can prolong the shelf life, for example – storing equipment in a cool dry place.